Meet Cosplayer Rachel Funk

I had so much fun with last friday’s cosplayer feature with Robert Smith that I’m going to do it again, this time with Robert’s partner-in-costume Rachel Funk.
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Growing up, Rachel watched all the classic sci-fi including Star Wars, Star Trek, Buck Rogers, and Battlestar Galactica. She loves reading anything, but has a special place in her heart for books with sci-fi elements, fantasy, and magic. Before she met Robert she only knew the basic comic book characters, thanks to him she knows them all much better.
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Winning the Special Judges Award for Craftsmanship, and crazy happy about it!

Rachel’s first comic con experience was attending the 2012 Las Vegas Comic Expo. She had no idea how many people dressed up for those type of events and went wearing a Wonder Woman t-shirt. In fact, at the time she hadn’t even heard of cosplay. Looking back, she wishes she had known because she has some mad skills when it comes to creating awesome stuff.
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Since then Rachel has attended many events. Her most memorable cosplay experience is when she got to go up on stage in front of a huge crowd at the 2012 Denver Comic Con to receive the Special Judges Award for Craftsmanship for her Lady Mechanika costume.
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Partners-in-fun Rachel and Robert

Rachel recently finished creating a robe for Robert’s Teifling costume and is now working on a formal skirt for Lady Mechanika and bracers and a pop-up gun for Harly Quinn. With luck and a lot of work they should be ready for this September’s Salt Lake Comic Con. She also has sketches for a rockin’ steampunk Queen of Hearts and a steampunk Mad Hatter for Robert. She is also working on ideas for a wheelchair compatible steampunk Cheshire Cat. She hopes to have those ready by next year’s Salt Lake Comic Con.
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When asked, Rachel shared that her secret dream cosplay would be a kick-ass Halle Berry style Catwoman.
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Rachel’s biggest fangirl moment is when she got a photo-op with none other than Captain Mal, also known as Nathan Fillion. When he put his hand on her shoulder she totally freaked out.  She was like: OMG OMG he is touching me OMG OMG breathe!
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Quick, strike a pose! Check out how awesome this costume is!

For those who attend the cons, here is a special note to you from Rachel:

I wish more people would take the time to look at the costumes people put together. I am an attention whore. I love getting my picture taken and talking to people about my costume and who my character is. My problem is, my character is obscure, she is not from DC or Marvel. She does not have a big movie. Hardly anyone knows who she is…they just think I am a random steampunk girl. I don’t have a big or flashy prop. Bob has both of those things going for him (well-known character, with an interesting twist and a flashy, catch your eye prop) so everyone wants to get a pic of him or with him. No one wants pix with me :/
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I’d like to thank Rachel for coming and being a part of my blog today. I had a lot of fun learning more about her and I hope you did too!
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Attention fellow cosplayers, fantasy artists, and writers! If you want to be featured here like Rachel and Robert, and my guests in the past, drop me a line, I’d love to have you!

Meet Cosplayer Robert Smith

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Robert as Steampunk Green Lantern with his friend, Rachel, dressed as Lady Mechanika

Today, Robert Smith from Utah is joining us and sharing some of his cosplay pictures. Robert and I have known each other a little more than a year now and have enjoyed swapping stories about our various experiences, his in the comic con and cosplay world and mine with working with fiction writers who create the various fandoms.

Robert is a 45-year-old book collector who is proud to say that he most definitely does not live in his parent’s basement. He’s a toolmaker/moldmaker by trade, which comes in handy when it comes to creating his costumes. He’s also part of a super cool secret society.

A life long lover of dressing up for Halloween, Robert’s introduction into the world of cosplay happened in 2000 when he took first place in a costume contest. The winning outfit? An old lady.

Since then, the costumes have become more unique and Robert has attended countless events and conventions and has entered in many contests. His most memorable experience happened at the Denver Comic Con when he took the stage in front of 1600 people all cheering him on in his second place win in the novice category.

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Robert and Christine at Fantasy Con. Check out the detail on the gloves and lantern!

Currently, Robert is working on a Teifling costume from the Dungeon’s and Dragon’s universe. Teiflings are humans with a demon somewhere in their ancestry and have made bargains with devils to increase their powers, very nasty fellows indeed.

All cosplayers have their favorite character. If Robert had the chance to meet a character in real life he would choose Hugh Jackman as Wolverine – but then again, who wouldn’t!

In addition to having a ton of fun with cosplay, Robert is also an avid comic book collector and has been collecting for 30 years.

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Robert at Salt Lake Fan X showing off his custom-made green lantern.

A huge thanks for Robert for coming to join me here at the blog today, I hope that he had as much fun as I did!

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Are you a cosplayer? Would you like a mini feature here at my blog? Send me a line in the comments!

Featured Artist: Cat Lemonade

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“The Dragonrider in the Highest Tower” by Cat Lemonade (found at DeviantArt.com)

This month’s featured artist is fellow friend, writer, and artist, Cat Lemonade.  Cat and I first met last year when she needed someone to critique her delightful fantasy manuscript.  The rest is history. Thank you Cat for coming to my blog to be interviewed!  I am very happy to have you here.

Please tell the readers a bit about yourself.

Well, I’m a kind of a sour puss—but only a bit, because if I were a total sour puss my name would be Cat Lemon. (Wah wah wah…)

On a more serious note, I’m an aspiring novelist, a hobbyist photo-manipulation artist, and a part-time indie web and graphics designer.

On a less serious note, my favorite colors are candy-hued mellow yellow and gray, I have a cat that likes to play fetch (seriously!), and I’m obsessed with Toothless from How To Train Your Dragon (the movies, not the books—the Toothless from the books is an intolerable little snot!).

You have some terrific art over at your new blog, can you tell us about some of your pieces?

Most of my work right now are mock-up covers for the series I’m writing. I have 90% of all five books written in my head, so when I needed to take a break from getting those stories out of my head and on to the page, I decided to photoshop some covers together for funsies.

I’ve also been working on some non-book related artwork which I plan on selling on my DeviantArt page, but unfortunately I’ve been having some computer problems and so my beauties are going to have to remain a Work-In-Progress until I can fix the glitch. I’ve actually been going through photoshop withdrawal—it’s driving me crazy!

You also have been working on a few other creative projects, please tell us about some of your writing.

The big project I’m working on now is The Dragonrider series. It’s a five book middle-reader series that’s a bit different from what you’re used to seeing. The Dragonrider, herself, isn’t so much the main character, but a consistent supporting character that helps the different main characters of the first four books in their individual quests. In the fifth book, however, all of the main characters have grown up and their paths end up crossing in one giant epic and you get to see how the influence of The Dragonrider’s presence during a pivotal moment in their youth has shaped their adulthood.

And of course there’s way cool awesome stuff like dragons, magic, mermaids, pirates, zombies, and cannibals all wrapped up in good vs. evil power struggles and topped with snark, wit, and a good heaping of comedy. It’s like a quintuple scoop ice cream sundae oozing with fudge and drowning in nuts and sprinkles…but for your mind!

You can read more about the series, along it’s short story sibling series, The Three Princesses, over here.

I also have an idea knocking around in my head for a magical detective novel—a sort of Charmed/Harry Potter meets CSI/Castle thing—but I’m saving that one for when I finish The Dragonrider and The Three Princesses.

As an artist, what inspires you?

Oooo…so many things! I think music tops the list, though. I’m a huge fan of symphonic metal. I get so swept up in the musical arrangements and the topics of the lyrics and the scope and power of it all that my brain converts what I hear into pictures of far-off places and fantastical circumstances and fascinating people. Sometimes those pictures get turned into a piece of visual art, like a piece I’m working on now, and other times the pictures will cascade together into a plot or a theme or an emotion that can drive a story.

Some of my biggest inspiration comes from bands like Epica, Xandria, Delain and ReVamp.

In ten years where do you hope your talent will take you? What are your goals?

Hopefully at the top of the New York Times Best-seller list—but don’t all aspiring novelists wish that? (laughs) Honestly, I’d really just like to get my stories out in the world and doing well enough they’re still being read by someone, somewhere after I’m ash and dust. I know that sounds a little macabre, but as someone who struggles with a disability that makes it difficult to even get out of bed some days, I’ve always felt like I wasn’t doing my part in making the world—or even just my community—a better place. Maybe one day my stories can inspire in others what I’m unable to do myself.

When it comes to creating art, whether it be visual or written, what advice to you give to those just starting out?

My advice is a little antithetical, come to think.

If you’re doing visual art, ignore the critics. Visual art should be an expression of your feelings and your thoughts and your unique vision and no one has the right to criticize you for that because no one can think, feel, or see what you can. And that’s what makes art beautiful.

On the flip side, when it comes to writing, criticism is your best friend. I really can’t stress that enough. I actually just wrote a blog post about it last week! I’ve noticed that a lot of people are afraid of editing—and thereby, finishing—their stories because they’re afraid of the criticism that comes along with it. But criticism is what makes writers write stronger stories. Embrace it, love it, and be better for it.

My favorite piece of advice about writing/editing—and one that has been most helpful in my own synthesis—is a quote attributed to Joss Whedon:

001Where can we go to see more of your work? 

You can find me at my blog, on DeviantArt, Pinterest, and Ello –although I’m still not really sure what I’m supposed to do with Ello yet!

In April and July you can find me at Camp NaNoWrimo. I actually like Camp better than regular NaNoWriMo, so if you’re writing fantasy/adventure/sci-fi middle-reader stories, give me a holler!

And then I am almost always on Twitter–if I’m at my computer, you can bet I’ve got Twitter open. I’m told I’m great fun to tweet-chat with. (Whether it’s true or not is debatable, but that’s what I’m told!)

If you couldn’t be a writer, artist, or web designer, what would you be?

Well…as a kid I wanted to be a Power Ranger stationed aboard the USS Enterprise, serving under Captain Picard as the assistant to Chief Security Officer Tasha Yar. But then Tasha died and people told me Power Rangers aren’t real. I’m still not quite over all of that, to be honest.

But in the event none of my aforementioned endeavors pan-out, I’ve put in a application at Hogwarts for the position of Muggle Studies Professor. I’m still waiting to hear back from them. You don’t think they’ll hold the fact that I’m a squib against me…do you?

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Cat Lemonade is kind of a sour puss.

But despite that, she keeps writing silly stories for kids.

When she’s not writing, she’s playing fetch with her kitten or trying to figure out how to optimize the RAM on her computer so she can listen to music AND design graphics and websites simultaneously.

Other skills include being an expert listener of fine music, an appreciator of black cats, and an enthusiast of the color yellow.

Her favorite made-up words are flustrated, announciate, and centrifocal.

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Thank you again, Cat, for coming to chat with us today!  Support Cat in her endeavours by clicking on her links, and liking and following her!

Interview with Neils Knudsen

cover with more colorAbout The Singing Stones of Rendor

Endowed with a magical ability not seen since the ancient Rendor Empire, life for K’Las just turned dangerous—and he’s not even born yet. His parents hide him in plain sight for several years until they learn of a plot to seize an heirloom and enslave the powerful magical voices that blend with the family treasure. The family manages to escape the clutches of cold-blooded zealots from the Grand Peer that chases them to one of Rendor’s mysterious great henges. A wild and shrewd wizard who hides within the henge, learns of the family’s secret treasure and vanquishes one of the zealots, but not out of altruism. He too is covetous of the powerful treasure the family holds dear. Trapped between a ruthless killer and a crazed wizard, K’Las must quickly learn to control his nascent skills to help his parents best their foes. If he can’t, it won’t matter which of their foes wins—his family will surely die. Even if he does succeed, the hostile and unstable world order will not permit such unrestrained magic.

My Review

I love a good fantasy that has me turning the pages and this book has done just that. Knudsen’s music based magic system is unique and different enough from those I’ve seen before to be intriguing. His colorful cast of characters are everything from quiet and brooding to dimwitted and gregarious, with lots of variety in between. If you like unique magic, good vs evil, and coming of age books, you will like this book.

An Interview with author Neils Knudsen

What was the inspiration behind The Singing Stones of Rendor?

There were two things that inspired the books.

In the first case I had the notion that I could write a fantasy story as well, and maybe even better, than what I read in some books. In nearly every fantasy novel I read I never really saw the source of the power behind the magic. In my more literal mind I could only see one real world way for it to happen

Vibrations. When I began this little project it seemed so simple. One of the aggravations I have with many fantasy novels is the lack of a solid foundation for the magic system with rules that cannot be broken. The groundwork that is made is often interpreted loosely and the magical characters/objects seem to have a limitless supply of power without suffering any consequences. I have some difficulty relating to them. I wanted to create a world with characters who had to develop their natural gifts just like any craftsman or athlete would—one step, one lesson at a time. So, I drew on my training in nuclear power and chemistry to build a magical universe.

I find the world of vibrations to be magical in itself. It goes right down to the smallest of all the known particles in the universe. To my knowledge no one knows for sure why they hum. So, it seems, in the fabric of our existence, there is a song being sung all around and in us. We just need to listen to find the magic within ourselves.

In the second case a life event spurred me into action.

In 2009, after a bout with cancer, my son challenged me to write a fantasy novel. I had never done any serious creative writing prior to that.

We bandied about for ideas in which I could include cameo’s of my grandsons and their antics. Over the next two years and 500,000 words of on-the-job education I figured I was pretty close to finishing the novel. I was wrong. The story read much like the poor writing I’d seen in books I disliked so much. So, the next two plus years, two gnarly editors who thrashed the story and a relentless muse who wiped the tears from my eyes, the book won two reaffirming awards from the League of Utah Writers. I then felt it was time to publish. Now I’m even more inspired than ever.

From your book, who is your favorite character?

If I told you that the others would never speak to me again. As the author I have to say I love ‘em all. Creating these characters has been some of the most fun I’ve had writing the story. My wife and muse, along with most of my readers, seem to like the giant forester, Maynard, the most. I tried to kill him off in the early drafts, but my muse insisted he live. It’s a good thing too, because a unique element in the magic system grew up around him. You’ll see that blossom a little more in book 2, “The Loom of Kanarrah.”

I can’t deny that I like Maynard, and his friend Bert, as well. Uncle Tomas and the old hengekeeper, Thaddeus Stonebreaker, share some character traits that I’ve really enjoyed developing. Their irascible natures just feel right. It’s all I can do to keep them from cussing at times and letting them foul up the whole plot.

The main character and protagonist, K’Las Campanill, and his parents have been the most interesting as far as developing their individualities. He takes a back seat in most of this first book as his parents try to protect and teach him while the world chases them. Just like in real life.

What makes you most excited as a writer?

Ah, the wealth, fame and personal accolades, of course. OK, that may be overstating it a bit—OK, a lot. Actually, I’m fairly reclusive by nature and would find that kind of excitement more than a little nerve wrecking.

The real excitement for me is finishing the book. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of fun things that happen along the way while my characters tell me what’s about to happen next. They have always entertained and surprised me. At the end, though, if I know in my bones I’ve done the best I know how and the final project is entertaining and different, I’m satisfied. When my brother-in-law calls me up late at night and says he just finished reading it and loves it, I’m thrilled. So yes, accolades from peers and strangers really boosts my excitement level, too.

What is your favorite book of all time?

I’ve gone through phases of favorites books. When I was a kid I thought there could be no better book than “Old Yeller,” by Fred Gipson. When I got into Junior High School my interests turned to history and Bruce Catton’s “Centennial History of the Civil War.” During my enlistment in the US Navy I finally broke down and read J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings.” That’s when I got hooked on fantasy—especially epic fantasy. I could not imagine anyone ever making a movie of that saga. I fell in love with the “Lord of the Rings” all over again when they finally did appear.

Through my adult life I’ve enjoyed Sci/Fi. When David Weber came out with his Honor Harrington novels I became hooked on military Sci/Fi. Someday when I grow up I’m going to write one of those.

Where can we learn more about your writing?

I have a humble little blog at http://nwknudsen.blogspot.com/ which I update sporadically—usually once or twice a month. I’m rather reclusive and like my solitude which isn’t a good formula for successful blogging. I’m still learning how to open up and present myself to the public.

Unless I become world famous and can hire a webmaster to keep a website up and pretty, I don’t plan on one in the near future. Nor do I twitter. I’m more of an observer of people than a mingler. That little quirk has served me well in creating my characters.

Although I do have a personal facebook page I limit friending to family, friends and a few other writers. However, I do keep an eye out for messages if someone wants to contact me.

When will the second book come out?

“The Loom of Kanarrah” should be out in late November or early December 2015. When I wrote the outline for it I realized the book will likely be longer than book 1. If so, and my editors don’t slash anything major, it may take a little longer. About a third of the book is drafted now. So far, my muse loves the plot and twists planned for it. If she likes it, I love it. I hope my readers will too. Stop by my blog occasionally and check the progress bar.

Any other books in the works?

Yes, a prequel for the series entitled “The Tenebrous Witch”. It tells the story of the old woman in chapter one of “The Singing Stones of Rendor.” If not for her none of the trilogy would have happened.

photoNeils Knudsen: Retired. Happy.Writer. After 30 years of writing procedures, reviewing proposed regulations, and other technical stuff, my wife and I have turned to the arts for fun and entertainment. I am a member of the League of Utah Writers, Oquirrh Writers Chapter. For those not familiar with the name, “Oquirrh”, it is pronounced “oh-ker”. My wife and I have five children and a growing list of grandchildren. All are exceptional and we take great pride in each of them. Our grandkids have been invaluable resources for the characters in “The Singing Stones of Rendor.” I’ve been blessed with a wife who inspires me, coaches and encourages me. She comes from a large family of amazingly talented people. There are teachers, authors, a playwright, song writers, dancers, a national beauty queen and a dozen or two goofballs (I say that in the most loving of terms). You throw that crowd together and you get . . . great stories.

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Do you have a question for Neils? Leave it in the comments!

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Are you a fantasy author or artist?

I’m still looking for fabulous new talent to feature here on this blog. If you are interested either leave a comment or send me an email!

New Favorite Musicians – The Piano Guys

Pop culture has everything to do with the latest and best incarnations of our favorite things, and music is no exception. In my high school years I loved the piano music of Jon Schmidt almost as much as I loved and still love soundtrack music.

Yesterday I found the best of both worlds – Jon Schmidt playing awesome mixes of some of the best soundtrack music out there along with his awesome buddies in The Piano Guys. Here’s my new favorite mix, Batman Evolution.  Not only do they weave the best of the Batman theme songs from across the years, but they have been allowed to borrow three of the original Bat mobiles as set pieces.

Check it out: