Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Captain Elizabeth Britworth

So, you may or may not have figured this out by now, but I love cosplay. I love seeing pictures of it, I love hearing people's stories and seeing how they put their outfits together, and I love coming up with my own cosplays. So, while I don't exactly care one way or the other about Halloween in and of itself, I'm super excited for an excuse to put my ideas into practice. Last year, I stalked the night as a Mistborn and then wandered the wilds of my residence hall as an elven adventurer. And this year, I stepped out for adventure as an original character from one of my favorite genres . . .

Introducing Elizabeth Britworth: inventor, captain of the skyship Windrunner, and one of the first people to travel in time, along with her friend and colleague, Dr. M!

I've been planning this cosplay for a while now-- a very long while. However, I didn't quite know how it would come together until Fall Break, when my roommate (aka Dr. M) and I had a shopping-and-crafting weekend to create our costumes. The end result is a little different from what I originally envisioned, but I like how it turned out overall.

The base of the outfit- shirt, skirt, boots- are all items I either had already or, in the case of the shirt, needed to acquire anyway. I originally planned to wear a second satin-y skirt under the tan one, but decided, on the advice of a friend, that it detracted from the overall look. So, I switched for a different skirt that wouldn't show but would give the tan one a little more texture and volume.

The vest I created from a men's shirt that I picked up at Goodwill. Semi-following a Pinterest tutorial, I cut off the neck, arms, and extra length and took in the side seams to make the vest a little more fitted. It was a little trickier than I expected, but didn't take terribly long overall. I spent much more time on my accessories, namely the goggles:

I don't have a proper tutorial or in-progress pics, because I didn't exactly come up with these on my own but rather combined ideas and elements from various tutorials. The base of the goggles is a pair of mason jar rings, connected by a copper pipe strap for a nose bridge, and some brown vinyl for the eye cups. Then my roomie and I raided the hardware aisle at Home Depot to acquire wingnuts, bolts, little gear-looking things, and other miscellany for decoration. We aged the mason jar rings and the coupler using watered-down black paint (paint it on, wait a moment, rub it off; repeat to satisfaction), then created lenses using some scraps of excess laminating from my sentence patterns poster. (Hey, if the library is going to charge me for the extra six inches at the top— for which I don't blame them— I might as well get some use out of it!) We tried making the lenses out of clear report covers, but that turned out too thick and obscured our vision too much. Then we used hot glue to attach the lenses and the decorative elements. I went for a more low-key look: two wingnuts on each goggle, a line of tiny gear-things, and three bolts on underside of the left-hand ring. My roommate, on the other hand, went all-out:

After that came the eye cups, which was absolutely the most frustrating part of the whole process. Because the jar rings are so large— much larger than the couplings used in the Epbot tutorial I based the cups off of— finding the right shape for the cups took a lot of trial and error. My first effort put the goggles out too far from my face, and even after I trimmed it down, they didn't flare enough at the temples to actually stay in place. So I tried again and eventually found a shape and position that worked well enough, though not perfectly. I attached those with more hot glue— honestly, the whole assemblage is basically held together by the stuff— and added a vinyl-and-elastic strap.

Overall, I think the goggles turned out pretty well . . . except for the fact that one of the rings kept coming off the nosepiece no matter how much I hot glued it. Eventually I had the thought to lengthen the strap by re-sewing the elastic slightly closer to the end of the vinyl, and I think that solved it, but my goggles still spent most of last night held together by desk tape (which kept them in one piece as long as they weren't on my face). At one point I tried wearing them around my neck:

Lousy lighting + cell phone camera = not a great picture. On the upside, you get to see my trench coat.
However, with both the goggles and the necklace . . . it was too much. So I perched them atop my head for a while, then attached them to my belt, then finally just carried them. Depending on how well my modification this morning works out, I may or may not look for something stronger than hot glue to attach them with.

My other accessories were a lot simpler to create, thankfully.

The necklace was my first experience using chain and jump rings, but I'm actually super happy with how it turned out. I put the clasp low for visual interest and so that if I wanted to loop it over my belt or something, I could do that more easily, and the key is attached a couple inches above the clasp. Conveniently, when I actually wear it, my collar hides the ring attaching the chain for the key to the main part of the necklace. The pocketwatch does open properly, but there's currently no face in it, so . . . yeah. I'm hoping to fix that eventually. Then I made the little vial thing- which is actually just a chain with a gear on one end and a key on the other. The chain is pulled through the gear to form a loop, which holds the vial in place when I loop it over my belt. (See the first picture.) The pistol is part of a Western playset; I spraypainted the whole thing bronze, aged it with the same black-paint-and-water method that I used on the goggles, and painted the handle brown. It's not super steampunky— I originally wanted to acquire, modify, and repaint a clearance watergun or even some kind of Nerf knockoff that would look a little more unusual— but apparently I looked too late in the season for that. Oh well.

Reactions to my cosplay were pretty interesting. I wore it first to my major's Halloween party, which was fine, but didn't work quite as well as I hoped. Part of the problem was that I didn't associate my cosplay with any particular character, original or otherwise, very well, though unexpected goggle issues didn't help either. Then I returned to my dorm, made another go at emergency repairs, and headed out again, roommate in tow, for the dorm-wide trick-or-treating-style event. This went much better, partially because I'd given up on actually wearing the goggles and partially because I could get "in character" to a degree, asking for the date and the year and then getting excited over the answer before introducing myself and my roommate, still in character. Some people seemed a bit confused; others played along quite well. However, there was one interaction in particular, with an RA dressed as an Arabian lady (equally in-character) and another girl costumed as Ms. Frizzle (who may or may not have been in-character), that particularly stood out:

(Note: dialogue has been slightly dramatized. The roomie is referred to here as Dr. M.)
Arabian RA: *as Dr. M and I approach* I am afraid I am out of candy.
Me: *in a very bad British accent* That's all right, but could you perhaps tell us the date?

Arabian RA:
Of course; it is October 30, 3017.

Me: 20— 2017?

Dr. M:
You're certain?

You're not playing a joke on us, are you?

Ms. Frizzle:
*walks up behind us* No, actually it's 1927.

No! No, we missed it!

Dr. M:
*dramatically sinks against the doorframe* Alas, we have failed!

But— but we still traveled! We still got somewhere!

Dr. M:
True! Our calculations must have been off . . .

Ms. Frizzle:
When did you come from?

Why, 1917.

Ms. Frizzle:
Well, that's still ten years. I'm here from the future, actually.

Truly? When?

Ms. Frizzle:

Indeed? Please, tell me— what is your time like?

Ms. Frizzle:
It's boring, really. Too much technology. Well, good luck! *walks off*

Arabian RA:
Alas, I am afraid that although you have come such a great . . . distance? I have nothing to offer you.

Dr. M:
It's fine. Discovery is reward enough on its own.

Arabian RA:
True. Would that you could leave your attitude here when you return to your own time.

We shall do our best. Good evening to you!

Arabian RA:
*doing a little bow thing* Good night, and may you be blessed in your travels.
So, yes. I had a few other interesting encounters, but that was the absolute best bit. I'm very grateful to have such an amazing hall and an amazing roommate who actually got just as into this as I did.
Did you, or are you going to, dress up for Halloween at all this year? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
 -Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)


Friday, October 13, 2017

The Plantser's Guide to Worldbuilding

Hey’a, everyone! A while ago, someone asked me to post about my worldbuilding process. I originally wanted to do a full-on how-to post, which is why it took me so long, but eventually I came to the conclusion that I can get the information across just as easily and a lot more concisely in a list post- which is what we’re doing today!

A bit of a disclaimer before we get started: I am neither an expert on the topic nor am I a hardcore planner. If you want advice from someone who fits that description, Jill Williamson has a fabulous series over on Go Teen Writers and a legit published book with tips on basically every aspect of creating a unique fantasy world, both of which I’ve read and highly recommend. However, I do have a method that works really well for me as a pantser/plantser. And if you are a fellow non-planner or you just want a technique that’ll let you do some planning without getting overwhelmed or bogged down in all the details, then hopefully my tips will help.

The Plantser’s Guide to Worldbuilding

  1. When you’re getting ready to write your novel, focus on what’s necessary. This is the key to my method. If you don’t remember anything about it, remember this: if something probably won’t significantly affect your story, don’t worry about it. Focus on what you know will affect your plot and you don’t get bogged down in planning every little detail, you don’t become overwhelmed, and you don’t have to search through pages and pages of notes trying to find the information you need. Granted, you won’t know very much about other areas of the story, but that’s fine. For example, when I created Udarean for The Way of the Pen, I focused most of my worldbuilding on the Authors and the Order of the Pen- in other words, the world’s religion. On the other hand, when I planned the world of Blood in the Snow, I focused a lot on the Bloodgifts, the ruling families of the two main empires, and the political interactions among different countries. I still know relatively little about the governments of Udarean or the religions of the Blood in the Snow world, but that’s ok, because those things don’t significantly affect my main characters or my plot. When I need to know them, or if I get a brilliant idea sometime, I’ll sort them out; until then, I don’t need to stress about not knowing.
  2. Know your storyline before you start worldbuilding. I’m not saying you have to have every scene planned out in excruciating detail, but you need to know something. I, personally, make a bulleted list of Significant Events and general plot movements that I think might happen. This plan helps me figure out what aspects of worldbuilding I need to focus on, which, as I already said, is vital to my method.
  3. Come up with a world concept. Or, in other worlds, know how to answer the question “Where is your world similar to?” For example, the world concept for Blood in the Snow is “fantasy almost-Asia.” Most epic fantasy novels have “Medieval Europe, but with X” as their world concept; for steampunk it’s usually “Victorian England, but with X.” You can also have a world concept that’s a mix of several places and times: Udarean blends Greece and Japan, and Aralan has elements of medieval, Victorian, and modern England and Germany. The world concept is useful as a jumping-off point for brainstorming culture, food, architecture, and so on, for research, for picturing your world, and, of course, for naming characters. That said, you do have to be careful to make sure that your world doesn’t become completely identical to the country or countries you’re using for your concept, because at that point you’re basically writing historical fantasy and might as well just go all the way and make it truly historical. (Edit: As one of my readers pointed out in comments, when using this method, you do have to be careful about cultural appropriation. Respectful inspiration is good. Stealing from a culture is bad. If you need to do research to make sure you're dong the former and not the latter, do the research and don't be lazy.)
  4. Know your important places. So I said earlier to just plan what’s necessary, which means that worldbuilding can look different for every book . . . But that doesn’t mean there aren’t patterns. There are certain things that I plan for almost every story I write (or else wish I had planned!), and they mostly have to do with place. A short list of locations you might want to think about:
    • Country names. At the very least, know the name of the country your character came from, but it can be helpful to know what the surrounding countries as well. Knowing a few distinctive features about the culture or geography about each country is good too. For example, there are eight countries or regions in Berstru, and although I’ve only really developed about half of them, I know a little something about each one. (Pemew, for instance, is characterized by swamps; Arahad used to be a major center of culture but isn’t anymore; and so on.)
    • Capitals/Major Cities. This one’s only really necessary in your character’s home country and any country they’re likely to travel to. Again, know the name and one or two especially distinctive things about the city. No need for more.
    • Major Land/Water Formations if your character is likely to encounter or reference them. You don’t need to know every river in the country. You don’t need to know every mountain on the continent. That said, if there’s a major mountain range or river or something somewhere, try to have an idea what it’s called and where it is. This is doubly true if the place is somehow magical or especially culturally significant.
    • Maps are actually super handy, if you feel like making them. They don’t have to be terribly detailed (most of mine are super sketchy, just rough outlines really), but they can help you sort out where countries are in relation to each other, where the cities are, mountain ranges and rivers, and so on. If you’re going to be working with a particular world long-term (e.g., over the course of multiple books), it can be helpful to make one.
  5. Build and adjust as you go. Sometimes, you discover that some element of your worldbuilding needs to be changed to improve the story’s plot, and unless that element is a major plot point in previous books, that’s fine. Change it, make the adjustments needed, and keep going. Sometimes you need to actually write about the world in order to really know what it’s like, and that’s fine too. Sometimes you come up with an insight about your world or a country or culture or region or something in your world after you’ve finished your story, or when you’re midway through the series, and that’s fine too. Jot down the idea, make the necessary changes, and keep going. In a lot of ways, your world is another character in your story. You can put details down on paper, but there’s always something you don’t know, always something you can discover, always a new way for it to develop. If you keep that in mind, world-creation goes a lot better.
What do you think? What methods do you use for worldbuilding? What advice would you give on the topic? Do you think that the world is a character? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
 -Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

September 2017 Doings!

September is a weird month. It starts out super calm, almost like it's still summer, and then halfway through- boom. Everything is crazy and you have no free time anymore and you're running from one place to another and working right up until you have to go to bed in order to balance everything. And then you get to the end of the month and things have sort of calmed down- but not really; in many ways you've just gotten used to the craziness and learned to live with it. So, yeah. There's the short summary of the month. For the long summary, read on!


  • Oh, yay, I finally finished Blood in the Snow! I only dragged it out two whole months after it was supposed to be done!
  • Seriously, though, I need to have less chatty characters and a better feel for what scenes are necessary and which ones aren't, because those are 50% of the reason I didn't finish back in July like I was supposed to.
  • Well, that and the fact that I kept having three million other things to do. Like school. And social stuff. And exercise. And all the stuff that's going to go in the Life! section.
  • In other news, I wrote my first creative nonfiction piece ever and I'm super happy with it. I hope to post it on here at some point. I almost posted it on Friday in place of Friday 5s, but ended up not even having time for that. Oh well. It shall appear eventually.


  • As you can see, I did not do a lot of reading this month. But I enjoyed what I did, so I guess there's that?
  • The month started with Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, which I think I liked about as much or maybe a little better than the first one. I'm oddly attached to Ginny for some reason that I can't really explain? So yeah. I mean, the whole Weasley family is great, but I especially like her. On the other hand, Lockhart is an utterly useless git, and his Dueling Club idea (it was his idea, wasn't it? I can't remember; it was weeks ago) was so incredibly stupid-
  • Anyway. I'd probably be further along in the series, but I'm waiting for my roommate to finish rereading the thing so we can move on at the same time. Otherwise, I'll probably finish book 7 while she's still working on book 4 or something.
  • 2.5 of this month's books were rereads. Unexpected Magic I picked up because Deborah O'Carroll reminded me of one of the stories which I loved ("Little Dot," if you were curious; it's an excellent story and I highly recommend it.) And Do You Take This Quest was just re-released this month, so I wanted to see what changes Kendra made.
  • The .5 reread is The Screwtape Letters- not because I've only read half of it before, but because I only comprehended half of it the first time I read it. I enjoyed and appreciated it much more this time around. Lewis is brilliant, ok? It's still not the sort of book I think I'd read every year or something like that, but still, it's excellent.
  • And, of course, I read and reviewed Wanted: A Superhero to Save the World for the blog tour last week. (Was that really just last week? Stars . . . it feels so long ago!) I suggest you just go and read my review if you want to know what I thought of it, but for the TL;DR version: Wanted is very unique from Davis's other works, while still containing many of his trademark elements. It's aimed at middle grade readers, but I think anyone of any age could enjoy it quite well.
  • Finally, not pictured but getting a mention anyway is Pride and Prejudice. I didn't exactly reread it straight through, but I practically did, I've skimmed through it so many times in the last week. I was trying to find quotes from it for a class project, and I made the thing about 5x harder than it needs to be- but there was a contest and a prize involved along with the grade. So, while I could've had the grade after about an hour's scrolling through Goodread quotes and slapping them on a Word Document, I decided to go all out and do something cool, which turned I think turned out pretty well:
Bad cell phone picture. Best I can do right now because I turned it in yesterday.


  • Still watching Fairy Tail! Surprise, surprise. We haven't even made it out of the first season yet, even though we've actually watched a fair bit.
  • I still think it's kind of a popcorn show, though less so than I did at the beginning. The fact that the arc I'm currently in is shaping up to be on the darker side makes a difference towards that. I still love the magic and the worldbuilding, and I'm getting to the point where I actually like most of the characters to some degree.
  • Also, the last two arcs were actually super fun. I mean, Phantom Lord was 75% fighting and Lucy being weepy and dramatic, which aren't exactly my favorite things in the world- but the fighting showcases the magic, which is one of my favorite parts. Also, there's a super cute sibling relationship that I found out about and it makes me quite happy. And then the Loke mini-arc . . . let's say I saw very little of it coming but I absolutely loved it and Loke is in my top five favorites now.
  • (That said, his name is pronounced the same way as Loki from Marvel and it's very confusing. Actually, names in general in Fairy Tail are confusing, because you have mostly either fantasy names or Asian-sounding names, but occasionally you have random English names? Or weird names that really don't seem to be names at all? So yeah. I don't know what's going on with that.)
  • Also, I got to watch the extended edition of Fellowship last Friday! I haven't watched any of the LotR movies in a couple years, despite my best intentions, so I really enjoyed this, and it made a nice de-stresser at the end of a very crazy week. Apparently, a few of the other girls on my hall (one in particular) are a fellow Tolkien fans, and one of them acquired the movie from the library and decided to do a half-hall movie night. Most of the people who decided to watch had seen the movie before at some point, but it was the first time for two of my friends. I quite enjoyed seeing and hearing her reaction to the movie and the way she tried to sort out what was going on.
  • That said, we sort of didn't finish the movie until 1 in the morning . . . and then I stayed up another half-hour to finish getting ready for bed and talking about storycraft with one of the girls who hadn't seen LotR before . . . so that maybe wasn't the smartest idea in the world. But for every once in a while- worth it.


  • So the highlight of this month is conveniently located at its beginning: I went to my first-ever Renaissance Festival! I didn't go in costume, because it was a bit rainy and more than a bit muddy and the only costume I had on hand was my mistcloak, which I didn't want to accidentally mess up. But even without dressing up, I had a lot of fun! Most of the day we spent walking through the festival and looking in little shops (and then backing out of them once I saw the prices . . .) and admiring the costumes of all the people who did dress up. It was a pretty interesting mix: some people who went all-out authentic, some people who took a more medieval-fantasy tack, some who were solidly fantasy, and some who apparently decided that steampunk totally qualifies for a Ren Fest. Not that I'm criticizing, because most of the steampunk people had clearly put a lot of effort into their costumes and they looked awesome. We didn't watch many of the shows, but we did see the joust. I tried to take pictures, but they all turned out blurry. I still enjoyed it, though. Also, I had falafel for lunch and I acquired a map of Odysseus's travels in The Odyssey as a souvenir, so that's awesome. I plan to mat and frame the map and hang it up . . . somewhere. Not sure where. (The problem with my plan to acquire a new bookshelf at home is that it cuts into my picture-hanging wall space quite a bit . . . Oh well. Books trump pictures every time.)
  • That was, as I said, the big event of the month. Otherwise, I spent most of my time either in class or working on assignments for class. The thing about my major is that there's not many tests, but there are a lot of projects, so it's more fun but it also takes more time. That said, I'm super happy with a lot of what I've made, and I know I've learned a lot even in just a little over a month, so I'm not complaining. (I have an actual business card now! Or would if I actually got the one I made printed out. And in another class, we did practice job interviews and I actually did pretty well? So yay for that!)
  • Also, I've found myself enjoying my English class a lot more than I was originally. Actual lectures still aren't terribly interesting, and diagramming is rather tedious after the tenth sentence on one worksheet- but the material is reliable. I know where I stand with grammar, even if others might not. And while the professor and I still don't see eye to eye on diagramming, I like her. She's passionate about what she does, and she genuinely wants to make sure her students learn, and she kind of reminds me of one of my professors from last fall.
  • In other news, I still haven't really done anything for the newspaper, but I did find out that I can maybe start doing book reviews for them, and yesterday I talked to my editor about a list of potential books to review. The first part of the semester, I was too nervous to take any jobs and there weren't any articles that really interested me, and then the second half hit and I had major projects due for every single professor within a two week span, plus the Wanted blog tour, plus exercise to keep myself sane, and . . . yeah. Most of those big projects and such are done now, though, so I hope that I can pick up some assignment- either a confirmation on a book review or something else- at the next meeting. (I'd like a photography job, whether or not I end up doing a book review . . . I mean, it's probably more time consuming than writing? And it's less relevant to what I want to do with my life? But I miss photography, I really do, and if I don't get a specific assignment with it, I might try to set aside a Saturday morning or weekday evening sometime to walk around and just take pictures on campus. Maybe if I do it in the evening, I can convince a friend or two to come so I can practice portrait photography too . . .)
  • I also started doing a martial arts class, which I'm really enjoying. I'm not sure that I'm very good at it? I mean, I'm far from perfect, and there's two particular moves that we do at every class and I still wonder if I mix up every time? But I'm getting the concepts down, and I can actually keep up during most of the actual class even though I'm roughly 5x less athletic than almost everyone else who comes regularly. So that makes me happy. (Also, the instructor recently let me and a few other girls move up a level, since we've mastered what he taught us at the start to his satisfaction, so yay for that! Of course, I had to miss the class right after he let us move up, because the project I mentioned in the reading section took 3x longer than I expected, but it's fine.)

October Plans!

  • So, obviously, it's already October, but I can still have plans for the rest of the month, right?
  • We're not going to talk about the obvious thing much- I have classes. I have homework. I'm going to do those things and they're going to take up most of my time. That's just life. At some point I'll probably have to plan my classes for next semester, but that's not terribly difficult. It's mostly a matter of figuring out which classes that I need are only offered in that particular half of the school year and seeing what I can fit in around those.
  • I think my church's Bible study will hopefully start back up soon, though, so that's exciting! We're beginning a bit late, since the professor who leads it was super busy earlier in the semester. I don't know what book we're going to go through, but last year we did Micah, and I'd definitely like to try for another minor prophet or two.
  • As far as writing goes, I started rewriting Blood in the Snow last night and got about 1.5K in. I doubt I'll be able to keep up that pace daily, but I hope I can set up some kind of regular schedule. While rewriting and editing Blood in the Snow is my current plan for NaNo this year, I'd really like to be mostly done with the first rewrite before then.
  • Also, the trees around campus are finally starting to show fall colors, and I really want to get out with my camera sometime before all the leaves fall. Maybe this Saturday . . . though Saturday is also homecoming, and I don't really want to deal with all the crowds when I'm trying to get a good picture. We'll see what happens.
  • Of course, the big event of October is Fall Break! My roommate and I are making plans for a craft weekend at her house again so we can work on Halloween costumes. I can hardly wait, especially since I may or may not have been planning my costume since last year . . . That's normal, right? Anyway, I'm not going to say too much, since I don't know what'll work and what won't, but I'm thinking steampunk.
  • And, of course, once we get back, there will be Halloween events- one for my major and one for my dorm that I'm certain of, and maybe (hopefully!) others, and I'll get to show off my costume- maybe more than one costume; I have my mistcloak with me, just in case I need it- and it's going to be awesome and yeah. I'm maybe too excited. Oh well. Literally the only reason I get so worked up is that it's an excuse to dress up.
How was your September? Do you have any plans for October? Do you get excited for Halloween costumes? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)