Tag Archives: cosplay

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.

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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!

A Perfectly Useless Hobby : Part 2

The Shakespearean Vader Helmet: Another insane project begun.

The Shakespearean Vader Helmet: Another insane project begun.

It’s nearly the first weekend in April, and that can only mean that FanExpo Vancouver is just around the corner. After last year’s triumph with costumes for the weasels, I was determined not to be left out this year. But the Mando Armour had defeated me. Too many attempts to rebuild had left me dispirited and I abandoned it, leaving the helmet on the shelf with my other projects.

WP_20140829_004Unfortunately for my sanity and the well-being of the family, I had a new bright idea. For my birthday, I received a copy of Ian Doescher’s Shakespearean Star Wars.

Worse still, only a day or two later I was wandering through Value Village when I found a Darth Vader Voice-changer helmet, on sale for only $6. Clearly, this was a sign. I must make a Shakespearean Darth Vader costume!

Adapting the helmet was stage one, and something I could do in short bursts. This was, after all, only September, and there were many months before Fan Expo. The rest of the costume would be easy to put together in the months to come.

I took the basic helmet and added extra flanges at the end. Just so I could use the word "flanges".

I took the basic helmet and added extra flanges at the end. Just so I could use the word “flanges”.

WP_20140907_006 WP_20140918_002Years ago, my Dad had a tool that could measure a curve. It was a brilliant thing, but I don’t have one, so I used estimation and an iterative construction and redesign method to create the crest. Mrs Dim says this is actually “Bodging it with trial and error.” She may have a point.

WP_20141001_005Once I’d added the crest, I smoothed over the joins and sprayed it with gloss paint. I also sprayed the helmet itself with an artist’s acrylic gloss to make it shine like the movie helmet does – the plastic used for the kids’ helmet is actually too matte.

WP_20141006_002It took a while to find the gold filligree for the decoration. Amazingly, there aren’t many options for self-adhesive gold decoration. I tried all the obvious places, but eventually found something that would do at Michael’s, the craft store. It comes on a roll like selotape, but since the design winds around on itself, it’s much harder to remove from the backing. There was much cursing as I patiently applied each piece, then went back and stuck it back down again a few minutes later. And again a few minutes after that. Then I spent several days finding more bits of gold glitter everywhere.

So that was the easy bit. And there’s a pretty good argument that says I should have stopped there. After all, I had a Mando Helmet, a Scout Trooper Helmet, two Clone Trooper helmets, and a Hiccup Helmet from “How to Train Your Dragon 2”

Weeks of work, snatched five minutes at a time, resulted in this replica. Not for Halloween, or Fan Expo, just...because.

Weeks of work, snatched five minutes at a time, resulted in this replica. Not for Halloween, or Fan Expo, just…because.

Maybe I should have just said “Helmets are my thing.” They’re easy to display, fun to make and everyone can try them on with no real effort.

But I was ambitious, and more than a little jealous of the fun the Weasels had at Fan Expo last year. This Vader costume would be a big hit. And besides, I only really needed a breastplate and a decent cloak. Plus, look, I had a miniature Vader head already, if I sprayed it silver and mounted it on the hilt of my SFX Vader lightsabre….

Yes, I already had the lightsabre why do you ask? Don't YOU have a lightsabre at home?

Yes, I already had the lightsabre, why do you ask? Don’t YOU have a lightsabre at home?

So fine, I would make the whole suit. I obtained a pair of simulated leather leggings. I already had suitable boots from my Mandalorian outfit. With a black undershirt already in my wardrobe, all I needed was the breastplate and cloak.

I went to work on the breastplate.

The majority of the plate is a foam tile designed for flooring. I shaped it a little to bulge impressively over the manly chest I haven't got, and topped it off with some halloween costume armour for the neck and shoulders.

The majority of the plate is a foam tile designed for flooring. I shaped it a little to bulge impressively over the manly chest I haven’t got, and topped it off with some halloween costume armour for the neck and shoulders.

I checked back with the original illustration….

I needed more gold decoration. The chains were easy enough to come by, at Michael's again.

I needed more gold decoration. The chains were easy enough to come by, at Michael’s again.

I haven't added the chains yet.

I haven’t added the chains yet.

Since the breastplate cuts off at waist height, I checked out the original Vader costume at ILM in San Francisco. The illustrations in Doescher’s book are a little light on the full-length shots, but here’s what the original Vader looks like from the waist down…

Clearly, this was something else I would have to reproduce....

Clearly, this was something else I would have to reproduce….

Adding that extra detail turned out to be a good idea, since it gave me a belt I could use to hang a scabbard from, allowing me to carry the lightsabre without having to …er…carry it.

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I’m guessing you’re waiting for the photo of me wearing the whole rig and posing impressively. Well, there isn’t one of those right now. There’s still work to be done – I have the material for the cloak, but haven’t converted it from curtain to cloak yet. What there was, this afternoon, was some fairly intense discussion on whether this was a useful hobby, because every time I come away from working on the latest project I am frustrated and angry. Mrs Dim points out that hobbies are supposed to be satisfying, or relaxing. She points to her gardening, which is incredibly restorative and has the bonus of producing actual food. Why do I pursue an activity that doesn’t even make me happy when I’m done?

The honest answer was that I don’t know. This is something I want to do. More than that, it’s something I want to be good at. As long as I can remember, I have been fumble-fingered, which sounds daft coming from a juggler. But I couldn’t build models. My woodwork made my CDT teacher shake his head sadly. My DIY is done on the “Measure twice, cut once, buy more, get someone else to measure…” method. Practical crafts are not my thing.

But I have always been fascinated by the behind the scenes footage of the guys building the models of the Star Wars spaceships or the miniature scenes from “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”. I see the people of Weta Workshops building real Elf and Orc armour and weapons and I long to have a go at that. I tell myself it’s lack of time, or lack of proper materials, or tools, that someday I will be GOOD at this. Maybe that’s true, or maybe I’ll be hopeless at it forever, no matter how much filler I use, or whether I ever get my 3d printer and vacuum former. On the other hand…. I wanted to build a Mandalorian helmet, and I did. I wanted to build a Scout Trooper Helmet, and I did. I wanted to build a Hiccup Helmet, and I did. Now I’m building a Shakespearean Vader suit. They may not be the best, they may not be perfect, but they are real, and here, and they are here because I made them. It’s probably time I took some satisfaction in that achievement, instead of just hoping it’ll be better next time.

See you at Fan Expo Vancouver.

Two newly published plays

In the final burst of the latest publishing round from Lazy Bee Scripts, two of my latest one act plays have reached the light of day.

Digging Up Edwin Plant” works either as a standalone piece, or as a sequel to “The Kitchen Skirmishes“. It features Bernard and Lucy, now well adapted to their roles as parents, but Bernard has developed an unhealthy curiosity about what happened to the boy who used to bully him at school. Based in part on personal experiences and featuring more poetry than you might expect for a one act play, this piece looks at how we remember people who have passed out of our lives, and who, exactly, forgiveness is for.

The MACT production of "The Kitchen Skirmishes" (See "Gallery" page for more details and images)

The MACT production of “The Kitchen Skirmishes”
(See “Gallery” page for more details and images)

I wrote this after seeing a group had produced their own play based on the works of a local poet. This seemed like a fine idea, so I dug out the mysterious poems of Edwin Plant, after checking there’d be no copyright issues, and used them to help tell the story I was thinking of : Bernard, unable to track down the bully, finds only some poems written by someone with the same name. Is it the bully? What do the poems say about the person who wrote them? Bernard sees regret, and a possible explanation for the behaviour of the boy he knew, but Lucy isn’t convinced.

“The Poems of Edwin Plant” e-book is available on Amazon Kindle.

The other play to be published this month is “The CosPlay“. A recent addition to my many hobbies, my family and I have thrown ourselves into the world of Cosplay after attending the Vancouver Fan Expo ( See here, and here for more details….)

This play has a small group working hard to prepare a vital presentation that might save their department from being downsized, but it’s also the weekend of HeroCon, and at least two members of the department are determined to be there, in costume, for the big photo. The whole department turns out, with varying degrees of costumed success, but the revelation of dressing for your inner hero brings about a few character changes in the office…

A perfectly useless hobby.

What are you supposed to do as a hobby when your real job is something other people do as a hobby?

When I was a kid, one of the things I wanted to do was work in the movies. Specifically, I wanted to work in Special Effects. Back in those days, that meant modelmaking, creating real props, and, occasionally, blowing stuff up.

When I was eighteen, I actually had the chance to visit a real effects workshop, and saw some of the machinery they had. They even owned their own fire engine to produce rainstorms when the weather wasn’t co-operating with filming schedules. More sobering was the owner’s right hand, missing two fingers after an effect went disastrously wrong.

But I didn’t get into the movie biz, and modelmaking does not suit my short attention span. Every model I make ends up looking like it was hit by anti-aircraft fire, even when they’re sailing ships.

Costume on stand

But the Cosplay bug bit a few years ago, once we had settled down into a house where I had a workshop to call my own. I made my Mandalorian helmet, using trial and error and error and error. Once I’d stopped working on that (not once I’d got it right…I’m fairly realistic about my efforts here) I decided to tackle the Scout Trooper Helmet.

I don’t know why I coveted this particular helmet. It’s probably because “Return of the Jedi” was the first Star Wars film I saw at the cinema, and the Speeder Bike chase scene was burned onto my brain ever since.

Remembering the frequent disappointments with the Mando helmet, I swore that this time I would take things slow. Not rush stages and spoil things.

I found an old ski helmet at a sports sale and decided to use it as the base for the helmet. Then I decided the two other main materials were going to be the foam flooring tiles available in stores everywhere ($11.99 for four) and lots and lots of filler. Filler can be bought in big tubs, it’s almost stiff enough to mould and hold a shape, and you can sand it smooth. If you have patience.

I cut a disc out of a flat piece of floor tile and settled it on the helmet, then replaced the disc to make the raised section on top. The side pieces are held in place by a foam insert (white). Filler round the top attempts to smooth things over.

I cut a disc out of a flat piece of floor tile and settled it on the helmet, then replaced the disc to make the raised section on top. The side pieces are held in place by a foam insert (white). Filler round the top attempts to smooth things over.

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I used some pipe insulation to make the raised section that goes from ear to ear around the back. This is the first place where careful measurement and symmetry comparisons would have been good.

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The “jigsaw” lines are the result of using the straight edge of the floor tile, then filling the gaps in the jigsaw edge with glue. Amateur mistake. The glue resists sanding, either sticking to the sander, or melting and flinging glue everywhere.

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As usual with projects like this, I can’t help spraying on some paint in the hopes it will start to look really good. It never does.

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Heavy application of filler begins to cover over the glue jigsaw disaster. I start to use the filler to flare out the “ear” portions. Again, I did this without carefully checking the various reference photos I have of the real helmet.

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I removed the foam inserts and immediately saw that I hadn’t got the front cut straight, or attached evenly. I SHOULD have taken it apart then and there. Instead I decided to try and press on and fix it as I went.

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I was quite proud of this front piece. After so long staring at the cowling, it was nice to see the face of the trooper helmet emerge. I cut the visor hole freehand, and did not use any measure referents. It is not even. I did have scalpel blades to cut the foam tile, but no scalpel to hold them in. This is not an optimal situation.

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Adding more filler helped the shape of the face plate, and emptied the filler tub. Please don’t imagine this is taking place in one or two extended sessions. Each advance takes place over five or ten minutes grabbed here and there amongst other adventures. On the plus side, this means the filler dries before I attempt to ruin the next bit.

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The faceplate is way too long, so I need to cut it down. Plus it doesn’t go all the way around to the back, so I have a piece to put in. I added the purple piece because it’s raised detail on the actual helmet, and I felt putting in a piece of thin foam would be easier than sculpting it in filler.

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This shows the gap at the back that needed sorting out.

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With the faceplate cut down, the helmet sits at a more pleasing angle.

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More filler and some determined sanding starts to get the right surface finish. I also cut and reshaped the corners of the cowl. It’s too high, but it’s the right shape.

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The reshaping has left one side looking oddly angled. Naturally, I tried adding paint to see if it helped. You can see how well that worked.

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Shaping the snout was moderately successful, and actually, adding more paint makes the whole thing look more of a piece. The contour lines running out from the snout are wrong though, and in remodelling I’ll get them wrong in a different way.

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When I found the visor material (an old school binder cover) I couldn’t resist sticking it in temporarily and trying it on. It’s hard to see through, steams up, and is impossible to take selfies in, because you can’t see what you’re doing.

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More sanding has improved the surface, but left the thing looking like it barely survived a fire.

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This shot shows how badly asymmetrical the faceplate is. A devoted cosplayer would either start afresh, or tear the helmet down a few stages. I tried adding more paint.

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Oh yes, that’s much…er…shinier.

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In the real helmet, that cut down the side is where the faceplate lifts up so you can put it on. That doesn’t happen with this one, but it still has to be there.

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Shots like this make it look pretty good. Mostly because they don’t include the reference photographs showing where I was going wrong.

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The surface of the snout wasn’t smooth enough, so I decided to add another piece of the thin craft foam. This picture is just checking the fit – I sprayed it black before gluing it in.

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Real dedication would have been continuing to sand and paint and sand and paint. But I lost all patience and glued the visor in instead. Now I couldn’t spray anymore, unless I went to the trouble of covering the visor. And you know how likely that is.

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Couldn’t resist trying it on. Vaguely reminded of Snoopy.

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With all work on surfacing pretty much abandoned, it was time to add on the little details. Measuring for pinpoint accuracy and comparisons with photo referents were just two things I didn’t do….

I added the "Enhanced comlink" piece to the bottom of the snout.

I added the “Enhanced comlink” piece to the bottom of the snout.

Now I needed the extra pieces to complete the snout. Here, measuring would be vital to get them looking exactly right.

Now I needed the extra pieces to complete the snout. Here, measuring would be vital to get them looking exactly right.

But unfortunately, I didn't do any.

But unfortunately, I didn’t do any.

WP_003656This whole project took around six months. Along the way, Mrs Dim reminded me that I’m not very good at this sort of thing, and I had a serious think about WHY I still do it. I can see the flaws in what I’ve made, even while I’m making it, but making it is something I enjoy doing. I don’t mind that I never get whole days to work on it. Probably wouldn’t enjoy it if I did. I know this is nothing like the 501st produce, but that’s ok too, because I don’t think I’m really doing this for the Cosplay aspect. It’s just something I do for me, something that isn’t writing, or cleaning, or cooking, or parenting. It may be less practical than knitting, less aesthetically pleasing than painting, but it’s my hobby.

Any suggestions for my next project? I quite fancy taking on a Clone Trooper helmet…..

Fan Expo Vancouver 2014

Thor and Loki, fighting as usual...

Thor and Loki, fighting as usual…

This was our third visit to FanExpo Vancouver, but only the second year we actually got inside. We’d been planning the day for ages – tickets bought well in advance, Weasels’ costumes worked out – but the last couple of days before were a blur of activity. Somehow, this did not include me getting the adjustments to my own costume done. Next year. Maybe.

Tiny Weasel had settled on a version of Ana from Frozen who is only onscreen for a few moments during the song “Do you want to build a Snowman?” but it came out pretty well, thanks to Mrs Dim’s sewing skills and some decorating on my part.

Tiny Weasel on the right, with a borrowed Olaf, meeting an older version of Ana.

Tiny Weasel on the right, with a borrowed Olaf, meeting an older version of Ana.

Middle Weasel had chosen the slightly more obscure computer game character Juno Eclipse. I built the hat, the gun rig, the rank badge and belt buckle, and Mrs Dim produced an awesome uniform jacket that will see plenty more use in everyday life.

These two members of the 501st made a good honour guard for Middle Weasel's arrival.

These two members of the 501st made a good honour guard for Middle Weasel’s arrival.

Eldest Weasel is usually quite shy and retiring, but she wanted to be a Time Lord, so Mrs Dim produced some fabulous robes, and I put together a headpiece based on the one worn by Timothy Dalton as Rassilon. She walked everywhere with an amazing poise and confidence, even though she was stopped every few feet by people wanting photographs – even at Subway!

This TARDIS cosplayer has used latex to make Gallifreyan writing appear burned into her skin. Amazing job.

This TARDIS cosplayer has used latex to make Gallifreyan writing appear burned into her skin. Amazing job.

This year the venue was larger, and we arrived early on the Sunday, so things were quieter for the first hour or so. We had a good chance to wander the booths and chat to the vendors and exhibitors, and saw some of the big names arriving for their signing sessions – Tom Felton, Charisma Carpenter, Eliza Dushku, Robert Englund…. (No photos of them this year, sorry!)

Attending in costume, even if only through the Weasels, was a very different experience to last year’s plain clothes day. There’s more of a sense of cameraderie with the other cosplayers, and it’s such fun meeting with other groups and taking photos together, or swapping notes on costume choice and construction.

I’m going to end with a photo reel without comments : These pictures have been posted on my Facebook page and my G+ account, so I’m all commented out, but feel free to ask for explanations or identifications!

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