Tag Archives: cosplay

LAUNCH DAY! More Cosplay Disasters

all-helmets

Yes! It’s finally launch day for my new e-book, “More Cosplay Disasters”!

In this follow-up volume to “My Cosplay Disasters”, I lay out the method I failed to develop properly to build another four helmets. This time I ruined:

A Captain Rex Clone Trooper Mod

A First Order Stormtrooper Helmet from “The Force Awakens”

Handles the Cyberman Head from Doctor Who

A Deathtrooper helmet from “Rogue One”

Each disaster is neatly laid out (which is more than can be said for my workshop) with accompanying photographs and a detailed account of where I went wrong (often, simply starting the project.)

There are many authors and makers out there who are keen to tell you how to do things right, but I’m pretty much the only person showing you how I do things wrong, thus proving that YOU could do a better job than me if you put your mind to it. Also, that I should have a different hobby.

The e-book is available exclusively on Amazon:

In the US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XCF665N

In the UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06XCF665N

In Canada: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B06XCF665N

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And anyone else, check your local Amazon variant!

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Escaping to Fan Expo Vancouver

There’s little doubt that 2016 has been a grim year. We’ve lost folk heroes, rock stars, and a little bit of belief in the fundamental goodness of regular folks. But yesterday we set aside our fears and doubts, and dressed up as someone else for a day. We went to Fan Expo Vancouver 2016.

If you’ve read this blog at all, you’ll know we try to go every year. I always intend to dress up, and I never do. Time and again, the Weasels have outshone me with their brilliant outfits, and been photographed over and over.

This year, I was ready. Having spent only a short period of time building s Doctor Strange outfit for Halloween, I had spruced up the Shakespearean Vader suit that I built so long ago. I shortened the cloak so I didn’t trip on it. I added extra bling. I was ready.

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We didn’t rush in this year – there would be no queuing! Eldest Weasel had booked a photo shoot with her personal Doctor Who idol, Alex Kingston, and that wasn’t until mid-afternoon, so we had a leisurely drive in to downtown, and then we gathered outside the convention centre while Mrs Dim figured out how to exchange our tickets for the wristbands that would get us inside.

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Eldest Weasel’s friend came along as Kaylee from Firefly, while Eldest herself had really gone to town on improving her Time Lord Headdress.

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Middle Weasel was Quicksilver (somewhat ironic, given her tendency to avoid moving whenever possible) and Tiny Weasel was Frisk from Undertale. You know, Undertale? the Game? No, me neither.

Attending Fan Expo in costume was wildly different from going in regular clothes. For one thing, I was stopped quite often so people could take photos of or with me. For another, I couldn’t actually see very much. My breath fogged up the eyepieces after about four minutes, and Mrs Dim had to guide me through the halls. I was glad she’d chosen a white jacket for the day, as it was easy to follow the white blur. Only once did it turn out to be the WRONG white blur….

From an atmosphere of fear and hate (through the internet news and the reactions of friends and family) we found ourselves in a place of acceptance and encouragement. Fans can be sticklers for details, vocally critical of the film industry when details are altered for a movie, or when a beloved character is treated badly for plot purposes. But I heard no criticisms of any of the costumed characters at the Expo. There was open admiration, compliments, applause, and , of course, photographs. Prominently displayed in the convention centre and the nearby hotel were signboards with the “Cosplay is not consent” policy clearly laid out. Some female characters wear skimpy outfits, and those that chose to dress as those characters could have no fear that they would risk assault for that choice.

Respect. Inclusion. Honest fun. Pursuit of interests for the joy they bring, not the financial gain.

It was a delight to step into this world, and imagine the one we live in coming back to these values one day.

Halloween is coming

halloween-background

Lazy summer days are great, and fresh spring mornings can be wonderful, but I have to admit that autumn is my favourite time of the year. It’s not the crunchy fallen leaves, or the tang of snow to come in the air, but one night of silliness: Halloween.

As a child in the UK in the 70’s and 80’s, Halloween was not a big deal. There would be a party on the night itself, or the weekend closest to, I guess, and there would be costumes and apple bobbing, but no trick or treating. By the time I was at Secondary school, there were Halloween discos, and rumours of trick or treating in local areas, but these were always accompanied by horror stories of razor blades in apples and so on. We knew about North American Halloween traditions, of course, because we watched movies like “ET” and saw the parades of costumed kids going about collecting sweets. None of them seemed to suffer horrific murder as a result….

In our final few years in the UK, we were on RAF stations, usually behind the wire, where a small community made for safe trick or treating. Mrs Dim came up with the idea of making a huge cauldron of soup and some hot dogs and making a gather point for adults. We could see the kids working their way up and down the road while the adults took turns supervising and eating.

By 2008, we were hosting our own Halloween party out in the world of civilians.

The kids even got to go trick or treating around the local roads (with adults in attendance, of course.)

But over here, the sheer scale of Halloween is impressive. When my writing partners from TLC came to visit in our first year, they went back with a suitcase filled with Halloween decorations that were cheap over here, but non-existant at the time in the UK. I suspect that situation has changed in the years since, but there’s no denying that people go all out for  Halloween over here.

The last two years I have been working Halloween night, and I will be again this year. It’s a quiet night in the library, even though the staff dress up and the Librarians usually have some sweets for any trick or treaters who make it in.

 

The Weasels will also be dressed up, and some will be roaming the streets in search of sweets, while others will man the Witch’s cottage, or whatever scary house we set up to trap the unwary….

After two months…

I finally got to put up the Star Wars Day display at the library.

It was fun to get everything together and write out some information cards for each helmet, trying to find links to specific books, as well as pointing out how Star Wars contributes to drawing new children into reading each year.

 

I was also proud to receive a card from the Commanding Officer of the local 501st Garrison, the Outer Rim Garrison. He left his card, so I’m hoping to catch up with him in the next week before the display comes down.

 

What are YOU doing for Star Wars Day?

Hey Amazon! Let’s make something NEW!

The new cover for the new edition - same photo, new subheading.

The new cover for the new edition – same photo, new subheading.

E-publishing will kill REAL books!

Real books will never die!

The arguments have been raging about e-books since they first became a thing, way back in 19-I-can’t-be-bothered-to-look-it-up. So far, I think we can agree, real books have survived, and e-books like “50 shades” and “The Martian” have become real books and vice versa. (Sidebar: Now wondering about the viability of a “Fifty Shades of Red: Survival and sex on Mars” blockbuster series… Studio Heads, you have my phone number – it’s on that restraining order.)

Anyway, it’s become clear to me that e-books are not pushing their best features. Why should they just be regular books but on tablets? Yes, I can take fifty books on holiday in a pocket-sized device (I have big pockets), but that’s only one advantage. E-books can do full colour photos at no extra cost. They can include sound clips, video clips and other multi-media hyperlinks. These are all cool, but they feel like gimmicks.

Last week I looked at one of my early publications: “Troubled Souls“. It was supposed to be a collection of short fiction, but because one of the stories got away from me and mutated into a novella, it ended up as only three stories and the opening chapters of the novella. Neat, but not great value for money, even at the low price I set. I’ve written other stories in the intervening time, and I realised that some fit the Troubled Souls profile. I updated the file and uploaded it, then notified Amazon that I wanted to roll out the changes to people who had already paid for the book. They weren’t too sure about that. Here’s what they said:

“Because customers may lose their highlights, bookmarks, and notes when they download updates, we only send out updated content to correct serious readability issues, like overlapping text or cutoff images.

 If your updates fit the criteria above, please provide details and specific examples (including location numbers) of the content updates. Then, we’ll review the changes to make sure the readability issues have been corrected, and then we’ll take one of these three actions:

 Corrections to distracting errors. If we find only minor corrections, we won’t notify customers by e-mail, but we’ll activate their ability to update the content through the “Manage Your Content and Devices” page on Amazon.com.

 Corrections to destructive or critical errors. If we find major corrections, we’ll alert the customers who already own your book via email. These customers have the option to use the “Manage Your Content and Devices” page on Amazon.com to receive your book updates.

 Corrections to critical errors needed. If we find more major corrections are needed, we will temporarily remove your book from sale. We’ll notify you of the issues we found so you can fix them. Once the improvements are made, just let us know and we’ll email customers just like we do for major corrections.”

But I’m not correcting an error – I’m adding content! I want to give my readers more, at no extra cost. Ok, so this may not look great from the point of view of Amazon’s business model, but think about it. Imagine you saw a collection of short stories for sale, and you knew that buying this one book would allow you to receive MORE stories for FREE as the author wrote them. A collection that grows over time. Amazon already allows subscriptions for e-magazines, like the excellent E-fiction series, so what’s the difference here?

I guess it’s that users have to approve an update to data they’re storing locally, but this is a big issue for me. I want to add content to “My Cosplay Disasters” too, but I don’t want to have to go to the trouble of personally contacting the three people who have bought it and sending them the new file. This should be an automated process.

So come on, Amazon, let’s make a new thing, a book that gets bigger with time, a book that adds new content without further purchases. It’s possible, and it’s unique to e-books. It’s something they can do that no other form of publishing can. Let’s do it.

I dare you.

The updated “Troubled Souls” is available now. The un-updated “My Cosplay Disasters ” is also available now, to be updated later with fresh disasters.

EDIT: Twenty four hours later…

I received an email from Amazon KDP:

Hello,

I’m following up on your feedback on the recent response received from our Kindle Direct Publishing team.

Thanks for your feedback about notifying the existing customers of a book about the updates made to its content file. Though we currently don’t have this option, the customers can always contact our customer service team via the below links and get the updated content file for free.

To contact our customer service department via phone: http://www.amazon.com/clicktocall

To contact our customer service department via chat: http://www.amazon.com/clicktochat

Meanwhile, what I can do for you right now is, I’ll take your concern as feature request and communicate the same to our business team for consideration as we plan future improvements.

I’m unable to promise a timeframe at this time, however, we are still evolving and feedback like yours motivate us to dive deep and unearth ways and means which helps us in making publishing on KDP a happy experience.

Please be sure to check our forums periodically for updates:

https://kdp.amazon.com/community

Thanks for your understanding and support. We look forward to having to providing continued support to you.”

Not bad, Amazon, not bad.

E-book writing software: Sigil

This was the page that showed I had some problems with the first draft of the text...

This was the page that showed I had some problems with the first draft of the text…

E-books aren’t generally complicated things. You can bash them out in almost any word processing program, then just save them as html files. Then you upload them to your chosen platform, where you may need to jump through a few hoops to conform to their formatting requirements.

Certainly, you CAN make things more interesting by including hyperlinks and styles, then an active table of contents or index to help your reader jump back and forth through the book, but even so, a few clicks in Word can fix those things up for you.

If you’re an intermediate computer user (someone who doesn’t look for the “any” key, can reboot a router and prevent a download adding Macafee to your desktop) then you should be able to sort out those features with some experimentation and consultation with Google search.

Great Canadian cover

But what if your book contains a lot of illustrations? Working in Word can be problematic. For my e-book “The Great Canadian Adventure“, I used Serif PagePlus 6, a  desktop publishing program that claimed to have some special features exclusively for e-book production. While the process worked, it was a steep learning curve with several restarts and not a lot of guidance.

Available NOW at Amazon!

Available NOW at Amazon!

This time around, for “My Cosplay Disasters“, I wanted things to go a little smoother. However, only thirteen pages in, I was running into all kinds of formatting errors that I couldn’t fix.

Then my friends Amy Knepper and Lisa Cohen told me about Sigil, an e-book editing program that allows you to edit text or or html  code direct, and it will build the table of contents for you.

Amy kindly reformatted the pages I had already completed, which gave me a template for the rest of the book. Lisa lent her personal preference for the CSS.

To check that the pages I was producing were formatting properly, I would periodically save the file and export it to another program, a desktop e-reader called “Freda” to check how things looked. This helped me spot when things went wrong, as well as the more mundane issues like typos and spelling mistakes.

When I had completed the book, I tried uploading it to Amazon’s KDP program, but I was told the file contained a broken link. I went back and manually checked all the hyperlinks I had included, as well as the table of contents itself. Having no luck there, I was getting frustrated, but then tried the “preflight” check facility within Sigil itself. That found a whole bunch of “invisible” links, where I had inserted pictures, but the files had fallen out of the book somehow – in the code, there were still links to pictures that weren’t there.

Like any new program, it took some mucking about to understand exactly what I was doing, but by saving a few different versions, I ensured I was never more than one re-load away from a working copy, no matter what changes I made. Putting together “My Cosplay Disasters” didn’t take nearly as long as I thought it would, and there were considerably fewer re-starts than with PagePlus.

When I’m producing “Murder in the Kingdom”, the second “Eddie and the Kingdom” book, I’ll do it all in Word again, because it’s entirely text and simple enough to throw together. But later this year there’ll be an update to “My Cosplay Disasters” when I add in the saga of constructing my very own Stormtrooper Helmet.

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Fan Expo Vancouver 2015

Cosplay girls and Fett

This was our Third Fan Expo – we don’t count that first trip because we didn’t actually get inside the building. I’d made several bold claims about how I was definitely going to wear a costume this year, but for various complicated reasons, I didn’t.

It’s a big thing to decide, actually. Some people go to events like SDCC and Fan Expo for the big name stars. This year Fan Expo wasn’t stinting on those, bringing out William Shatner, John Barrowman and Carrie Fisher, as well as other big names from series like “Once Upon a Time” and “The Walking Dead”. And, of course, there were big names I had no clue about, like the voice artists from anime series and real comic book artists.

Other people go for the costumes – they want to see and be seen. At least, I think so.

Can you name all the GoT characters here? Quick, before GRRM kills them off!

Can you name all the GoT characters here? Quick, before GRRM kills them off!

But say you have your costume. Maybe it’s as stunning as this one:

In case you were wondering, I added the blur afterwards....

In case you were wondering, I added the blur afterwards….

She looks fantastic, and as far as I can tell, it’s a spot-on match for the game graphics. But you look a bit daft carrying your bag of loot too, so you have to put that down every time someone wants a picture. And lots of people will want a picture if your costume is this good…

Spy Vs Spy! Now that took me back a few years...

Spy Vs Spy! Now that took me back a few years…

And what if you’re a masked character? When do you get to have a drink or a snack?

We met this guy carrying his helmet, and only putting it on for pictures. He said he could see fine, it was just breathing that was a problem....

We met this guy carrying his helmet, and only putting it on for pictures. He said he could see fine, it was just breathing that was a problem….

This year we helped Tiniest Weasel with her costume – Pippin the Hobbit.

She's the one in the middle

She’s the one in the middle.

It was a good choice – she was warm enough for the times we were outside, and though her custom made hobbit feet were a little uncomfortable, she put up with them for a couple of hours.

One does not simply take the escalator into Mordor....Unless you're showing off your custom Hobbit feet.

One does not simply take the escalator into Mordor….Unless you’re showing off your custom Hobbit feet.

It was a practical costume, easy to make and maintain throughout the event, and she was comfortable enough.

Eldest Weasel went one better, going for the “Minimalist 11th Doctor” look.

There's always a TARDIS at these things. Hey, maybe it's always the SAME TARDIS?

There’s always a TARDIS at these things. Hey, maybe it’s always the SAME TARDIS?

But Middle Weasel got the best of the deal. Thanks to a massive cosplay malfunction on the night before, her Astrid costume morphed into a Sherlock minimalist affair that looked cool enough to be recognised, but not bothersome enough to be hard work.

She's the blonde Sherlock. And no jokes about that, please. I'm in enough trouble....

She’s the blonde Sherlock. And no jokes about that, please. I’m in enough trouble….

I went as me, wearing my Darth Vader t-shirt and some badges I’ve accumulated over the years, and there was a wonderful freedom in NOT being dressed up. I could wander the stalls, take pictures of the others, and trade duties with Mrs Dim, since we had our three Weasels plus two friends on loan for the day – that meant lots of phone tag and texting “Where r u? We at T-shirt stall…” etc etc

What other costumes were there? Well, I’m glad you asked:

This was one of very few Lara Crofts, and she was brilliant - I played the game last year, so I know....

This was one of very few Lara Crofts, and she was brilliant – I played the game last year, so I know….

My 11th meets a pretty good 4th.

My 11th meets a pretty good 4th.

Amy Pond and Rose Tyler

Amy Pond and Rose Tyler

The one, the only, Captain Jack Sparrow! Well, one of several that day, as it turned out...

The one, the only, Captain Jack Sparrow! Well, one of several that day, as it turned out…

Brilliant Weeping Angel

Brilliant Weeping Angel

I haven't seen

I haven’t seen “The Book of Life” but I can tell these guys are good. And one of them is Captain Jack Sparrow again…

Another 4th Doctor... It's the scarf, isn't it? Or maybe the jelly babies...

Another 4th Doctor… It’s the scarf, isn’t it? Or maybe the jelly babies…

More memories from my childhood...ok, from last week. It's Mean Machine Angel and a Judge.

More memories from my childhood…ok, from last week. It’s Mean Machine Angel and a Judge.

Pippin meets Tauriel.

Pippin meets Tauriel.

Huntress and Black Canary

Huntress and Black Canary

Oh, come on guys... Starlord? The famous outlaw?

Oh, come on guys… Starlord? The famous outlaw?

Nightwing and Young Thor

Nightwing and Young Thor

Lady Loki

Lady Loki

How does Luke Skywalker get across the road? Ewoks!

How does Luke Skywalker get across the road? Ewoks!

It wouldn't be a FanExpo without Rimmer, Arnold J.

It wouldn’t be a FanExpo without Rimmer, Arnold J.

Filli, Pippin and Killi

Filli, Pippin and Killi

Sherlock is not impressed by Jango Fett or Bossk.

Sherlock is not impressed by Jango Fett or Bossk.

The Book of Life crew don't rate a smile either.

The Book of Life crew don’t rate a smile either.

The same goes for this Nightwing.

The same goes for this Nightwing.

...And if you're not impressed by this bunch, what hope is there?

…And if you’re not impressed by this bunch, what hope is there?

These costumes were top notch...

These costumes were top notch…

As was this ShadowTrooper

As was this ShadowTrooper

When I was a kid, THIS was what Batman looked like. None of your modern Kevlar and nightvision.

When I was a kid, THIS was what Batman looked like. None of your modern Kevlar and nightvision.

These guys proved you don't need to look to Superheroes or television to find great cosplay ideas...

These guys proved you don’t need to look to Superheroes or television to find great cosplay ideas…

Gandalf, Pippin and Aragorn save the day!

Gandalf, Pippin and Aragorn save the day!

We’ll be back at Fan Expo next year, though it’s going to be in November in stead of April. I might dress up, I might not, but I know I’ll have a great time there. It’s a wonderful atmosphere, and we all agreed – when you see a cosplayer, you smile. It doesn’t matter if you know the character or not, you can’t help grinning like a loon. They’re happy, they’ve worked damn hard on their costumes, and no matter how tired, hot or hungry they are, they’ll take a second to pose for your camera.

(But if I do go in costume, I’ll look an awful lot like this:

I got the whole thing finished and ready to go...

I got the whole thing finished and ready to go…

So watch out next year for Shakespearean Darth Vader!

So watch out next year for Shakespearean Darth Vader!