Scorpions and Dragon Scales

Hello world!

It hasn’t been long since I last put out some updates, but I feel like a world of things have happened since my last post. First, I am mildly disappointed that I woke up today and did not look like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who played The Scorpion King in the Mummy movies. This would have been a fair and valid trade for being stung by this big guy in my bed last Monday evening:

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I’m sorry that you have to look at him–or her, I shouldn’t assume its pronouns–but I need you all to know that the desert is a crazy place, and that I may start sleeping in a hazmat suit. (This is also why Diego Rosas always checks his boots and bed sheets in ROSES. I could learn a thing or two from my characters sometimes.)

While my thumb buzzed, burned, and tingled, I had SO MUCH FUN meeting so many of you at Phoenix Fan Fusion this past weekend! It’s been one of the favorite events I’ve ever done, and that’s largely because of the people who go… people like these phenomenal cosplayers. Seriously, Benedict Cumberbatch, is this you?:

Did these people spend any amount of time trying to find Jeff Goldblum while he was on site?

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Which Awesome Mix Volume is this Starlord listening to?

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And this time I got a lot more into the cosplay myself. Any guesses who I was supposed to be on Saturday? 🙂

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It was also fun to see Chris Sarandon and George Takei, as well as to connect with James A. Owen, the author/illustrator of several epic dragon-y sort of books.

And then there are my goofy friends, who make the whole event so memorable!

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But it wouldn’t be half as fun without the readers who come support us, so thank you to everyone who made this happen:

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I have two more events coming up, so whether you’re in Tucson or Phoenix, you’ll have another chance to grab a copy of ROSES or CARVER and get it signed:

  • Arizona StoryFest – Mesa Convention Center on Saturday, June 1, 10am-4pm
  • Grand Central Toy Show – Tucson Mall on Saturday/Sunday June 8/9, 10am-9pm (5pm on Sunday).

Hope to see you all there! Happy reading,

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The Master List

Hey friends,

Happy Sunday! I hope this weekend and the month of May have been excellent to you. As for me, I’m hard at work preparing for summer events! First up is Phoenix Fan Fusion (what I will always refer to as Phoenix Comic Con) from May 23-26th in the Phoenix Convention Center. The League of Fantasy Authors (which includes some of my bestest author buddies Jenna Elizabeth Johnson and Katie Salidas) will be returning to booth #696 to sell books and merch, and new this year, we’re hosting a fun game of Cosplay Bingo!

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All you need to play is the card we’ll give you, something you can use to take pictures, and a good eye to spot those Disney villains, Game of Thrones characters, and favorite Avengers. Score a blackout and win a prize!

You can also find me at Arizona StoryFest in Mesa on June 1st, where I’ll be doing a live reading of ROSES IN THE DRAGON’S DEN on the author stage. Thanks to KJZZ radio for the invitation!

After Mesa, I’ll be taking a short break from events to focus on my non-authorly job for the summer, but I won’t be idle! NIRAYA STORM is in beta, and truthfully, I’m waiting for some ideas to slow-cook right now, so I’m using my pockets of free time to soak up some craft knowledge. Currently a book called Screenwriting Tricks for Authors by Alexandra Sokoloff is keeping me busy, and I invite you to work through it with me!

Sokoloff encourages writers to build a “Master List” of at least ten books/movies that influence our work, and then there are exercises that involve rewatching/rereading and analyzing the bones of these story. I love a good excuse to watch my favorite movies again and call it work! I may even share some of my findings and Master List with you all on this website somewhere. For example, one really cool trick I’ve learned is to pay greater attention to what happens at the 15 and 30 minute marks when we watch movies, which should be turning points that can teach us a lot about plot and pace.

Just looking at two of the movies on my Master List:

  • Stardust (2007)
    • 15 minute mark: The King of Stormhold throws a necklace into the sky and declares that the first of his sons to recover it will be his successor to the throne. The necklace knocks a star out of the sky. In another part of the world, Tristan Thorne watches the star fall and makes a promise to go find it in exchange for Victoria Forester’s hand in marriage. (I love this whole scene so much that I keep coming back to it in the Neil Gaiman book for other craft exercises.)
    • 30 minute mark: Tristan Thorne crosses the Wall and finds the star. Surprise! The star is a woman, which definitely complicates his plans to bring it back to Victoria.
  • Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)
    • 15 minute mark: After a few minutes at each other’s throats, the four teenagers in detention get sucked into a video game and become their adult avatars.
    • 30 minute mark: an NPC explains that the group needs to return the jewel they’re holding to the top of the mountain, but there’s a bad guy after it too… oh, and his gang is right behind you. 🙂

If you’re a writer, I’m curious what stories you’d put on your Master List, or even on mine! Most of mine tend to be family-friendly adventures with fantasy elements, ever-shifting settings and an emphasis on travel/multiple worlds, and ensemble casts. If only there was enough time to read and watch them all… 🙂

Happy reading!

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What Stan Lee Meant to Me

As a writer, there have been a handful of creators I’ve really looked up to in different stages of my life: JK Rowling, Neil Gaiman, Sabaa Tahir, Jerry Bruckheimer, Lin-Manuel Miranda . . . people who pour their hearts and souls into a spark of an idea and nurture the flames until their blaze becomes bigger than them.

As a person, there are characters I’ve grown up with, and I aspired to be just like them. I wanted Wolverine’s resilience, Captain America’s moral compass, Spider-Man’s charm and ability to bounce between his contrasting dual-lives so fluidly (but not perfectly) . . . I wanted Iron-Man’s brains and dry sense of humor. I wanted Black Widow’s sheer “badassity” and a group of friends with a bond like the Fantastic Four. These were characters my mom used to hold up to me when I was battling cancer as a little boy. As much as I didn’t want to eat, sleep, or take my medicine, the goal of growing up to be “big and strong like Wolverine” and the fact that the nurses were bringing me “Spider-Man food” trumped all fears I ever had, and the effect endured long after my recovery.

I mourn today for the loss of Stan Lee, a creator who left behind an immortal legacy. His worlds gave us an escape, and then he showed us how there’s hope in our own worlds. His characters gave us something to aspire to, and then he showed us how they’re just like you and me. His imagination gave us something to get excited about, to geek out over, and to hold in our hearts.

I’ll never forget when I saw Mr. Lee at the 2015 San Diego Comic Con . . . a tiny, ordinary-looking man with a presence that was larger than life, standing nearly ten feet away from me and providing opportunities for photo ops. Seriously, my jaw dropped. How many times had I cheered in a crowded movie theater because this man graced the movie screen in front of us for no more than five seconds? I had the money ready in my hand and I was ready to tell him everything I just wrote down . . . and then I simply couldn’t do it. I didn’t think I could say anything to him without getting choked up. But he knew his effect on the world. You don’t build an entire empire without knowing you’ve changed lives. Even being in the same room as him for a few minutes was more than I could’ve dreamed as a kid. Those who were lucky (and brave) enough to thank him often got a moving reply of, “I did it all for you, kid.”

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And now, as creators, we get to remember Mr. Lee and the wonderful vision he left for us to enjoy. I will always be inspired by his vivid imagination, colorful worlds, and flawed but phenomenal characters, and I can only hope to leave behind even the tiniest fraction of what he created.

Thank you for everything, Mr. Lee. May you rest in peace.

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San Diego Comic Con Recap: 2018!

Hey Friends,

If you’ve been keeping up with anything “pop culture” this week, be it through Entertainment Weekly, the Conan show, or even just your Facebook timeline, I’m sure you know my favorite “holiday” just ended: San Diego Comic Con!

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Every year has had its share of amazing memories, and it’s hard to pick a favorite moment since I started going in 2015. This year, I don’t even know if I can pick a favorite day! As always, I left feeling both exhausted and rejuvenated. My body is tired, but my heart and mind are filled with love for the power of creativity–love for a yearly phenomenon in which thousands of people of all ages, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and life stories come together to share a creative passion. Maybe that’s for books, film, graphic arts, or any of the various rabbit holes of SDCC that I probably haven’t even explored: gaming, tech, cosplay, the scientific panels, etc.

Here are some of the highlights from my fourth year at SDCC.

Wednesday

“Preview day”! I wasn’t a badge holder for Preview Day, but as a volunteer, I got to work the Art Show! I wasn’t allowed to snap photos for obvious reasons, but there was at least one artist whose work I was sure I’d seen before, and it was fun getting to help him unload his van and carry his paintings to the Marriott. There was also an interesting man who made wooden robot figurines and spent most of his time talking to them. I guess all of us creative types are strange in our own ways?

When I finished my shift, I walked around San Diego a bit and scoped out the off-sites and wraps they were setting up for the weekend!

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Thursday

The real “day one”! I actually spent a lot of time retracing some of those off-sites once they opened, and there were a lot of really great ones this year. The Good Place was one of my favorites. You start with a questionnaire about your morals: Yes, I have spoiled a movie for someone before (sorry…); No, I have NEVER reheated fish in an office microwave, how could you even accuse me of such a thing?! Based on my answers, I got to move into The Good Place where a merry-go-round, a super chipper mailman, a cupcake lady, and a bunch of other “neighbors” were there to welcome us to their neighborhood. Among them was a lady who told me she was supposed to go to the Bad Place and she needed my help keeping her secret, and if she could just see my phone, she needed to take a photo of me to commemorate my time in The Good Place. When I got that phone back, I had 8 selfies just like this:

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And then they all started fighting and it turns out we weren’t supposed to be in The Good Place at all, so we had to leave before the Architect came to kick us out. Darn.

Amazon also promoted the heck out of the upcoming Jack Ryan show, with two huge building wraps and a HUGE off-site I only scraped the surface of. Seriously, they brought their A-game, with a huge escape room where you could win a Fire stick just for participating, an “analyst physical training” course where 100 people a day completed a VR obstacle course that ended in them zip-lining out of a helicopter, and a bazaar where if you completed a puzzle, they’d give you a cool bag and a sweet water bottle. They also gave out free ice cream, water bottles, and fruit. So yeah, they really want you to watch Jack Ryan, and because John Krasinski is awesome, I was already planning on watching it anyway!

Oh! And John Barrowman from Arrow and Doctor Who signed an autograph for me! Super nice guy!

Friday

Friday was so much fun! This was the day I saw a very dedicated group of cosplayers dressed like the Scooby-Doo gang, and overheard this candid conversation:

  • Fred: *yawns* “So what do you guys think? Do we wanna do Ghost Busters first?”
  • Daphne: “Sure! That’s a thing we want to do, right?”
  • Shaggy: “I’m gonna check out the taco food truck. I’ll meet you there.”

I also got to be in the “Marvel Group Hug.” Full disclosure, group physical contact with a bunch of strangers sounded terrible to me, but I saw “free shirt!” on the sign and registered right away. It turns out this Group Hug wasn’t a physical embrace but a simple discussion with about 10 other people and a Marvel rep so we could sort out all of our “feels” about Infinity War. We discussed that “I don’t wanna go” scene, the fate of the Guardians, Bearded Cap vs. Non-Bearded Cap, and then the rep gave us donuts and shirts and showed us a deleted scene from the movie. Yay! I also had to sign a bunch of releases and sit by cameras and stuff, so watch for me on the Blu-Ray extras! (Just kidding–I don’t know what Marvel Studios is doing with the footage!)

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I also saw a few panels in Ballroom 20 that day: Sissy Spacek and Bill Skaarsgard for Castle Rock, a new Stephen King show coming to Hulu, and the “Warriors of Prime Time” panel featuring Benedict Wong, Jay Hernandez, Santiago Cabrera, and a few others.

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Saturday

Three highlights from Saturday:

  1. The Manifest premiere and panel featuring Josh Dallas and Melissa Roxburgh. The pilot was amazing, and this is a show I’m going to get really into this fall! I have a feeling it’s going to resonate with LOST fans.
  2. I played a 15-minute demo of Kingdom Hearts III, specifically the intro to the Toy Story world! I confess the controls felt a little weird at times and felt very demo-ish (it was also XBox which I’m not used to), but the magic was all about diving back into this universe and dusting off those memories of the first time I played Kingdom Hearts as a 5th grader. I’m 27 now, and the dude next to me looked like my physician and had to have been at least 40. We’ve been waiting all our lives to start bashing Heartless again!
  3. I made it into Hall H for two panels! The first was all about “Women Who Kick Ass,” featuring Chloe Bennett, Amandla Stenberg, Regina King, Jodie Whitaker, and Camila Mendez, and the following panel was all about Deadpool 2 and the “super duper extended cut” they’ll be releasing soon. Seeing Ryan Reynolds was probably the highlight this year!

Overall

There’s tons of great programming on Sunday as well, but I had to catch an early flight and opt out of the last day! I don’t even think I’ve scratched the surface of everything that happened this weekend! I didn’t even mention that I was signed up for a scavenger hunt and placed around 17 out of 120 participants. There were close to 200 tasks, ranging from easy to hard to embarrassing:

  • Easy: “Pose with a Deadpool cosplayer!” (This is actually kind of hard once you start looking for them… otherwise they’re everywhere.)
  • Slightly harder: “Get arrested by a Stormtrooper.”
  • Hard: “Kill Jon Snow.” (He actually wasn’t that big of a cosplay this year!)
  • Embarrassing: “Start a rousing sing-a-long of the “500 Miles” song.” “Take an awkward prom photo in front of the convention center!”
  • Impossible: “Spot a celebrity in a hotel elevator. Take a selfie with them.”

Would do the hunt again, hands-down!

This isn’t the rest of the photos, but I think this assortment summarizes SDCC 2018 quite nicely. Until next year!

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