Tag Archives: Jennifer Carson

Comic Con San Diego—Not for the Faint of Heart

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Comic Con is a little like making a go of writing—it’s not for the faint of heart.  It is a trial from the moment you decide to go to the moment you stumble back through your front door and do a header into your bed.  I could do an entire blog on just the ticket-selling lottery.  Last year we used seven computers to optimize our chances, and this year, owing to more restrictions, three computers.

I could do an entire blog (okay, rant) on the hotel lottery and booking process.  Like how this year, although I put my request in within a half hour of the lottery opening, I didn’t get a hotel.  When it opened up a second time, I got one several miles away.  At registration, the clerk told me that not only was I paying $13  a night more than I would have had I gotten the early-bird special (i.e., booking the first time when I was spit out of the lottery), but that we did not get breakfast vouchers.  Breakfast is huge because food at the con, with 150,000 of your closest friends, is another challenge. Continue reading »

Batman white cape

Batman turns 75 this year. This must be his white cape for the white-tie affair!

Next is packing.  I once went on a biking vacation with formal-enough clothes to hit a nice restaurant or two in a pair of standard-sized biking panniers.  But I was going to Comic Con in costume—heavy multilayer costumes, chainmail, extra stage makeup, bulky boots, a case of jewelry (hey, where better to wear my collection), prosthetics, glue, and remover, and enough hair product to fill a small suitcase.  When we were done packing the car, my husband wanted to know if we were vacationing in San Diego or moving there.


Best Dr. Who ever! Wish his eyes had turned out, they look just like Tom Baker’s!

All this and we haven’t made it to the con yet!  Inside the convention center you will face more challenges such as security people who yell constantly at you to keep moving (even when I was in a line for the bathroom).  They have only enough seating outside of panels for maybe a couple hundred people (Starbucks and the upstairs Sail Room tables).
Perhaps the worst drawback are the crowds.  On Saturday, you could not breath and move at the same time…not enough room: pick one.  The lines are mind-numbing.  I was going to video tape the line for the biggest hall, Hall H, but (whining alert) it was too long, and I didn’t want to walk that far! See that tent in the picture, that’s all for Hall  See those people along the side of the convention center?  That’s where the line winds around behind it! To add insult to injury, if you don’t camp out overnight, you likely won’t get into Hall H, and that’s where they do the good stuff.  Last year Hall H was where Dr. Who held the 50th anniversary panel.  This year I don’t know who was in there. I refused to look; I didn’t want to get depressed.


Scare you off yet?  Screw your courage to the sticking-place and suck it up, because despite all the challenges, Comic Con International in San Diego is AWESOME.  All around you, literally on all four sides of you wherever you move, are people just like you, who love what you love.  I had a great conversation just waiting at a light and crossing the street with someone who saw the Dr. Who panel last year.  He knew how to work the line for Hall H.  His story involved pizza and beer.  He was on his way to set up for this year.  Ahhh, youth!  My fifty-year-old bones aren’t cut out for sleeping on cement, or even grass, as the young man happily shared with me, nice soft grass… He’ll be fifty someday.


You never know what’s going to happen when you cross the street at Comic Con! Stormtroopers in a smart car…can you get anymore Comic Con than that?

All my favorite shows have panels, some of which I even managed to attend:  Falling Skies and Sleepy Hollow, for instance.  Falling Skies wasn’t so hard to get into.  Sadly, they announced next year is their last season.  I don’t think I would have gotten into Sleepy Hollow if we hadn’t been in Falling Skies beforehand.  Sleepy Hollow is doing just fine.  If the crowd attending didn’t tell you that, the decibels of the screeching teenyboppers would have…oh, and the fifty-year-old woman in the middle…Hey, if you scream with them your eardrums damp down, and it’s less loud.  Just self-defense!

20140723_194340(0)_resized_2The dealer floor is unimaginable.  I would tell people just to go for that experience alone.  It is so large that although I walked it every day, I saw only about half of it.  I concentrated on the big publishers most of whom were giving away free books.  But be warned, if you visit the long table for Penguin (Roc, DAW, Ace) stick to the right side as you face the table.  On  the left side was witchy lady with nonfunctioning brain.  I asked if she had a book recommendation for XYZ, and she said we don’t take pitches here.  I said I’m not pitching, I’m looking for a book on XYZ.  Didn’t end well, she blew me off with a scowl.  But the two editors on the right side, they answered my question.  Thanks Left Flipper of Penquin!  Visited Simon & Shuster, for whom I used to work, and the nice editor there took a couple of minutes to talk to me.  Floor was busy so I moved on. I had another mission after all.

jewelry bracelet

Mission two was JEWELRY!  Which won’t surprise anyone who knows me.  Last year I rediscovered two former loves from years gone by, Angelwear Creations and Willow!  I was all hot to buy more, but Willow didn’t show up this year and Angelwear didn’t have the piece I’d hoped for…so I ordered it!  While I was shopping, I saw this really cool bracelet.

20140723_191201_resizedYou could spend days wandering the floor looking as such things as the Lego display with such life-sized statues as the raccoon from Guardians of the Galaxy.  You could drool over wonderful statuettes from dozens of talented artists.  This one booth was even giving several away!  One statue was a life-sized Hans Solo in carbonite.  I didn’t enter that one.  My hubby trotted up and proudly told me he did.  He better hope he doesn’t win; only room for one adult male in the house—him or Han.  Hmmm…let me think that through.

I met and talked with Nene Thompson, whose fairy calendars I’ve bought from local bookstores.  Her husband and she are putting out an epic fantasy series, and we geeked out over that; I was in heaven.  The range of the art is magnificent.  Anything from high-quality dollar postcards to original oil paintings in the thousands. There was this one white dragon I saw… But I’m afraid I would have needed a loan from Smaug to buy that original…

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Life-sized Smaug at the con! Hey, buddy, how about parting with some or your gold? Comic Con ain’t cheap, you know!

Which, if Smaug were the generous type, would have been doable, because he, and much of the cast of the Hobbit, were there!  Now if it had been Lee Pace/Thranduil in carbonite…Well, James should just be glad that wasn’t an option!

The masquerade fashion show with skits was more fun this year even than last year.  Some were gorgeous, some were funny as hell.  Game of Thrones and Frozen seemed to be the theme this year…or GOT meets Frozen. This was one of my favorites: #35, The Frozen North.  The Best-in-show winner was another favorite, clever, cute skit, and the costumes looked impeccably made: #27, Giant Monsters All Out Attack.

Thor loki

Decisions, decisions!

But the stage didn’t have all the killer costumes.  Check out Iron Man!  Er…Brass Man?  Oh forget what to call it, this is one cool steampunk suit!  And since I couldn’t take Lee Pace home, I snapped this cosplayer in his Thranduil costume and then snapped Loki!  Is it getting hot in here or is it me?  Don’t tell hubby!  Oh, never mind, he’s busy being all excited over finding his first booth babes.

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Sure, honey, you just want to know where you can get a set of teeth like that for next con!

So despite the preparation, the expense, and the crowdsand partly because of the latterComic Con San Diego is worthwhile.  Some of you know, these past few months I’ve really struggled through writing my last few chapters, but when I finally got in the zone, I was floating a mile high. Comic Con is like that.  A struggle and then a walk in the clouds…

Hey look, I made it to Comic Con!

Look for a future blog about my experience as a writer at Comic Con.
photos by Matthew J. Carson and Jennifer L. Carson.

Meet the Member—Laura Of Lurking: Reviewer, Writer, and My Inspiration

By Jennifer L. Carson

I’m the only one in the group on the sane side of the pond—Go UK! I’ve had a penchant for telling stories as far back as I can remember. I always wanted to lead the “Let’s Pretend” games when I was a kid, which my mother documented on some horrifying cassette tapes of me around age three. I apparently gathered all my teddies around and told them stories and jokes and sang songs to them. If spontaneous combustion ever happens in my home, please let it be in those tapes!


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In the last three years, Leasspell has become an important part of my life. I had all but abandoned real efforts to finish my novel. Yesterday, I wrote the final chapter. Without this group, I wouldn’t have had the deadlines I needed. Without this group, I wouldn’t have made some fundamental changes that I knew the moment I wrote them were so much better. Without this group, I wouldn’t have found the support my mind and heart needed to be sitting here today, telling you that I finished the last chapter of my novel.

I’m not the only one whose life Leasspell has touched. Our newest member, Carolyn, is a longtime friend, but she stopped writing for a while. Since joining the group a couple of months ago, she’s gotten together with me twice for writers retreat weekends. I hope Leasspell does for her what it is doing for me: keeping me at the keyboard. Denise and Jax finished in first and second place in a publishing contest for Assent Publishing’s fantasy imprint, Phantasm Books. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that out of eighty-four submissions, first and second place went to members of our writers group. It is an outstanding group. And I know Jason is using the deadlines to spur his writing. I think everyone of us is learning more about the whirlwind changes in the formerly staid old publishing industry because of our pooling together and sharing our experiences, our research and knowledge, and our contacts.

This is all to say: Leasspell has changed my life.

So what does this have to do with Laura? Everything. Without her, Leasspell wouldn’t exist. I had been in writers groups at various times with Carolyn, Denise, and Jax. Jax had been prodding me to get our last group back together, but this time online since she had moved. I dragged my feet. Technology issues, time, lack of motivation on my own writing—all things in my head that kept me waving her off with a “yeah, yeah, good idea…sometime.”

Then I met Laura online. She was young when I met her, seventeen, I think. We met through a social media game. Must have been preordained ’cause I hate playing social media games. But my husband had an interview with this company and needed accounts to play with. So I started one and got a bit hooked for three months. But in that time, Laura helped me out with the game, which lead to us talking and some very long emails.

I found out she is a smart funny young lady who has a talent for writing. She was raw, but had splashes of crisp clear writing that really surprised me, and she had the passion to go with it. I saw some of myself in her. Then I found out Laura is disabled. Very, very disabled and sick much of the time, too. The world comes to her through books and her computer. She lives much of her life in the fantasy worlds in her head and she wanted to put them into books. I wanted to help her do that, and I wanted to help her do it well, as I knew she could with a little guidance and practice.

I called Jax, and I said let’s do this. Thus was Leasspell born—all thanks to a bright young woman I met through a video game.

Today, Laura’s illness and disability have progressed to the point that she cannot spend a lot of time at the keyboard, so she is no longer submitting her own manuscripts to our group. She reads more now than ever before—125 books last year! Blew my mind! Her voracious reading is likely the reason she was one of the best commenters on fantasy that I’ve met. I have lots of writer friends giving me writerly advice, but Laura has a reader’s eye and an amazing understanding of genre conventions. That is a rare and valuable thing to a writer. Now Laura has made that keen insight available to all on her reviewers Web site. This is what she has to say about choosing that path:

For a long time, I was just a lurker hidden in the shadows of online reviewing. I would read these great, often indie published, books and have opinions. I often disagreed with other reviewers but never stated my mind. Then I thought, “You know what? I’ve read voraciously since I was seven, I think I have the right to validate my points.”

And so she did. She started reviewing on Amazon and then last year started her own blog—a very busy one at that! When asked what she likes to read, she says:

Anything and everything really, including the contents of the bathroom cupboard on those days you, well… just get stuck there! My favourite genres are science fiction and fantasy. I enjoy a good biography of somebody who has overcome great obstacles. I also read historical fiction and horror. That’s pretty much my order of preference.

So if you have a small-press or indie-published book (or one about to be published) and are looking for a good reviewer, today is your lucky day. Hop on over to Laura’s Web site, Laura of Lurking, and check out the more detailed submission guidelines. If she’s not accepting books for review, you can always email her to find out what her timeframe is till she opens up again. Like I said, she reads fast! Or if you just want to know what’s good out there in the indie and small-press community, she’s put up quite a list of candidates this past year and so her reviews can help you find a good book that suits you.

Laura has been an inspiration to me. She has every reason to be down most of the time. Instead she always greets me with wit and humor and the same voraciousness for life that she has for her reading. I sometimes wonder how she does it, and one day I finally asked. I will leave you with her answer to that, for it is good advice for us all:

What the future holds—who knows? Who really wants to? If you study the future, you’ll miss those little gems passing by right now.

Metaphors — Add Color to Your Writing

What the Heck’s a Metaphor?

Metaphors are figures of speech that bring drama, color, texture, vision, history, action, or thrill to your work. For example:


But soft, what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.
~William Shakespeare

Everyone is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody.
~Mark Twain

Twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are. Up above the world to so high, like a diamond in the sky.
~Jane Taylor

Hmmmm…anyone see a theme?

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Wikipedia starts with this definition:

A metaphor is a literary figure of speech that uses an image, story, or tangible thing to represent a less tangible thing or some intangible quality or idea (e.g., Her eyes were glistening jewels).

In Greek, the term metaphor meant “carry something across” or “transfer.” Aristotle defined it as “the act of giving a thing a name that belongs to something else.” Perhaps the most well-known type of metaphor is the simile. A simile uses the words as or like to give a much more comparative effect that transfers meaning from one element to another.

She hopped out of here quick as a bunny.

Life is like a box of chocolates.

In more subtle uses, however, a reader may not even recognize a metaphor, since no comparative words make it obvious a comparison has happened.


As the sun set, night slowly spread its black wings against the clouded sky.

Obviously the night has no wings, but it is still being compare to something with black wings, perhaps a bat or raven—just without the use of like or as. Moreover, either creature brings more ominous images to the mind, gently leading the reader into a darker mood and setting.

His temper boiled over.

In this example, the verb is the metaphor, connecting a new property that isn’t inherent in the noun. For example, one’s temper is a state of mind or a feeling. But hot water boils. We’ve gone beyond merely informing the reader about his state of emotion (“he’s mad”) into suggesting a state of danger (“he’s hot—don’t touch him”).

Writing and Using Metaphors

Consider the following.

Her eyes were like the sea.

Readers might think color; blue-green, maybe gray. But they may also think calm and peaceful or deep and vast. By suggesting the sea you’ve invited your reader to imagine more about the character than simply the color of their eyes. Jennifer, the editor in our group, loves the word connotation. It’s critical in metaphors, as you can see in this example:

She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.

What is this saying about the sound, really? About the character making it? About the situation? About, well, the writer? When creating a metaphor you’ll want to consider both the reader and the world you’re writing about. For example:


Watching the monitor, Mary’s fingers flew over the keyboard as she quickly typed in the dBase query. She was faster than a one-hundred megabit per second download.

Okay, you may happen to know that’s pretty frickin’ fast. However, the reader may not. This techy metaphor may have missed him or her. By using such techno-jargon, I’ve targeted a thin audience. That may be fine, if the book is about high-tech hackers. Now consider this:

In only one afternoon, Andrea milked the cows, fed the chickens, mucked the stalls, and churned her aunt’s butter. She was faster than a one-hundred megabit per second download.

Even if the readers are going to be a bunch of computer geeks (for some reason), we’ve lost touch with the setting and scene of the story. Yes, the reader knows that’s fast, but we’ve essentially kicked them out of this world.

So maybe something like…


She was faster than slicked lightning.

Ok, that’s a bit more acceptable. But since we started on farm, how about staying on the farm?

She was faster than her uncle’s prized mare on the Beaufort County racetrack.

Interesting. Not only do we get the point, but we learned she lives in or near Beaufort County, and her uncle races horses.


Want to try your hand? Here are three starts to metaphors, including similes. For each, write a serious metaphor and a humorous one. Post your work in the comments, if you’d like. Show off your creative side!

1. The mountains were __________.
2. The parchment was like __________.
3. The TARDIS looked as if __________.

The Top Ten Worst of the Worst

  1. The ballerina rose gracefully en pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.
  2. The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.
  3. He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.

  4. The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn’t.

  5. He was as tall as a six-foot, three-inch tree.

  6. It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools.

  7. From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you’re on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 p.m. instead of 7:30.

  8. Even in his last years, Granddad had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long, it had rusted shut.

  9. The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law George. But unlike George, this plan just might work.

And my personal favorite—it’s either really bad or really good…

  1. Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.

About Jax Daniels

Leasspell is proud to announce that two of our members, Jax and Denise, won first and second place in the 2013 Assent publishing contest for their fantasy imprint, Phantasm Books. Jax’s debut novel takes place in her (now) home of New Orleans, and for all I know, she could live next door to Winki Witherspoon and Gateway Manor! Her book is full of fun characters, adventure, and imagination.

Dead Man’s Deal: When Winki Witherspoon inherits a New Orleans Mansion, she also inherits her own Magical talent. Can she master it and discover her late husband’s traitor before she, too, is destroyed?

Available from Amazon in August, 2014.

Appropriating Inspiration at BayCon 2014

Confession: I’ve let writing lapse lately and that feels BAD. Maybe that’s happened to you, too. Life gets in the way, and it’s hard enough to put one foot in front of the other, let alone put your fingers on the keyboard.

Seeking inspiration and writerly motivation, I spent this past Saturday and Sunday at Baycon 2014, one of the larger science fiction and fantasy conventions held annually in the San Francisco Bay Area. Along with Denise Tanaka and Jennifer Carson, I happily threw myself into the open arms of my fellow fen and found inspiration and motivation aplenty. Now here I am, writing, my fingers feeling fine as they tap the keys.

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I woke at 5:00 in the morning, and the first song of the day on shuffle was Laura Line’s “Dreams.” Good omen! Dreams inspire (several of my short stories have come from dreams that I’ve remembered upon waking), and the con would be filled with fellow dreamers.

Jennifer Carson looking at jewelry

Jennifer Carson looking at jewelry

By 10:00 a.m., I was in the dealer’s room with Jennifer, drooling over jewelry from Angelwear Creations. Jennifer (and, later, Denise) were drawn to the fantasy-inspired necklaces, but I was drawn to the science fiction pieces: silver rocket earrings, necklaces of silver shuttles in orbit around gemstones that look like planets, pins shaped like spiral-armed galaxies studded with pearls. Motivational? You bet. It’s often hard to find beautiful jewelry inspired by science fiction; at the typical SFF convention, jewelry inspired by fantasy—Celtic designs, dragons, and (lately) steampunk gears–far outnumbers science fiction pieces, a state of affairs that reflects the relative popularity of the two genres in ways that I find depressing, given that I primarily write science fiction. So I bought a spaceship-circling-a-darkling-moon necklace and wore it during the rest of the con! Wearing that necklace, I could defy the oft-repeated, demotivational claim that “most women don’t read science fiction.”

Kevin Andrew Murphy being inspired by the menu

Kevin Andrew Murphy being inspired by the menu

On Saturday, Denise, Jennifer, and I ate lunch alone. On Sunday, we were joined by several people from former writers groups whom I hadn’t seen in years, including Kevin Andrew Murphy and Wanda Kurtcu. (I had a chance to say howdy and thank you to Carrie Sessarego for her perceptive review of Skin Deep, my latest paranormal romance.) Sharing food and face-to-face conversations with these like-minded, long-lost friends, hearing how life and writing have treated them, helps put my own life and writing in perspective. Writing is a joy we can turn to when life isn’t.

Denise Tanaka giving her business card to Elanor Finster

Denise Tanaka giving her business card to Elanor Finster

Friends who aren’t long-lost can also inspire. Denise is shy, but at the con, she made a conscious effort to stand out and market her work. In her wizard’s robe and hat, staff in hand, she asked at least one question at every panel, handed out her business cards, struck dramatic poses, and furthered her brand. Her example inspires me, motivates me, to look for ways to make marketing what I write as enjoyable as the writing is itself.

Denise Tanaka in full wixzrd robes with staff

Denise Tanaka in full wixzrd robes with staff

Strangers, too, can inspire. Strangers in clever costumes. Strangers with smiles on their faces, complimenting my Firefly T-shirt or striking up a short conversation in line. Just being “of the Body” with the SFF community, being physically present in a place where so many others are, refreshes the spirit.

Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff, Jennifer Carson, and Kyle Aisteach speaking at the panel on "Listening to That Critique"

Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff, Jennifer Carson, and Kyle Aisteach speaking at the panel on “Listening to That Critique”

Certainly I was motivated by the topics for panel discussion (designing an effective book cover, marketing your work, using a pen name, making use of critiques, avoiding cultural appropriation, etc.) and by listening to what the panelists (authors, editors, artists, independent publishers) had to say about writing and creativity. But I found equal value in observing the panelists’ behavior. Watching how they made fans comfortable at signings, in the hallways, or in the Q&As after the panels gave me ideas about what to do and say (and not to do or say).

Random signs

Random signs

And the art: art in the dealers’ room, art in the artists’ room, random convention signage on the walls of the hotel–all inspirational. I wish I could show you images of the gorgeous, clever, thought-provoking artwork I saw, but I won’t infringe the copyrights. Looking at various paintings in the artists’ room, I thought about what would be inside a book if that painting were its cover, and although ideas for plot and characters came to mind, I found I was most inspired by the mood of the painting. I made a mental note to consider mood more consciously as I write.

Brad Lyau, Margaret McGaffrey Fisk, Leslie Anne Moore, and Wanda Kurtcu at the panel on "Cultural Appropriation in SFF Media and Costuming"

Brad Lyau, Margaret McGaffrey Fisk, Leslie Anne Moore, and Wanda Kurtcu at the panel on “Cultural Appropriation in SFF Media and Costuming”

When it was all over and I was back home, sitting on the couch in the dark while the cats roamed the room, I found myself pondering one panel in particular, the panel on cultural appropriation. The panel considered possible problems that can occur when a writer writes of a culture not his or her own, warning that such use can be offensive and harmful. In light of all the inspiration and motivation I’d been seeking at the con, I took this as a particularly apt caution.

Apt cautionary sign on convention wall

Apt cautionary sign on convention wall

As writers, we step outside ourselves to step inside ourselves. We take on the viewpoint of others in order to see ourselves more clearly. We create characters, we build worlds, we devise histories, we extrapolate or fantasize or faithfully recreate, all in words on a page outside of ourselves, all to better understand, explain, reflect, memorialize, realize something about ourselves. In writing about others, I come to know more about myself and am inevitably on some level writing about myself—myself among others, perhaps, but still myself. If I see others only from my own perspective, I see wrongly—not only those others, but also myself.

Hah! That’s rolling prose. I’m ready to write.

About Carolyn Hill

Carolyn received her doctorate in rhetoric from the University of California at Berkeley, studying the argumentative artistry of Sir James Frazer’s The Golden Bough. She has taught writing, both general and genre, for over thirty years. She is a gifted writer of short stories, which are available in her short story collection, Liminal Eyes. Those who like longer works should check out her two novels, Bead’s Pickle and Skin Deep. When Carolyn is not writing, she is hurling heavy objects into the air above her head.