Saturday, September 30, 2017

Quick Craft: Fairy Skeleton Candle

Confession: I have somewhat mixed feelings about Halloween. On the one hand, I can't stand gore or jump scares, but on the other, it's the one time of the year when the rest of the world gets to play dress up with us cosplay nerds. AW YEAH. 

So when it comes to decorating for Halloween, well, I really don't. BUT! I love - LOVE - crafting for it. I find the key is I don't like anything real life scary or dark, but fantasy stuff? HECK YES SIGN ME UP. It's the difference between movies about serial killers and movies about dementors: as long as I'm planted firmly in fiction, I can enjoy a much higher creep factor. 

Which brings me to today's quick craft. I started thinking I'd make some cute fairy skeletons like these ones by Hilda that are all over Pinterest:

I couldn't find the butterfly wings at my dollar store, though, so instead I came home with these dragonfly wings:

I also grabbed a plain white candle in a jar - that thing on top. These are all from my local Dollar Tree.

With those $3 worth of supplies - plus some hot glue and a little craft paint - I made this:

Creepy fairy skeleton candle!

And since that obviously needed a good display area, I also set up a mostly Harry Potter themed vignette for it:

I'm sure you can spot the one item glaringly NOT from the Potter 'verse, ha. Turns out I'm sorely lacking in the "creepy potion bottle" department.

Again, this is undeniably macabre, but since all I see is magic and fantasy I'm cool with it. Plus I like displaying things John and I have made, and there are 5 different craft projects just in this photo. (Though I've never done a tutorial for the leather book covers. Maybe someday?)

Getting back to the candle, there are actually two fairy skeletons tied back-to-back around it:

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Best Geeky Halloween Art To Spook Up Your Season

Since I do these art roundups at the end of the month, I decided to get a jump start on - you guessed it - geeky Halloween goodness! Now let's. get. SPOOPY.

Starting with these villainous vixens by Artist Abe, aka Abraham Lopez. Abe draws some of the cutest Harleys anywhere, AND he has this fabulous DC/Haunted Mansion mashup to boot:

You can grab these and SO many other awesome prints here at Abe's Etsy shop.

The Addams Family counts, right? I mean, they're creepy AND they're kooky.

Medusa Dollmaker has a gorgeous style, and she draws fantastic owls:

Loooove the sepia tone on this one. Go shop these and more at her Etsy store.


If you're looking for a subtle way to spook up your art, then how about this homage to The Shining?

I love that this is completely innocuous unless you get the reference. So good.  Grab it at Designs By Myranda.


For my fellow steampunks, let's not forget my man Brian Kesinger and his fabulous Otto & Victoria prints:

Monday, September 25, 2017

Revelations From A Flying Hamburger

I have the worst super power ever, you guys.

It manifests itself every month, and it's the ability to consistently and completely forget that I even have a menstrual cycle, much less when it's about to start.

 This feels appropriate here.

Thanks to an ablation years back I don't bleed much - if at all - but I still get the full force of all those jerkwad hormones running amuck, setting fire to the virtual curtains of my metaphorical Happy Place. And since those crank up way in advance of Day 1, it's a real sneak-attack situation.

Now, before you yell at me, I do keep a calendar. In the kitchen. Which I forget to look at.

So every month I'll be blissfully bopping along with my "s'all's good"s  and my "emotional stability," when I'm suddenly clothes-lined by what I like to call the Grumpies, because that puts a cutesy face on the black pit of rage-soaked misery and sudden onset desk naps.

Usually after that first day I realize what's going on and take steps to mitigate the fallout (cough cough PILLS cough), but I'm not gonna lie: getting there is a rough ride.

Cut to last week, when The Day had arrived, I of course had no idea, and John and I had a reader meetup to get to.

Now cut to the car ride there, where things were already tense because of those rascally lil Grumpies, and I was tired and hungry and attempting to eat a McDonalds hamburger.

As (bad) luck would have it, this was the first time in recorded history that a McDonalds hamburger was not only hot, but burn-my-fingers hot. So I fumbled the wrapper, yelped at the sudden burn, and then I kid you not, peeps, that burger TOOK FLIGHT.

It sailed through the air, the burger patty somersaulting free from the bun, and all three pieces landed - ketchup side down, natch - on the car floor in front of me.

"POOP!" I shouted, because no matter how angry or frustrated I am, I NEVER admit to swearing on the internet.

John, who was driving, reached a red light and stopped the car. He leaned over, and together we considered the burger pieces on the car floor. A long moment passed.

John started to chuckle. It rumbled through his chest, eventually erupting into an all-out belly laugh.

I started to sob.

If you'd asked me why I was crying at that moment - and if I'd been able to answer - I'd have told you it wasn't over a spilled burger. It was over a million tiny guilts and frustrations and inadequacies. Because depression - even a temporary, hormone-sparked brush with it - puts a wide-angle lens on your life. It zooms out and shows you every failure, not just the one right in front of you. Depression whispers, "You're about to disappoint everyone, just like ALL THESE OTHER TIMES which I will now conveniently play for you in high-def here in your brain." And boom, you're off, reliving the worst moments of your life over and over and over again.

I stared at that silly hamburger on the floor and relived a boss screaming at me that I was fired. I felt the helplessness from when John was deathly ill in the ICU. I saw in distorted detail how awful I looked in that last picture someone posted online, and hated every part of myself for not trying harder. I felt the terror of my last panic attack, the loss of the last time John and I argued, the guilt over my agoraphobia keeping us from traveling. I stared into that wide angle lens and could find no hope, no reason to keep going.

Because depression lies. 

I learned that from The Bloggess, and in dark times I cling to those two words: Depression lies. Our feelings lie. That wide-angle lens is a lie, a one-sided distortion that will only drag me down further the longer I look into it.

John and I eventually made it to the meetup, where I felt even more guilty and puffy and inadequate, but I was there and I smiled and I did my best. Then I came home, took my meds, pet the cats, and slept it off.

The next day was better.

The day after that, better still.

Depression lies.

Remember that, peeps. Remind each other. Remind me.

And while you're at it, maybe remind me to to watch the calendar better next month. Eesh. (Or, I dunno, you guys have any good apps for that?)

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Jen's Gems: Labyrinth Pins, Figment's Past, & ALL THE DANCING

The amazing news is that John and I finally got our power back on Day 9 after Irma, yay! 

The less-than-amazing news is all that stress and travel and going from sweating to freezing multiple times a day took its toll, and I've been sick since Day 8. Boo.

Being a drippy puddle on the couch has given me extra sifting time online, though, and I found some gems I think you're gonna love.

Starting with these AWESOME LABYRINTH PINS:

Officially licensed and sold by DKNG

had to buy the Worm, of course, and now I want to put together a Disney-bounding type outfit to wear it with. (Is that too weird for Dapper Day, since he's not Disney? Because now I also want to craft John some Ludo horns/ears he can wear with a brown suit and a pin that just says "FRIEND." :D)

The pin is just as gorgeous in person, btw, and only costs $10! (Not sponsored - I just know I'm not the only Labyrinth lover here.)


Theme Park Tourist published a long-read on the Holy Grail of Dizgeekery this week: the complete history of Journey Into Imagination, home of Dreamfinder and Figment.

As always there are some stellar trivia nuggets in here - like why there are hot air balloons hanging from the ceiling of The Land pavilion - plus plenty of photos and videos to walk you through one of WDW's most beloved attractions of all time.

I especially recommend this one if you never experienced Journey Into Imagination in its original form. Clear your schedule for the next 20 minutes and go dive in.


Speaking of adorable dragons, this photo crossed my feed this week and I am in love:

This dragon (and baby dragon!) hangs outside a famous puppet museum in Lubeck, Germany.  Naturally I went digging for more, and found the museum's website and another angle of the cuteness:

It's so perfect! And look at that patina!

::Begins brainstorming places to hang a dragon off the house::


Presenting the most epic Soapbox Derby Car OF ALL TIME:

Monday, September 18, 2017

Dragon Con 2017: The Best Cosplay, Pt 2

Our power may still be out [whimper], but Dragon Con cosplay waits for no one.

Well, except me for a few days. But I've started lugging my Mac desktop around to friends' houses and setting up on folding tables and nightstands to get working again, so on your mark...

get set...


Because how magnificent is this winged Maleficent? Complete with her own mini-me!

As I've been describing my favorite Dragon Con finds to friends this week, this one keeps making the list:

[Milo Wesley & virylduck as Jane] 

It's Jane's dad from Tarzan, Professor Porter!!

I've never seen him cosplayed before, and that prosthetic nose & 'stache is perfection - not to mention he even has the pose down with that little pot-belly stance, ha.

I'm so impressed by this Tom Servo of MST3K that I have to show you a comparison shot:

She's even wearing slinky bracelets to mimic his metal arms! Such clever design work.

Another awesome take on a character: warrior Jasmine from Aladdin!

I like Rajah's face on her shield - that's a nice touch.


(If so, just click the link for the SNL sketch. No way I can explain it.)

Best of all, someone told me these three were camping out around the elevators and doing the dance when the doors opened, which fills me with irrational amounts of nerd joy.

GoT's Aegon the Conqueror with Visenya & Rhaenys, sharing a few pints:

It turns out Lilo & red-headed Mertle STILL don't get along:

Mertle brought up the biting incident again, and I think Lilo's exact words were, "Because she's a poopy head."  :D

 This Wonder Woman was bopping along to one of the many dance-offs in the Marriott lobby, and I couldn't stop staring at her glorious cloud of hair:

Saturday, September 16, 2017

John's Losing His Mind Over Here, And It's Freaking Hilarious

I know it's wrong of me, but I am thoroughly enjoying John's sweat-soaked descent into madness post-Irma over here. Turns out all you have to do to tap the depths of this man's literary creativity is deprive him of air conditioning, cold drinks, and Overwatch for a few days. Observe:

It started with Weird Thoughts about spiders:

Then this happened on Tuesday:

Which really brought out his inner poet:

John composed this with literal tears of silent laughter running down his face, while I watched from across the room wondering if he was having some kind of fit.

That night it hit over 80 degrees inside, so John went to sleep in his man cave where there are more windows to open. I woke up to the following update:

 Which got SO MUCH BETTER thanks to our friend Chris:

 Admit it, you sang along. I know I did.

The next day John started to come around on cold showers:

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The 20 Punniest Cosplays of Dragon Con 2017

You guys know I love a good pun, and when you combine it with cosplay I'm pretty much in nerd heaven. Last year I featured the 10 punniest cosplays I could find at Dragon Con, and it was so much fun I decided to do it again - only this time I enlisted the help of the FB group Dragon Con Cosplayers to help me track down a bunch more!

So without further ado and in no particular order, let the groans of pained laughter... BEGIN.

Doctor Doom:
Somehow I don't think he'll be offering us a Jelly Baby.

(Update: Even better name per the comments: Doctor Whom. Bahaha!)

Taco Belle:

Her rose is made of hot sauce packets!

And someone else caught her with the "Beast":

John Xena:

Cosplayer: Timothy Cronin  Photo: Kate Libby

Bud Light Year:

To Insobriety... AND BEYOND! :D

Er, and before you ask: yes, he WAS bleeding all over himself, but didn't realize it. (He'd cut his thumb.) Aluminum can costumes are no joke, gang! (I mean, THIS one was... )

Moulin Rogue One:

Tuesday, September 12, 2017


We still don't know the extent of the damage down in south Florida and on the coast, but here in Orlando hurricane Irma was a bit of a drama queen. First she spent a solid week freaking us all out and causing bottled water shortages, then she couldn't make up her mind who to visit first, and *then* she made a last minute, midnight detour straight for central Florida. By the time she got here she'd fizzled down to a Category 1 - really only enough to knock out power and give our big tree a serious pruning - but after all that there was still a hefty mental and emotional toll.

 The tree we're forever worried will fall on our house. But it didn't! Yay!

We've never had this much warning for a hurricane before, and I'm not sure that's a good thing. We're all exhausted here, tired of worrying and making disaster preparedness checklists and debating whether or not to evacuate and especially tired of "hunkering down."

There's also a conversation to be had - in the stabbiest of tones - about the 24/7 sensationalist news coverage. Coverage that justifies itself by claiming it only scares us because it cares. I avoided it while I could, but when it's 2AM and the house is shaking and there's no power and you just want to know when it's all going to be over, of course you go to Google. And in that moment, the last thing you need are headlines like "KILLER STORM BARRELS THROUGH CENTRAL FLORIDA," and helpful death tolls and slide shows of decimated houses from past hurricanes.

This was also the first time John and I've boarded up the house for a storm, which had the completely unexpected consequence of scaring the crap out of me. Our power went out around 8:30pm, and in that unnaturally black darkness - without even the glow of starlight through the windows - my agoraphobia ratcheted up to full panic mode. All I could think was I had another 12 hours to go before I could leave this boarded up Doomsday Bunker, with only the howling wind and worrisome THUMPs on the rooftop to tell me what was happening outside.

I joke a lot about how I never leave the house, but I need those views outside. I just never realized how much before.

As you might imagine, it was a long night. Sleep wasn't happening, so we burned through the batteries on John's laptop, watching stand-up comedians (Ryan Hamilton's Netflix special is hilarious, y'all) and Brooklyn 99 to keep ourselves distracted, pausing at times so I could pace around like a caged tiger. When the news came around midnight that the storm had switched course right for us, I made my smartest decision of the whole hurricane - smarter even than baking a batch of chocolate muffins the afternoon before: I took a Xanax.

In about 30 minutes I went from teetering on the precipice of something dark and airless to feeling like I was back in control again. I knew we'd be OK. I knew I could handle it. I was still worried, sure, but the irrational terror was gone.

If you have anxiety it can be hard to know sometimes which fears are just your panic kicking around and which are healthy. For most of the storm prep I think my fears were normal and rational, but when I reached the point where the ground seemed to open up, when I felt the world twist sideways with panic and couldn't imagine a moment beyond this one because I just couldn't THINK - I knew it was time for modern medicine to intervene.

I'm a writer. I process things like this, tapping away on my laptop in our still-powerless home, listening to the hum of the floor fan and the soft snores of John on the couch beside me. For whatever reason, I simply don't feel things fully until I write them down. To tell a story is to relive it. To express an emotion is to feel it distilled, concentrated. It's why I will write and say and tell a thousand happy stories, and still thirst to write just one more. I don't want to relive my panic, my fears and shames. When I write these things, they drag me down with them again. But you know what? As much as I'm feeling the walls close in again, and the roof shudder and the still air choking me, I'm also feeling relief and gratitude and triumph. And THAT I want to remember.

If there's a point to any of this meandering, it's one I've made before and will make again: it's OK to need a pill sometimes. It's OK to grab your monster-slaying sword. No, I'll go farther: it's AMAZING to grab your monster-slaying sword. Last night was hell for me, but it didn't win. I beat back my personal demon, sword in hand. And dang it, it felt good.

Today we emerged to find a lot of debris and fallen fences and trees, but no major damage to our street. I know others weren't so lucky. The neighbors banded together and went house to house, making giant piles of tree limbs by each driveway, chainsaws sputtering through the gusty morning. John helped. Then we took down all the boards and opened the windows, letting the wind and sunlight blow in. After the stale still night, it was heaven. (Turns out heaven is super humid, btw.)

Our house backs up onto a newer neighborhood with buried power lines, so they never lost power. Thanks to John - of course - the neighbor behind us there agreed to throw an extension cord over the fence, enough to power a fan and this laptop. We don't expect to have power back for nearly a week (that's how long it took after hurricane Charlie), but that's OK. We have local friends we can stay with if need be, but for now I'm happy to be here, typing away in the dark, the stars watching through the windows.

G'nite, gang. More silliness and stories of hope and happy things, coming soon.

P.S. Sending much love to all of you in the path and the wake of Irma. Locals, now that the curfews have lifted we have power tools and are ready to travel, so if you need help, please say the word.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Dragon Con 2017: The Best Cosplay, Pt 1!

Tonight Irma's gonna rock us like a hurricane, but 'til we lose power I'll just be here in my boarded-up house, writing about stuff I love.

I always have a hard time choosing which of my favorite cosplays to show you peeps, but this year, with our new flash setup? SO MUCH HARDER. Now that most of my shots are actually in focus I have lots more options, and options that look pretty dang cool, if I do say so myself:


I'll still have some non-flash photos mixed in for that "con feel," of course, and to remind you just how terrible my photos are without flash, ha:

(I will never not photograph a Mulan group of Geisha guys - plus they have the Match Maker!)

The flash doesn't work for large groups or on especially dark costumes, so I often had to switch back and forth on the fly.

But enough jibber-jabber. ON TO THE COSTUMEY GOODNESS.

[Sith: Once Upon A Khaleesi Cosplay Leia: Red Enchantress Cosplay]

Starting with the most unholy crossing of streams ever: Star Wars TrekThough I'm loving Leia's uniform. Also a quick round of applause for John's photoshoppery on those lightsabers, because how sweet do those look?! (The flash turns 'sabers into colorless white bars, so this is a HUGE improvement.)

 This is the same Firey couple who won at the Labyrinth Masquerade last year:

And while we're talking Labyrinth, check out this human-sized Sir Didymus!

Get ready to see a lot of Belle this year; much to John's delight she was easily the most popular princess of the con. Here she is with Ariel in the most STUNNING showgirl outfits:

Friday, September 8, 2017

Dragon Con 2017: Best Of The Bunny Hutch!

Though Dragon Con is technically a Friday through Monday con, the partying and cosplay is in full swing by Thursday - and nothing kicks off the weekend better than Thursday night's "Bunny Hutch." This is technically a party and costume contest in the Hilton, but it spills out into all the main host hotels. The theme is fandom Playboy bunnies, so you'll see every conceivable mashup of both bunnies *and* Heffs, ranging from hawt to hilarious. And no need to be scandalized; most of the costumes are pretty modest by Dragon Con standards, so you'll see far more skin late Saturday night than you will here. 

For example:

Bunny Bebop & Rock Steady with a Shredder Heff! Bahaha!

Some cosplayers modify costumes they plan to wear later - sometimes just adding bunny ears and a tail - while others go all out with original Bunny designs:

This Fallout bunny has the CUTEST shoes - you can just see the big yellow bows on her ankles. Also note the Vault 111 number on her hip - love that little detail.

Bunny D.Va and BB-8: 

D.Va's heels have green lights in them!

A jaw-dropping Lord of the Rings trio:

Check out the fabric prints in their ears: potatoes, maps, and Elvish script! Plus "Samwise" is holding a tiny frying pan, while "Frodo" has a glowing blue Sting *and* the One Ring! Seriously, these details are SO GOOD.

One of my favorite parts of the Bunny Hutch is seeing how creative cosplayers get with the ears especially. This Wonder Woman made hers look like a tied handkerchief:

While this Spock used enormous Vulcan ears and made me laugh so hard I had trouble focusing:

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Dragon Con 2017: The Post-Con Debrief

It came, it saw, it kicked our ass.

Ahhh, Dragon Con. What a ride.

John and I got home around 2:30 this morning, just in time to prepare for Hurricane Irma. Of course, being veteran Floridians, that entails a lot of derisive snorts followed by grudgingly buying some bottled water, because hysterical weathermen have no power here.

(Before you chastise me, yes, yes, we'll be prepared. Promise.)

Now to the important stuff: DRAGON CON.

They predicted a record-breaking 82,000 attendees this year, and the final tally put it just over 80,000. From a literal "boots on the ground" perspective, I can tell you the crowd level felt the same as last year's 77,000, no worse, but I will say the "drunken carousing" level was turned up to eleven.

In my 7 years of reporting on Dragon Con I've seen a lot of drunk nerds, but this year was different. This year, every single night - including Thursday - I witnessed folks actively being sick right on the con floors and hallways. It was puke city, y'all. And maybe it was my own bad luck of always being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but I definitely got the impression folks were drinking more this round. If so, then I'd chalk it up to current events and/or DCon newbies who just haven't learned to pace themselves.

That said, drunk nerds tend to be happy drunks, so other than crowds occasionally having to shuffle through vomit (gaaaaaak) and some of my photos being spoiled by cosplayers so sloshed they tipped sideways from the flash, it was mostly all good. I say "mostly" because Saturday night there were two cosplayers hospitalized after being hit by chairs thrown from the Marriott 10th floor balcony. They still haven't caught the jerks who threw the chairs, but I have to assume alcohol was involved - and can only hope they were NOT with the con. (Happily the cosplayers will make a full recovery - and one even credits her Loki headdress with saving her life!)

The chair-throwing incident is especially chilling considering John and I were there, on the Marriott floor with those cosplayers, just 30 minutes beforehand. We left early that night around 1AM, though usually we'd have stayed a couple hours longer. If you've been there you know it's hard to move in those crowds, much less dodge falling objects, so that's scary stuff.

And now that I've brought you down with all the BAD news, rest assured it's going to be all good from here on out: nothing but great geekery, silliness, and happy times with 80,000 of our closest friends.
"DAAAA Bearz."

(You know how many other cons have fans set up a camp table in the lobby and sit around drinking beer? NONE OF THEM. Just Dragon Con, baby.)

As always, John and I spent most of our time taking photos, but this year we also went to a few costuming panels (including one on how to incorporate puppetry into your cosplay), took our Jawa and BB-8 out for a spin, attended an Overwatch meetup, covered a fashion show, chatted with lots and LOTS of you readers - both at the official meet and throughout the weekend - and even stayed out 'til 4:30 in the morning to see the Steam Powered Giraffe concert. (AW YEEEEAH.) We also did some shopping, browsed the art, and gawked at all the celebs in the Walk of Fame.

[CUTE STORY: Sean Gunn caught me staring - because I *may* have made our group stand within spying distance of him for a little too long, because I love Sean and he's my favorite in Guardians 2 - and then when I grinned at him, all embarrassed, he gave me the biggest, sweetest smile ever in return and made my whole dang con. WHAT.]