Conscientious positivity

I’ve always considered myself a positive person. Not always an easy thing to do, because even the happiest people can have their blue days. But I try to make an effort when things seem difficult to spin things into a positive light.

“The printer is down, so you won’t get the brochures the day you asked.” – As long as we make our deadline.

“We’ve been asked by these partners to help with this press conference.” – At least we’ll get extra media exposure.

“It’s raining!” – The plants needed it.

That said, I’ve been noticing that I’ve been indulging in a bit of negative trash talk. You know the kind, when someone close to you asks how you’re doing and suddenly you find yourself spilling out details of things that have been bothering you. Sometimes you really just need to get things off your chest, lest they fester and become mountains out of molehills.

But is that really the way to go? I’ve been on the receiving end of this kind of venting. You want to be the sympathetic ear and help your friend / colleague / random stranger, but is there a point when you over-share?

I’ve been increasingly aware that I’ve been doing this. Someone I know asks how I’m doing, and I accidentally over-share all the things bothering me, just to get them off my chest. It’s not always the most appropriate way to go. After the conversation, I feel bad because now not only have I 1- made the situation I’ve been venting about seem terrible but, 2- also come off as somebody who has nothing better to do than complain.

There’s definitely a right time to share and a wrong time to share. Does my boss’ boss / acquaintance / Facebookland need to know that I’m having issues with a person / place / thing in my personal life, when I could easily discuss that with my fiancé / best friend / boss, whom I’m close to?

I’m not saying I need to paint my life as a Pinterest-perfect place, but I think I might need to rethink the overshare. It’s an interesting (odd?) condundrum for me, since my generally quiet nature often leads to me not opening up enough. I need to find a good balance.  And not complain quite so much.

Hourly Comics Day 2014

Every year I want to do Hourly Comics Day, and every year I always forget what day it’s on until it’s too late. This year I made sure to write it in my daytimer so that I’d remember. It helped that it was on a Saturday, so I didn’t have to think about drawing comics at work. I was particularly looking forward to participating, because it’s been far too long since I’ve done any actual cartooning.

Hourly Comics DayBelow the cut are my hourlies – enjoy!

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From History’s Shadow

From History's Shadow

WARNING: This review contains some spoilers.

Star Trek: The Original Series: From History’s Shadow by Dayton Ward takes place in 1947. Following the Roswell incident, involved an alien craft crashing on Earth, Captain James Wainwright is recruited into a secret government organization that investigates and collects proof of life on other planets. The story spans several decades, following the cases that Wainwright and his partner Airman First Class Allison Marshall are assigned. Some of the story also takes place in 2268 aboard the Enterprise, where two intruders have just snuck aboard – all the way from 1968.

While not a TOS reader, I’m a sucker for anything with time travel in it. As soon as I read the blurb about this being set just after the DS9 episode “Little Green Men” I knew I had to read this. The story is really about tying together all the times Trek went back in time in the 20th Century – “Tomorrow is Yesterday”, “Assignment: Earth”, “Little Green Men”, “Future’s End, Part 1 & 2″, “Detained”, and “Carbon Creek”. Ward does a really good job of tying all the episodes together with real world sighting of UFOs. It makes for an intense, but interesting, read.

The TOS timeline mostly serves to set up the 1940s timeline and serve somewhat as narrator. Having not seen many of the TOS episodes that are mentioned in the novel, I don’t think I was missing out on anything – the author did a great job of including important plot points. In the last quarter of the book the TOS characters have more involvement in the story. When Gejalik and Mestral show up on the Enterprise from Earth, 1968, the ship is soon intercepted by a delegate from Gejalik’s homeworld of Certoss – and the Tandarans. The Tandarans are convinced that Gejalik’s presence would indicate war between their worlds, and demand Gejalik turned over to them. This is what’s meant as the main storyline, though the 1948 timeline is what propels us to this point. Kirk et al go through a lot to protect Gejalik, and in the end it feels like she volunteers herself so easily. Then the Tandarans agree to interview her aboard the Enterprise anyway. I was a little uncertain about this final resolution of the storyline, as it felt like it wrapped up a little quickly.

Wainwright is definitely my favorite character in this story. We follow him with what starts out as a job, that becomes an obsession that sees to the detriment of his personal life. I also loved Marshall, Wainwright’s partner. She begins as a secretary, which seems reasonable for a woman in the army in that era. Her responsibility grows the more we see her: she’s the one with the Geiger counter, she’s not afraid to pull out her gun, and she’s keeps up with Wainwright every step of the way as they tromp through the bush in Carbon Creek. I was kind of sad that we didn’t see more of Sutherland, the publisher of “Watch the Skies.” I was interested to see more about him and the magazine, and would have loved to see him get more involved with the work that Wainwright was doing.

I admit it: I got chills when I was reading some of the UFO descriptions. They read as if they were written by someone in that era – with all the uncertainty and fright of the unknown. It was to the point where I’d get the same creepy chills that I did the first time I heard the “War of the Worlds” original radio broadcast – there was realness in that fear.

Overall I enjoyed this book. As I said, it is a heavier read, so don’t tackle this if you’re tired!

At first, you’re going to suck.

This morning I pulled out an older manuscript of mine, determined to give it a thorough editing. It was one of those pieces that I’d written and, when finished, thought “gee, this turned out better than I thought.” It was one of those pieces that had got me to thinking that maybe I could take a crack at the whole “getting published” idea.

As I read through the chapters my optimism rapidly dissolved. “How in the world did I think this was good?” The writing was hokey. I immediately poked a tonne of holes into the story and the characters. I’d started so many different subplots, which thread was meant to be the main plot? I hadn’t even finished the story itself.

Reflecting back on it, perhaps at the time it was a good piece for me. It surprised me that something only three years old could be so awful. Because I write every day, I don’t see the improvement I’m making – the same way a parent doesn’t notice how their kids grow until they see an old photograph. Three years is a long time to improve my skill, even if only enough to see where I went wrong with the manuscript.

One of the best writing tips I think I’ve ever received is, “at first, you are going to suck.” And it’s true. Nobody is perfect on the first attempt; or maybe the second, sixth, or one hundredth. But every attempt you make, you will get a little better.

Despite knowing that, it still socks it to my self-esteem. Will I ever improve to the point where I have a finished manuscript that I’m satisfied with enough to submit to a publisher?

I hope so.

The Struggle Within

Star Trek: Typhon Pact: The Struggle Within by Christopher L Bennett is a Trek novella that was released two years ago, in the timeline of other post-Destiny and Typhon Pact books.

Star Trek: Typhon Pact: The Struggle WithinThe Enterprise is sent to the Talarian Republic on a diplomatic mission to convince the Talarians to become signatories in the Khitomer Accords, a sort of mutual defense treaty. Unfortunately, the past relationship between the Talarians and the Federation means Picard and his crew are facing quite the challenge. A further wrench is thrown into the works when protests take place at the conference that aim to shed light on the treatment of Talarian women. Meanwhile, Jasminder Choudhury and T’Ryssa Chen go on a covert mission into Kinshaya Space. While there they observe a different sort of protest, though one again aimed at the government.

I really enjoyed this novella. Both storylines were interesting, and I was pleased to see the spotlight of this story on female characters – both TV-universe characters and book-only characters. The story also highlighted the often-newsworthy topic of protests, offering two different examples of the people trying to enact change.

The primary story – the treaty talks – really focused on the struggle of women in Talarian society. I appreciated the thoughtful look the author gave it, and I really wish this could have been fleshed out more in the form of a longer book!

I have to admit, I enjoyed the plot featuring Choudhury more than the plot that took place on the Enterprise. She’s quickly becoming one of my favourite characters, and I think this novella helped to flesh her out quite a bit more. This story also helped in giving Chen more depth as a character, which in turned aided in making her feel less annoying.

Having Worf on the cover was a bit of misdirection. Though some of the events in the book do have implications for him down the road, the book really isn’t about Worf.

All in all I really enjoyed this. I think I echo many reader’s thoughts when I say, “MOAR!” The only downside was that the story was so short; I would have loved to see this as a full-length novel.

The Stuff of Dreams

The Stuff of DreamsI had the chance to read Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Stuff of Dream by James Swallow during my trip to Philadelphia. It was appropriate, seeing as my friend Kat and I were headed off to a Trek convention while I was there! Only released as an ebook, it worked out splendid as I’ve only been taking my Kobo with me on trips.

The Stuff of Dreams revisits the astronomical phenomena known as the Nexus, previously introduced in Star Trek: Generations. Scientists studying the Nexus are rapidly running out of time, as the Nexus has changed direction – to Kinshaya space. Starfleet worries that if the Kinshaya get their hands on such a powerful phenomena, they could potentially change history. Given their experience with the phenomena, the Enterprise is dispatched to assist the scientists in figuring out a way to change the course of the Nexus so that it remains in Federation space – or, if that fails, to destroy the Nexus completely.

Overall I liked this book. It was well paced, and was gripping enough to keep me reading it straight through in one go during my six-hour flight to Philadelphia.

I really enjoyed the revisiting of Picard’s experience in the Nexus. It was handled in such a way that more fully closes out his experiences in Generations, as if he’s at peace once again with the universe and the direction that his life has taken him. I also appreciated the fact that Swallow took the time to flesh out Tolian Soran. In the movie I always felt nothing but dislike for him, but in this novella you begin to understand his motives, and actually feel for the man.

One thing I’ve found with a few of the recent Trek releases that have pulled away from the Typhon Pact timeline, is they often feel entirely disconnected from the current universe. They feel entirely like one-shots that were released because the publisher didn’t have any other material at the time. This novella, while focusing on the mysterious Nexus, is still linked to the greater storyline that’s taking place post-Destiny trilogy.

While I don’t think this book has the flash-bang of many other Trek titles on the market in the past few years, this is one that definitely explores the “what-ifs”.

Star Trek: Enterprise: The Expanse

Star Trek Enterprise Expanse bookAs I’ve been doing my catch up on Star Trek: Enterprise books, I noticed that The Expanse by JM Dillard was one I didn’t already own. Fortunately it was still in print, as I’ve been having difficulties trying to find Trek books originally published before five years ago. This one turned out to be a print on demand title, which I found really peculiar.

But anyway, onto the review!

The Expanse is a novelization of two Star Trek: Enterprise episodes, the season 2 finale “The Xindi” and the season 3 premier “The Expanse.” High above Earth, a mysterious spacecraft appears, launching a beam that obliterates millions of people below. The craft then self-destructs, leaving the devastated planet below with no answers. The Enterprise is immediately recalled home, but en route their Suliban enemies stop them with a tip. Enterprise then heads towards a mysterious area of space known only as the Expanse in order to hunt those responsible: the Xindi.

Admittedly, it has been a while since I’ve seen either of the episodes of which this book is a novelization. I think that helped me to enjoy this more because, though the story felt familiar, there was still a lot I didn’t remember. Plot wise the story was good, and as far as novelizations go, the author was able to keep things interesting even when the I’ve seen the episodes already. The author was given a bit more leeway than some novelizations have been, adding in scenes cut from the show and throwing in a few extras.

Though it was nice that the author was able to expand on the inner thoughts of the characters, I felt a lot of the time the mark was very much missed. It wasn’t that the characterizations were poor – they were actually pretty good. What was disappointing was the fact that a character would correctly guess everything that had just happened in the prior scene, even when they weren’t involved and had no way of knowing of what had taken place.

For example, when the Enterprise cannot contact Captain Archer, rather than assuming something suspicious is going on, T’Pol suddenly works out in her head that the mine is actually a forced labour camp where they abduct unsuspecting starship crews. The reason why she could figure this out wasn’t explained in a way that felt correct to me – it was as though she had come up with this conclusion with little to no facts or signs pointing that direction. Though this type of omniscience didn’t happen in the first half of the book, the second half was littered with it.

All in all I’d say if you’ve seen the episodes, you could definitely not bother with this book. It was an okay read, but nothing that would put it on a recommend list for me.

Two stars.

Fan Expo Vancouver 2013

This year Fan Expo returned to Vancouver for their second year, and I had a chance to attend! Held at the convention centre in downtown Vancouver, I have to give this con props for having the prettiest locale.

Like last year, my mission for this con was to hunt for all things Disney and all things Star Trek! I didn’t dress up this year though, because my costume was packed up for my trip.

Wreck it Ralph

“I’m gonna wreck it!”

The con took place over two days, April 20 and 21. Tickets were available on site, but you can also pre-buy tickets. Doing it that way lets you bypass general admission, and if you buy the premier pass you get to use a separate entrance all together. Remembering the insanity of last year’s lineup, I bought a two-day pass.

Indiana Jones cosplay

Indy!!!

Doors opened at 10am on the Saturday, but knowing the line from last year I aimed to be there a little later so that I wouldn’t have to wait so long. Unfortunately, the line wrapped around the building. I lucked out, a friend spotted me, and the folks behind them were kind enough to let me in the line. I only had a 30-minute wait to get inside. My friend who spotted me had already waited an hour. I heard later from another friend who waited over three hours to get in – yikes!

Tinkerbell and Peter Pan

Tink and Peter!

The con took place in Convention Centre east, which had much more space than last year’s which happened in the west building.

This year’s con featured Stan Lee, Nichelle Nichols, the full cast of Continuum, Amanda Tapping, James Marsters, Tia Carrere, Sean Astin, and many other big names from scifi, fantasy, comics, anime, and horror.

Star Trek

Expendable red shirt and Deanna Troi.

I spent much of the con in the vendor’s hall, which was twice the size of the previous year. There wasn’t much relating to Disney specifically, other than some of the animation art books. Given that Stan Lee was going to be there, there was a lot of Marvel merchandise. The Trekkie in me was really happy to see lots of Star Trek items – even a booth solely dedicated to Trek – at this year’s con. I was able to snag a Star Trek Enterprise Trek Tek set, which includes a phaser pistol and communicator to go with my costume.

Doctor Who Men in Black cosplay

Female 11th Doctor and an MIB agent.

The 501st Legion was there again this year, raising funds for Variety. A friend of mine had her picture taken with the storm troopers. There was also a Delorean there, and for a donation to the Michael J Fox Foundatin you could have your picture taken in the driver’s seat.

Back to the Future

Great Scott!

This year I saw a lot more Disney costumes than I did last year! I need to learn to be quicker at taking pictures, because unfortunately I missed a lot of great ones. There were also a tonne of Marvel related costumes, which is no surprise given the guest of honour.

Surprisingly, I saw little Trek represented in costume at the con. There were loads of other costumes though! I wish I’d been a little faster getting my camera out, because the costumes were amazing.

After grabbing a bite to eat, I made it my mission to see Stan Lee’s Q & A panel. I waited an hour in line, and I’m glad I did – it was pack! The legendary Marvel creator was amazing on stage. He’s got a great sense of humour.

Stan Lee

The legendary Stan Lee.

I headed home after that, planning to come back the next day to catch Nichelle Nichols on stage. But when Sunday came I was feeling a little run down, and given that I was set to fly to Philadelphia the next day, I decided to skip it and stay home. I also find this convention hugely overwhelming, mostly due to the large crowd. While the crowd didn’t bother me like it did last year, it sure takes a lot out of me.

Can’t wait until next year! Hopefully my friend KP will be able to join me again next year, since she wasn’t able to this year.

Rogue!

Rogue!

Winter 2013 Reads

Phew, May appears to have snuck up on me and whacked me on the head with the “I’m here!” bat. Here’s a run down of some of the books I chowed down this past winter.

How to Eat a Cupcake Eats, Shoots, and Leaves The Beach Cafe

Carte Blanche Sand Witches in the Hamptons Drama

How to Eat a Cupcake by Meg Donohue
I thought this would be a typically candy chicklit-type book: a book you pick up and polish off in a day. I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be a meatier story than that. Formerly friends, Annie and Julia are thrown together through chance. Both are secretly broken inside, trying to face the challenges of life as they reach thirty. The struggles they face are both deep, and the author handles them realistically. This was a great read!

Eats, Shoots, and Leaves by Lynn Truss
This book had me crying with laughter. The author tackles those particular writing mistakes that drive the editor in all of us a little mad. Done with great wit, the zingers will leave a smile on your face.

The Beach Cafe by Lucy Diamond
Another chicklit-esque book that caught me by surprise. When her grandmother passes, Evie discovers she’s been left with an old beach cafe. Torn between her proper life and running the cafe, Evie discovers that sometimes life doesn’t always follow a road map. Loved it!

Carte Blanche by Jeffrey Deaver
A re-imagined telling of James Bond, set in the more modern era. I enjoyed the book for the way the author updated the character. Bond is just as gritty as he is in Ian Fleming’s version, but the issues he’s made to tackle are more relatable in a post-9-11 world. That said, the book is dry and long winded. I almost gave up reading it several times. The story picked up near the end when the action finally got moving. All in all I’d say stick with the original Bond.

Sand Witches in the Hamptons by Celia Jerome
The latest and currently last book in the Willow Tate series. I always have fun with this series. Willow is a heroine whose flaws are realistic, despite the supernatural situations she often finds herself in. I’d definitely class the series in my all time favourites.

Drama by Raina Telgemeier
Even though this is targeted at the 9-12 crowd, I definitely recommend it for any graphic novel fan. Drama touches on the transitions when girls and boys go from being friends, to that stage where crushes begin to blossom. It’s thoughtful in the way it addresses homosexuality, and teaches we need to be true to ourselves.

Shockwave

Given that the current Star Trek releases are The Original Series (of which I’m not really a fan), in anticipation of June’s Enterprise release, I’ve gone back to the beginning of the Enterprise books and am working on catching up on the ones I haven’t yet read.

Enterprise: ShockwaveStar Trek: Enterprise: Shockwave by Paul Ruditis is one of the novelization books, where the author takes an episode or two from the TV series and turns it into the book. In the case of Shockwave, it’s the novelization of the Season 1 finale and the Season 2 premier of the same name. It also has elements of other episodes tied in, including the episodes “Detained” and “Cold Front”, both from Season 1. There’s also a little bit from the very first episode, “Broken Bow”.

While visiting the Paraagan colony, an Enterprise away team accidentally ignites volatiles gas in the planet’s atmosphere, killing the thirty-six hundred colonists below. Starfleet immediately recalls the Enterprise back to Earth, essentially ending the first warp five mission. While en route, Captain Archer is contacted by a familiar face from the future – the time traveler Daniels. This sends them on a chase to prove the Enterprise’s innocence, and hopefully save their mission of exploration.

I saw this sitting on my shelf and wondered why this looked so pristine, as if I hadn’t yet read it. Apparently I read this back in 2007, but clearly I don’t recall. So I figured I’d re-read it.

The first part of the story is definitely an ethical dilemma on some of the dangers of space travel. Sometimes the dangers are just incomprehensible. How do you prove your own innocence, when the universe sees the blood of thirty-six hundred colonists on your hands? Then we get the fun romp of a time-travel story, with some humour added in the second half to help lighten the story.

Typically what I expect going in to a novelization is a bit more character development than you’d see in the TV episode – you get to glimpse at the character’s thoughts and reactions that wouldn’t necessarily make it to the screen. While this story did contribute to that some, I felt it could have done more given the gravity of the situation they were facing.

I also love the scene with Hoshi Sato facing her claustrophobia fears. The scene’s ending is hilarious, and it furthers my love of both Malcolm Reed and Sato.

All in all this is a basic Star Trek read. If you’ve seen the episodes before, it’s pretty much a rehash. If you haven’t, then it serves to help outline what the Enterprise series is like, as it does quite a bit of rehashing.