August 26, 2014

Distant Worlds Chicago 2014

Just call me the WORLD TRAVELER, because I can't seem to stay in one place lately. I'll be glad to be able to rest for ...uh... what, a week? (I'm planning on visiting Midori con for a day...)

The latest adventure I went on was "DISTANT WORLDS" a Final Fantasy Symphony Concert that was being held in Downtown Chicago.

To educate those who may not know exactly what's going on here, Distant Worlds is the second incarnation of a series of Symphony Music events held... well EVERYWHERE across the world. They travel from country to country, state to state, and get orchestras to play pretty versions of Final Fantasy Videogame Music.

This year, they are doing a 20th Anniversary Tribute to the game Final Fantasy 6, which is quite possibly my favorite Final Fantasy Ever. I loved the world, I loved the characters, and while it wasn't a perfect game by any means (let's not talk about that second half open ended stuff) it had REALLY memorable tunes.

Our view from where we were sitting. We had some pretty nice seats!
And yes. Those ARE pipe organs in the back.

The first half of the show had songs from other games, some I've heard at symphony before, others new! They even fooled us by playing One-Winged Angel like, the THIRD song in, and then teased the audience by telling us "Now you guys will be wondering WHAT we'll play for the encore THIS time!" (It's very common for that song to be used as Encores at video game concerts).

They played smatterings from all different numbered games, one of my favorite being the new Chocobo Mix, and really I was just squeeing from seeing the baby chocobos from XI on the screen while cute chocobo music played. And yes, I did participate when they encouraged the audience to during the song. :) I love my fluffy yellow birds!

Intermission came and went (I went perusing the area, which I'll explain why in a minute), and then came the Final Fantasy VI part of the show. They allotted pretty much the entire second half to VI music, which I couldn't be happier. Many smiles abounded!

Nobuo Uematsu himself was there, he played for us!

Remember that pipe organ I mentioned in that caption up there? Yeah. Sooooo they played Dancing Mad (The final boss medley from FFVI) and they played ALL FOUR PARTS. Yes, that even included my favorite Third Part which is composed entirely of pipe organs. While I've only listened to it on CDs or in the original music form, hearing it out of an honest-to-goodness pipe organ was such a joy. Seriously, they pumped up that performance to 11. The pipe organist was so into it and the song was so powerful it was making the whole room shake with awesome. AWESOME PIPE ORGANS THAT IS! (I did see the screen shaking, it was pretty great).

...Did I mention I love pipe organ music? No? WELL I DO. 

And of course, if we're doing a Final Fantasy VI tribute, we can't possibly leave out the OPERA sequence!

OF COURSE we'd show a picture of the orchestra at the orchestra.
The three to the left of the conductor are Prince Ralse, Maria, and Draco (who were AWESOME)

They did a whole new version, complete with narrator, and new singing parts during the duel. Honestly, all they really need to do know is make the ACTUAL opera and we'll have hit completion.

Rest of the songs were awesome, until they faked me (and Kristy) out with the last song. We had been on such a VI kick, they said "oh hey, here's the main theme" and we were all "okay... terra's theme again? Sure?" and then "BAM" they hit me with the Bridge Theme from all the games, and I kinda lost it there because it's my most favorite song ever.

 Encore was a battle theme medley which was delightful! We all clapped a lot and then headed home. WHEW. I was staying a hotel on the other side of the city, and I think I messed up my back on the bed, so I'm kinda hobblin' around today, so I wrote you this write up. :) Overall, it was a great experience.


I had been to a couple of Distant Worlds/Dear Friends concerts over the years and I always saw people there in costume. I had wanted to go, but I never got the guts and/or a good costume I felt comfortable wearing in a beautiful orchestra hall.

UNTIL NOW. That's right, I brought Weaver. I was honestly freaking out about it the entire time until I got there, because "what if i'm the only one in costume omg". Kristy demanded to make sure I wear it or else be ridiculed forever, and my husband was all OMG JUST WEAR IT YOU'LL HAVE FUN. So I put it on, and strutted downtown in it. I got a lot of compliments on my hat(s) from random passerbys.

I found the GREAT chair when waiting for friends at their hotel.

I was figuring I'd kinda blend into the crowd, and that not a lot of people would know who I was. And that was my intent! HOW WRONG I WAS. I got a lot of lovely compliments and requests for photographs from XIV players and more. I chatted up a few people (who of course are all on different servers), but apparently I was the belle of the ball that night. o.O 

Honestly, I was simply pleased people knew what I WAS! I was a faceless character in Job Gear from an MMO, and it was a hoot. I was doing emotes and even Manderville danced for a few people throughout the night. Many laughs were had!

Who WOULDN'T pose like this on this couch?

I knew some other pals who would be there, so decided to hop on outside into the hallways during the intermission, to which I found there were a ton of people. I couldn't find my pals (and my cellphone was dead from the drive in that I had to navigate with it), so I was bummed about that. I'll have to try to catch them at the next event! 

Meanwhile, the architecture inside the hall was absolutely PERFECT, I just wish my camera had better settings for indoors/nighttime that I could figure out, but I've posted some of the better pics we got on this post!

End of the night took a while, as we were all meandering around the lobby area. I got stuck for some more pictures, but I'm always one to oblige when I can. I met some lovely other cosplayers out in the sidewalk area, and I even had a guy with a fancy camera and a light wand my picture.

So I'm sending a call out - if anybody catches pictures of me from that night let me know! I'd love to see them!

OVERALL: Good times, awesome night with a hilarious outfit, great crowds, and a fantastic show! Will do again, 10/10.

You can catch more pics of the outfit on the facebook page:!

August 20, 2014


First off, I'm going to apologize because for once I have a TON of photos so DANGIT I'm going to show a lot of em...

WHEW. So this past weekend was GEN CON which is quite possibly one of the largest (if not largest overall) tabletop gaming convention ever. This year they counted 56,614 unique attendees.

OVER 55,000 PEOPLE. One place. One weekend. GEN CON. If that gives you any idea what we were headed into, it was a crazy weekend. Now, for some reason the housing block malfunctioned on me and I didn't get a Wednesday night at our hotel, so I figured we'd stay about half an hour outside of the city and then drive in Thursday morning. I started calling around while in the car and kept being told it was an "event weekend". And I'm wondering HOW did GenCon get so far away??? Then we find out later that it was the week of the INDIANAPOLIS STATE FAIR so I guess everybody and their brother was in town. Thankfully we were able to stay with some pals that night so we could make it into town. :)

Anyway, seeing as how we got there before like, midnight, I wanted to take our two Gen Con newbies, ThatGameGirl and PhD Cosplay to the location to get our tickets as well as get the lay of the land before 40,000 people filled it.

they had this neat photo space! I couldn't help it.

Upon arriving we found a HUGE LINE, which was weird because it was like 10 at night, and I'm just going OMG HOW WILL WE GET TICKETS IN THE MORNING.

This was about half the line.

The line moved INCREDIBLY fast, and we very quickly made our way up to the will call and got our tickets all in the span of like maybe 30 minutes at most. When I get all complainy about sign in processes for other shows, THIS is why. They processed so many people in such a short time (AND a majority of badges have event tickets linked to them and we get them all in one place). Gen Con's got this down to a science.

There's gotta be at least 15 stations if not 20...

So we checked in, went to our temporary abode, slept, woke up and headed to the show. We were staying at the Crowne Plaza which is always awesome (yay trains and closeness!), and we got ready for the entrance ceremony. Which is them rolling giant dice and then opening the doors after a short speech.

and this crowd extended ALL the way down to the end of the hall.

People were also filtering onto the balconies this year.

We headed in and began our initial walk through. Dave waited in line for the Paizo booth as they have instigated a line for their area since their booth would have been swamped otherwise. He picked up the new Advanced Class Guide, which lets us now finally have actual stats for the characters that I am playing (having used playtest docs first)! I took ThatGameGirl and PhD around, I picked up a hoodie (I had to - my C2E2 one DIED. It was unwearable in polite company.)

For those who are wondering, YES, the local businesses LOVE this show. They like to get into the spirit and theme their stores to the show. :)


Met up with other pals, Samaru and Rajamitsu (aka Tiny T Rex) in the Dealer Hall area too! We had a crab battle:

Archie and his nefarious twin brother Archie

The dealer hall this year was even BIGGER than before, and honestly, it took me at least two days of wandering to figure out how on earth to see it all. I will say it is TOTALLY fun taking new people around and watching their ferretshock at all the awesome things. I, of course, had to stop by Chessex, and got myself a whole bunch of new dice.

All the shinies!

Honestly, there were so many booths that were there I couldn't cover them all. Unless we wanted to be here FOREVER. Some of the booths had silly interactive things (if they weren't demoing their games), like this one: 


I loved the cute artwork on the banner, and complimented the staff on their outfits and they were like, "Oh hey, do you want to ride in the tank" and I was like "OH DO I EVER!!" And then they had PROPS. It was the best.

We went to a panel (and a couple others over the weekend) put on by the Paizo staff about their game system, adventure paths, and books coming out. They're always hilarious and I was laughing so hard because they're all such DERPS and I heart them all. And these people are responsible for the game system I love so much. I'm TOTALLY OKAY WITH THIS.

After a tiring day, ThatGameGirl (Kristy, not to be confused with me, Kristie), went to hang out at the Munchkin tavern, I took pics of PhD (Sil), and then crashed out in the room. OH and had FOOD TRUCK FOOD which is the greatest food to ever grace the walkways of any conventions. Seriously. Their food is ALWAYS amazing, and such good quality.

Friday was "Red-Haired Superheroines" day with Sil and myself, and we realized quickly in that we had chosen poorly as we were all in so many panels that we hardly met. Except around lunch, so we got a couple of pics. I was Gwen Tennison from Ben10 and Sil was Kim Possible from ...Kim Possible!

One of my cheapest costumes ever!

We also did some demos of games that day. As always Dave and I test out the Pathfinder card game which is surprisingly entertaining! We're definitely contemplating getting the Wrath of the Righteous campaign in card form, as both Runelords and Skull & Shackles were very entertaining. And yes, they had a card that was Lonely Island and we all sang "I'm On a Boat".

I buckled many swashes that day.

I also brought my pals by the Red Dragon Inn booth to have they play High Noon Saloon where you are having a brawl in a wild west saloon. It was quite hilarious, as always.

I made sure to throw somebody "out th' winda!"

Friday had panels, and then last but not least, we had TRUE DUNGEON. I can't remember if I wrote it up the two years ago when I tried to play it, and it was so horrible and disappointing I wanted to quit forever. Well, Kristy wanted to try it for once, and I wasn't about to let her go into a big run full of people she doesn't know so a few of us got together and had an almost full run ourselves.

And I have to say it was the best move I made. This year's puzzle run was so delightful and fun, and I felt kinda smart when we could actually GET the solutions. It also probably helped we were on Non-Lethal mode because really, we didn't care about EXP or levels. This year's theme was were were fetching an airship, and we had to power it up and fought a couple of sky baddies in the end. We battled glados in the first room hooking up the engine cells (which we finished in like RECORD TIME omg) and only one of the puzzles we didn't solve but were two steps away so I didn't feel too bad on it. We died at the end, but that happens, and I got to help pilot the ship! Definitely interested in trying it again next year if they keep this theme up.

Saturday... Saturday was a blur. I woke up, dressed up, and went to a crafty panel where I made a cute tree pendant. The weather was kind of crap, and I was getting stressed, so I only wore my outfit briefly.

We called this one "Summer Fun Gauf"

I ended up going back to the room, changing into regular wear, and roved the hall. Which was a bad idea. Tensions mentally had been high for me, as I take my travel planning very seriously and if it feels like anybody has had any inkling of a terrible time I feel like it's my fault and I've ruined everything. THEN couple that with the fifty bazillion people there, hawkers, and things, and I just could not take it. I had to hide, and it was kind of a terrible day for me. I apologize to anybody who had tried to say hi that day as I was just NOT in the talking mood.

After a good dinner and rest in the room, pals came by and we taught some new people MAO which was great and hilarious!

Sunday was "pack everything up" day and rove the hall. I went to my favorite Paizo panel: "Secrets of Golarion" which I laughed so much, this was the only pic I grabbed of the staff on the panel.

Just keep being awesome. I know you won't tell us what happened to Aeroden.

That day was also Family Day, where they offer all sorts of deals/bonuses to families who want to attend. So what better day to go as LEGO Movie characters than that?! I had a fun time waving and saying hi to all the kids who were like OMG THAT'S MY FAVORITE MOVIE and then we geek out together and sang Everything Is Awesome.

We had an Angry!Unikitty in our midst this time!
We sat near one of the doors and watched the convention close down, which was relaxing, if not a little eerie. Everything suddenly got really quiet as vendors started moving out. We said our goodbyes, and went to reside at our friend's house again. Monday we ended up just hanging out chatting about conventions and things (I'll have announcements on that later), and then drove home.

Dave got ConPlague, and I'm trying to not get it before we go to a concert on Sunday in Chicago.



August 13, 2014

GENCON Approaches!

So quick update for you guys - the basement is drying up quite nicely so we'll be able to attend to it as needed.

For those NOT in the know.... GENCON is approaching! In fact, day zero is TODAY! (Wednesday, that is).

Gencon is most likely the LARGEST tabletop/board game/miniature/all things gaming convention that's out there. Last year they broke over 40,000 people (I can't remember the exact numbers) and it's a blast. There's a ton of people but it's so different than a lot of conventions I go to. This one always feels more relaxed, easy going, and exciting all at the same time. The average age of the convention attendee is older than what you'd typically see at an anime con, and while I love vending at anime cons, man, there's something really nice about going to a show where I'm not going to see hoards of screaming anime kids and random dance parties in the hallway.

There's a bazillion different events you can sign up to do (they have a great registration system), let alone playtesting new games, finding new miniatures, entering tournaments, and they even have some fun entertainment in the evening. The entire downtown Indianapolis prepares for this, and they've really grown accustomed to having Gencon there (many "gaming-themed" menus have appeared!). And don't forget FOOD TRUCKS. OH I look so forward to those too.

ANYWAY, it's my one "fun" show for the year that I go to, and I'm looking forward to attending it again! I'll be there in pseudo-costume most of the time, I'll post pictures here when I return.

May your weekend be a fun one, and I'll catch you all on the flipside! :)

August 12, 2014

News Update - Robin Williams & Biblical Flooding

First off, I know that we've all head the sad news - beloved actor Robin Williams has passed away. I honestly don't know how to feel right now because he was a major part of a lot of movies that I loved from my childhood onwards. I'm grief filled, but I'm trying to not show it - I'm only hoping right now that with news that he was suffering from depression and unfortunately succumbed to suicide, we can learn from this.

If you know anybody who has recently withdrawn from the world, is suddenly less into doing what it is they love, check up on them. You might think you're being a bother (or maybe think "it's too much work because they'll let me know they need me"), but honestly, sometimes knowing that somebody else cares about you is the lifesaver you need.

If you know anybody who is suffering from depression, don't tell them platitudes like "just stop being sad!" or "you know you chose this, you can unchoose it" and other nonsense like that. Tell them things like "that sucks. Is there anything I can do to help? Do you want to talk about it?" or heck, just HANG OUT WITH THEM.

It's a shame that it will take famous people giving into depression to get us to talk about it as though it's actually real, but I will take what I can get.


ANYWAY! If you've been paying attention to the weather, and you're aware that Crash Bang Labs just happens to be in the Metro Detroit area of Michigan (it's fun to scare people on vacation when they're like "where are you from?" and I have to respond with "Detroit" because nobody knows the suburbs and look at me funny when I do the Michigan hand map thing, and they're all like "EGHOMGSOHARDCORELETSMOVEAWAYFROMTHEMIMIGHTGETSHANKED") you might have noticed we just had some epically epic rains the other day.

In our area we averaged between 4.3 and 4.5 INCHES of rain coming down in a few hours. We kinda broke all sorts of records. 2/3rds of our local freeways are shut down completely and there are abandoned cars EVERYWHERE apparently - we had one death, and there are crews searching for bodies in underwater cars. It's pretty bad.

In case you're curious, we did okay over here at the labs, we were super lucky and only got about 2 inches of clear water into our basement (clearly rainwater). Other homes in the area had upwards of 1-2 feet of water in their basements. I also was EXTREMELY lucky because no less than 4 days ago, my husband thought it would be a nice gift to me while I work hard and get ready for Gencon (did I mention that was this week, UGGGHHHHH WHY NOW), he would organize all my costumes.

What I've been working on for GenCon.

When I made this costume, I did not intend to go sailing in my BASEMENT...

This included actually cataloging and hanging them up so they didn't drag on the floor. I have some handy metal clothing racks on wheels we got from the wedding showers, and OMG THEY SAVED THE COSTUMES AND FABRIC. Due to his awesomeness, he got them all hung up and elevated, so NONE of the water touched ANY of the costumes. A bunch of shoes got wet, but they'll dry.

Upon finding that our basement had a chunk of water, we went into rescue mode, and thank GOODNESS that I do artist alleys and bought super heavy duty wire grids. XD We propped those babies up, hung all my extra hooks on them, and dangled all the shoes from em! The other grid is being used as a drying rack for the big rugs we have down there.

TL;DR - it got wet, things are surviving, hopefully we can get to GenCon without too much hassle.

It's supposed to rain today again. :(

August 4, 2014

How to Draw Book Review: “How to Make Webcomics”

Title: How to Make Webcomics
Author: Brad Guigar,  Dave Kellett, Scott Kurtz, Kris Straub
Publisher: Image Comics
Year: 2011

It’s been a while since I've done a book review, but the topic of webcomics has been popping up more and more frequently lately in the facebook Artist Alley group I’m a part of. While I’m still a “fledgling” webcomic author, I've done a ton of reading up, following and researching on how to best perfect my craft. I will admit, it did bog me down for a while, but I've decided to just… PLUG ON AHEAD regardless of pages and what not and know that it will all improve over time.

TL;DR - Just go buy this now.

But enough about me, what’s this book I’m talking about?? The book-du-jour of today is How to Make Webcomics, written by four popular and successful webcomic artists. I found this book completely by accident while wandering through a Barnes and Noble – I had been feeling kind of down, and I checked out the digital tutorial area (you know, the one that’s got all the photoshop books ‘n’ stuff), and randomly came across this book. I only remember this because I was in an entirely DIFFERENT area of the store than I usually am, and coming across a webcomic guide of all things caught my eye.

While I don’t read any of the comics drawn by the authors (I know, how popular ARE they really then, right?), I instantly recognized the names and upon opening the book I found I had seen their comics, and knew of them, I just hadn't read them in my travels on the web (for any one of various reasons, mainly things like genre).

Just flipping through this book, I realized it was an instant take-home, and I quickly took it to the register to pay. But what’s in this book I've come to love and care about so much? It’s got all the information about webcomics you either can’t find (because it feels like everybody else already knows it and doesn't want to share) or had no idea about. It’s also really good about telling you the things that happen OUTSIDE of web comics – and the artists even put their own comic strips up for analyzing and they bicker between themselves over it (which honestly, takes a lot of guts, but is great that they do it!)

I’m sure you’re just wondering exactly what KIND of things are in this book? They cover the basics of “what is a web comic?”, “character design”, and “writing”, but they also cover things you don’t see in a lot of other how to books:

all delightfully illustrated by the authors!

For example, they have an entire chapter devoted to “Image Preparation”. They have all sorts of fun semi-techno babble to help you understand a JPG versus a PNG, and how to clean up linework, and what tones or colors can do for you. They’re clear in knowing everybody’s webcomic is done their own way, but they’ve got GREAT tips for creating your files so you can compile them in books later or make prints. The fact that they make you think about this FIRST is a good sign – many webcomic artists start out making very low resolution, small comics (even if it’s big on the internet 72dpi still doesn’t print well), and when they go to compile them, it just gets disastrous. This book makes you think to the future without disillusioning you.

They won’t pull a punch. They’ll tell you it’s difficult, problems you’ll have to face, and how to attempt to persevere through it (they’re not gonna leave you high and dry!). Honestly, it’s one of the more inspirational How To books I’ve come across and I always feel super motivated after reading it.

Some of the other notable chapters talk about Web Site design, how to communicate with your readers, as well as even going as far to discuss Comic Conventions (and how to survive them!)

I can't tell you how happy I was to see this chapter! IN AN ACTUAL BOOK NO LESS!

Overall, I could gush for hours on this book, so instead of reading my blather, GO BUY IT ALREADY.


Moderate. I say moderate because they already assume you've got the inspiration to start whether you’re the artist or the writer (though the book leans more towards artists). They don’t want to spend a lot of time on “here’s how you draw x” instead they are going to take the knowledge you (most likely) have and tell you how to apply it and make it  more effective. Example: the book takes a whole chapter to talk about “formatting” which condenses as much comic page/panel/strip theory into one section (and does a great job), but it’s much more useful if you’ve already got some knowledge about comics (or have at least read some!). They are great about introducing complex topics and describing them, but the book is 10x more effective with a little bit of forward understanding of comics. SO GO OUT AND READ SOME OKAY?

People don't realize how important this is...


Set Up of Chapters. I felt like the book really meshed with the current state of the web and its comics. The writers were not only knowledgeable on how comics are made and drawn, but they’re very savvy about dealing with readers, publishing, all the way to comic conventions. There’s an ENTIRE chapter devoted to comic conventions (and it’s where I learned the term “booth barnacle” and have been using it ever since). The writers WANT you to be as successful as you can, and that’s why they took all their info they had and squished it into a book.

The chapters themselves progress in a logical manner as well – it starts out with a “what is webcomics” inspirational chapter, leading to characters, writing, formatting, then BAM! Right into things like image formatting, readers, website design – all that OTHER stuff nobody talks about. It then finishes with the culmination of things like printing, monetizing your comics, and convention promotion.


I wanted more! Honestly, I would sit and read a 600 page book written by these folks. Their love for the craft is very apparent, but I suppose I’m glad it’s short and sweet (at 195 pages), because it’s much more portable for me.


All the behind-the-scenes of making a webcomic. They want to teach you all the really-important-but-never-talked-about parts of comics. They want to teach you technical terms so you can create a better product. They want to warn you about things like buffers and devoted readers who are over-enthusiastically obsessed. They want you to be as successful as they are. They will provide you all the tools and information they can (and most likely had to learn all on their own).


How to draw a web comic. Honestly. They’re not here to show you how to draw people. They’re not here to give you plot generators. They’re not going to talk about how to pitch to find an artist, or how to deal with distant writers. This isn’t a bad thing though – because the amount of information they’ve provided is INVALUABLE.


I love this book. So much. I recommend it to every fledgling and experienced webcomic creator out there.