Finland, Finland, Finland!

I am happy to announce that I am a guest of honor at Ropecon in gorgeous Helsinki, Finland in July.

From the Ropecon website: “Ropecon is the largest non-commercial role-playing convention in Europe. Each year it brings together both enthusiasts as well as professionals in the field of role-playing games. The theme for year 2017 is classics.”

I am thrilled to be heading over to Finland for the first time. The convention website is awesome! Check out the pictures from Ropecon, which includes a lovely set of cosplayers. The work they put into dressing up never ceases to amaze me–there are some fantastic photos!

Can’t wait to share more details with you as the planning comes together. See you in Finland! Don’t forget your dice!

Mark Your Calendar for WisCon

I am pleased to announce that my next convention will be WisCon at the end of May. The guests of honor are Amal El-Mohtar and Kelly Sue DeConnick. I am participating and moderating several panels, and I am anxious to hear what this year’s stellar speakers have to say. Hope to see you at the show!

Tropes In SF Novels, Comics, and Video Games
Sat, 1:00–2:15 pm Location: Conference 1
Kate M Lansky (M), Jake Casella, Monica Valentinelli
SF is a genre that crosses media — novels, poetry, comics, video games, movies, and TV. How do SF stories differ from medium to medium? What tropes does each medium use and why? What kinds of stories are in vogue in each medium? Are there SF tropes that are better used in novels? In games? And why?

Portraying Resistance: Fiction Media and News Media
Sun, 10:00–11:15 am Location: Assembly
Monica Valentinelli (M), Nino Cipri, Ian K. Hagemann
How are resistance movements portrayed in speculative fiction? While some forms of fiction glamorize resistance movements (Star Wars comes to mind) there is a wide gap between this and how news media portrays, for example, the Ferguson movement. Are the only safe resistances fictional (or historical) ones? How do we get from “riots” to “heroic uprisings”? Fictional resistances are also able to gloss over the problematic details of committee meetings, arguments between members, lack of funds, trying to feed crowds, unequal division of labor, and trying to come to consensus. Are there fictional resistances that deal with these details and with sexism, racism, homophobia? Can we learn from fiction how to portray real resistance movements as heroic?

Why Is “Casual” a Dirty Word in Gaming?
Sun, 1:00–2:15 pm Location: University C
Monica Valentinelli (M), Katherine Cross, Ann Lemay, Katherine Olson (Kayjayoh), Beth Plutchak, Katie Sapede
Video gaming is set to become a 99.6 billion dollar industry and is cemented into the mainstream. Why are “casual gamers” still a hated group? Why do we need to separate them from “hard-core gamers”? Let’s explore why some in the gaming community hold on tightly to excluding “casual gamers.”

Worldbuilding Through Profanity
Sun, 4:00–5:15 pm Location: Caucus
Monica Valentinelli (M), Dylan Edwards, Benjamin Rosenbaum
Swearing is something that comes naturally to people. Swearing is also highly cultural. ‘Damn!’ only works if a culture has the concept of damnation. Short versus long invocations, it all goes together. How do you construct a swearing culture for a new people? How does it vary by social class? Let’s find out.

Registration is capped, so if you’re interested in attending be sure to visit the WisCon website.

Convention Prep: Geeking Out about My Top 5 Makeup Must-Haves

White Queen from Alice in Wonderland

One of the things I love to do is play with makeup, and I don’t get the opportunity to geek out about it very much–so I thought I’d do it here. My recommendations are meant to be for anyone, regardless of gender, age, etc. who’s interested. To that end, I did double-check to make sure my must-haves were available in multiple skin tones, and comments are open if you want to leave specific suggestions.

Before I get to my must-haves, I wanted to mention that one of the most important things you can do is figure out your skin type. There’s a lot of advice out there that talks about what layers you need (primer, lotion, etc.) to put on your face before applying makeup, but often what you use (or how many layers you apply) depends upon your skin’s composition. For example, tons of people put on CC or BB cream; using that as a base tends to make your face slick because it has sunscreen. If your skin is naturally oily, then it will probably feel even slicker if you layer lotions, etc. beneath that. If you’re not sure what type of skin you have, it’s worth visiting a consultant at a department store or a specialty shop like Sephora or Ulta to help you get a baseline.

1. Urban Decay De-Slick Powder

I love this powder. The Urban Decay De-Slick Powder is an odorless, colorless powder that can be worn by itself or with makeup. It is designed to control shine, and it works like a charm to offset humidity, sweat, etc. perfect for long days or summer cons. Urban Decay is sold direct through their website, or you can find the line at Sephora and Ulta.

2. Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion

If you have issues with slick eyelids as the day goes on, this potion is magical. There are three different types that can be worn under eyeshadow or by themselves. By far, the Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer has been one of the best ways to give a little coverage and prevent greasy eyelids. If that’s a concern, you can pick up the Urban Decay Lockdown Duo to help set your makeup, or you can use blotting papers instead.

3. Moodstruck Minerals Stiff Upper Lip Stain

Younique has some interesting products to try, and I’ve had good luck with their Moodstruck 3D Fiber Lashes and the Moodstruck Minerals Stiff Upper Lip Stain. The stain goes on like a lip gloss, but it dries out, coloring your lips for hours. I usually pair the stain with regular chapstick or clear gloss; the benefit of doing this is fantastic. I don’t have to look in the mirror to apply the gloss, and the color stays on all day. The only tip I have is that you use a lip exfoliator, like this amazing Mary Kay Satin Lips set, to make sure your skin is smooth before staining them.

4. Perfekt Undereye Concealer

Dark circles, red eyes, and puffy under eye skin are definitely a hazard if you stay up late at night. I often bring Visine with me to help with the redness, and for puffy eyes, I use Alba Botanica Green Tea Gel or All About Eyes Serum De-Puffer by Clinique. (There’s a lovely article about various methods to de-puff eyes here, if you’re interested.) For undereye concealer, I use Perfekt Skin Perfection Concealer. When applying, you only need a little bit. Its lighter-than-air, so it doesn’t cake, and if you use it in a criss-cross pattern beneath the eye stretching to the top of the cheekbone it’ll blend well.

5. Maybelline The Blushed Nudes Palette

I really enjoy playing around with eyeshadow palettes, and some like the kits from Stila, are better than others. I’ve been very surprised by the quality of Maybelline’s sets, and have been really happy with the quality. At cons, I like a variety of shades and small compacts travel well. Maybelline’s The Blushed Nudes are a great buy for the money, and the metallics aren’t grainy. There’s a ton of other Maybelline eyeshadow palettes that I haven’t tried yet, too. The nice thing is that Maybelline is available in drug stores and in specialty makeup stores, plus they’re hella affordable and portable.

Hope you enjoyed this post! I had a lot of fun writing it and geeking out about makeup.

    Mood: Naptime?
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Quite a bit.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Laundry, laundry, laundry
    In My Ears: Space heater
    Game Last Played: Final Fantasy X-2: The Last Mission
    Book Last Read: Black Unicorn
    Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Legend of the Seeker
    Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge and Rules
    Latest Releases: In Volo’s Wake for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. Read my end-of-the-year list of releases for an overview of what I’ve put out for 2016.
    Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update. New project update coming this month!

Mark Your Calendar for GameHoleCon 2017

GameHoleCon 2017 in Madison, Wisconsin

I am pleased to announce that I will be a guest for this year’s Gamehole Con, which takes place November 2nd through November 5th at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wisconsin.

“Gamehole Con is the largest tabletop gaming convention in the upper Midwest. Tabletop gamers from around the country gather each November in Madison, WI for this carnival of gaming. The convention features role-playing games, board games, fantasy and historical miniature gaming, and collectible card games. If you are a tabletop gaming fan, do not miss Gamehole Con!”

I’ll have more announcements about the show in the coming months. I hope you consider joining us at the show!

MANW Week 3 Check-In: New Creative Prompt & Challenge Follow-Up

Jack The Pumpkin King Avatar

Today’s the exciting check-in for Week 3 of my Make Art Not War Challenge! I have had a tremendous week where a lot of unraveled threads have been snipped, and I’m in the process of figuring out what thread I need to spool before…

Okay, that took the whole “eye of the needle” analogy a bit too far; my point (Hah! Hah!) is that by embracing January’s theme of PLAY, I’m beginning to sort out what I want to focus on this year for the next three-to-six months. I’m also remembering which long-standing projects have been languishing as well, and that’s provided me with a much-needed kick in the butt to sharpen my focus.

I’d like to share with you how my week went, but before I get to that I’d like to plug an article by Gareth L. Powell titled “How To Keep Being Creative In A Crisis”. Loads of great insight here, and I really dug this quote:

“Art is one of the candles of civilisation. If we abandon it, the bad guys win. – Gareth L. Powell

Inspiring, eh? As more authors blog about making art in challenging and difficult times, I will continue to link to their words of wisdom. Remember: if you are just finding out about the challenge now, you can join at any time!

Creative Challenge Recap: Making Art at Cons

Last week, I did mention that I had a creative challenge to work through. I was invited to be a special guest at Midwinter Con, and my goal was to keep making art while at the show. Here’s how the days broke down:

  • Wednesday, January 11
  • – I did not make art. I was forced to slay dust bunnies instead.

  • Thursday, January 12
  • – This was a travel/booth set up/see people day, so no art here, either.

  • Friday, January 13
  • – I set up and participated in a LARP about an eeeeeeevil corporation, which was the culmination of characters I helped design. Not sure if this counts as “new” or not, but it was the result of my creative efforts.

  • Saturday, January 14
  • – I did here! Part of the day I spent with my cousin on creative photography and discussing my business plan. I also started narrowing down how to focus my creative energy on my original projects as well. Plus, spending time at the signing table allowed me to conjure concepts for new worlds, stories, and games.

  • Sunday, January 15
  • – Another travel and tear down day. This was a long one, and didn’t make art here.

Though I didn’t make art on certain days, when I came back home I did feel as if my focus never waned–not once. Since MANW was always on my mind, it was omnipresent and, because of that, I spent Monday recovering from the convention(1). I wound up buying some software that would allow me to design flat, two-dimensional bracelets, necklaces, earrings, etc. and used it to create two fan-made patterns. (One was for Dungeons & Dragons, and the other was for the Packers.) For flat stitches, the software will allow me to plot out intricate designs and “see” them before I stitch them. Pretty cool!

All in all, I think the creative challenge to continue making art at conventions can’t be forced or helped if travel gets in the way. The two most important things for me was to never lose sight of my goal, and to get back on the proverbial horse as soon as possible. I needed a day of downtime after a convention, for example, and I found there was no better way of spending it than making art.

Your mileage will vary, of course, but if you can’t make art while you’re away please don’t beat yourself up about it. If, however, you find yourself not making art when you get home, too, then that’s something I’d keep an eye on. If your lack of productivity goes past a week, then I’d say that’s definitely a cause for concern–especially if you don’t have a lot going on.

I’d love to hear how you’re doing. Feel free to check in on the hashtag or use the comments section. Can’t believe we’re in week three!

Creative Prompt: Visualize a Castle

The story behind this creative prompt is my love for a book that I feel was billed as a romance–even though it really wasn’t. Season of the Witch, by Natasha Mostert, touches upon a concept in spiritual alchemy where you build constructs in your mind. Natasha uses that gilded palace in an interesting and suspenseful way while other fantasy writers, like Melanie Rawn in her Exiles series, utilize mental constructs to teach magic, defend from magical attacks, etc. [Similar to this, is the “mind palace” which was featured in Sherlock.]

This exercise has two components to it. The first, is to take twenty minutes and find a nice, quiet space to visualize a castle of your dreams. If you don’t have one of those, I recommend noise-cancelling headphones to help you focus. Then, when you’re settled, draw a castle in your mind and add in the five senses. If you picture a tower, go inside the tower. Does it have staircases? Elaborate carpets? Stained glass windows or heavy oak doors? What does that room smell like? Fresh rain, rose petals, or cinnamon? Once you’ve visualized that room, move on to the next one and the next one until you’ve pictured an entire castle of your own making.

For the second part, bring your castle to life. You can do this in any number of ways via scrapbooking or cutting techniques, illustrations, lush descriptions, etc. The idea here is to build a castle in the real world that you’ve visualized. Remember: this doesn’t have to be something you complete on the first try, either. It could take you up to a week or more, and that’s okay!

Why do this? Here’s a secret: by creating a place in your mind, through your art, you are giving yourself the gift of space. This might be a place you dream about buying, building, owning, or traveling to one day. Or, your castle could be a safe space you retreat to because it’s uniquely yours. It may sound incredibly silly, but having a safe space is important for your well-being on multiple levels. This exercise allows you to create one and give you that sense of ownership and control–which is a must when times get tough!

(1) Every introvert understands what “recovering” a.k.a. “de-peopling” means.

    Mood: Caffeinated
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Yeah, I don’t think the addiction will bypass anytime soon, not until Spring at least.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Bah, humbug.
    In My Ears: Movie soundtrack playlist. Currently on Harry Potter.
    Game Last Played: Dragon Age: Inquisition
    Book Last Read: Research materials for work.
    Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
    Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge and Rules
    Latest Releases: Read my end-of-the-year list of releases for an overview of what I’ve put out for 2016. Check out Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling and, if you like it, consider leaving a review.
    Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update.

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