I had a minor anxiety attack yesterday. No, not a panic attack, and no, not my first one. High-functioning anxiety is a lifestyle in my home. But after a little cry, and a few breaths, I was able to drive the five minutes back home and sanitize the groceries before getting them into the fridge.
At a time of heightened social awareness, thanks to the Schrodinger’s virus everyone is breathing out around us, our mental health needs a little more care. How do we navigate the inner voices when information and patience (among a million other things) are currently in short supply?
This is going to sound so typical, but one of my coping methods after the day was done, was a long hot soak with a glittery bath bomb and a peach cocktail. There’s a fine point here where self-care actually takes place. It’s not in the drink, or the bath, or the luxury fizz. Not alone anyway.
Self-care happens in the way we relax by knowing we deserve to make time and space for ourselves; to take our eyes off the bombarding news coverage; to have a moment away from the energy-draining, crying, but absolutely adorable light-of-your-life baby who finally went to sleep but could wake up in a fit at any moment; to not think and overthink and plan and stress about literally everything right now and just be.
Conscious breathing exercises, deeply inhaling the soothing fragrances, watching the hypnotic bubbles bursting off the bath bomb and swirling around the tub, tasting the crisp cocktail in your mouth as the smooth glass hits your lips, and letting the hot water melt the tension from your muscles are wonderful ways to center yourself. Feeling everything, using all the senses, and letting your mind ease without interruption are valuable to grounding and reconnecting to yourself.
I go into my bath with no expectations. No problem-solving overthinking to manage, no time limit for getting out, no nothing but me, being. For as long as I need. Or until the baby wakes, or the second round of water gets cold, or I finally feel tired enough to sleep. Whatever. Nothing matters but me feeling all the things I need to feel, resting in sensuous bliss for those precious and necessary moments.
And when I come out, my mind is usually thinking clearly, and peacefully ready to take on the challenges of the next day.
It might not be as adventurous as getting there by TARDIS or Delorian, but tonight we enter a different place in time, a new year.
Only in the past few years have I started the ritual of assessing my year-gone-by and making actionable goals for the next. It’s helped me grow as a creative, as a business owner, and as a person, so I highly recommend adopting some similar practice if you haven’t already.
2018 was both an incredible and difficult year. Facing this year’s review with honesty is not easy. Let’s get the hard part over with first so we can move on to what I’m celebrating.
Aspects of my personal and social lives were shattered beyond measure. Some terrible, unresolved issues from 2017 carried over and reared their ugly heads. Some friends proved not to be friends, or even decent people at all. Some good people made some heartbreaking mistakes. I cried harder than I ever have before. I learned many lessons: the integrity of the people you surround yourself with matters; no friendship or relationship is perfect; all interpersonal relationships take work; beware of behavior patterns; depression hurts the people around you too.
But all was not lost. 2018 offered hope in my personal life as well. I became pregnant, which was great news considering the previous failure/loss of that contributed to the problems of 2017. I was forced to find healthier coping strategies to battle heartache and depression since alcohol was no longer in the picture. I felt an incomparable network of support, with so many friends stepping up to encourage and help me. My relationship grew stronger with more openness and renewed energy.
Wow, that was heavy. But it’s necessary to put the jokes aside for a moment and address these things. This is how we grow.
(Live performance photos not watermarked as NecroBlanca Photography or Sheridan Original Photography are shot by Fernie Renteria Photography/LFR Images. Spanksgiving Promo image shot by Wandering Photography.)
Now then… 2018 was great for my creative life! I became an instructor at the Austin Academy of Burlesque, hosted the pub trivia at the Greater Austin Comic Con, started writing much more (healthy coping!), found a great new home venue at Kick Butt Cafe for the Geekgasm Revue with Professor Argo, survived my 5th Other Worlds Austin film festival, grew my Frisky Business Burlesque family with a few new and awesome members, and made some costumes, cosplay, burlesque acts, and accessories I’m really proud of. I also have quite a few works in progress that aren’t ready for their public announcement just yet. But they are foundations for my work in the next year.
2019 is going to be my craziest year yet! My priorities have shifted. Everything I want to do, work on, and accomplish now has to happen around motherhood. My greatest challenge will be to maintain and grow my creative work as I focus on nourishing a new life. Finding the balance of keeping my creativity and identity alive while also being the best geeky mom ever and a great partner is almost a laughable goal, but a noble pursuit none the less. Oh, and I want to read more, obviously. Always try to read more.
May the new year bring us all good health, endless creativity, strong relationships, good books, transformative introspection, and all the geeky friends, fun, and film we can handle.
“They will say that I have shed innocent blood. What’s blood for if not for shedding? With my hook for a hand, I’ll split you from your groin to your gullet. I came for you.”
When I was 9 or 10 years old, my parents decided to rent Candyman from Blockbuster for family movie night at my grandmother’s house. Like every Clive Barker film I watched in my childhood, it scared my young mind to its core.
By the time the credits rolled, my mother was asleep on the couch and my dad decided to be silly. “Watch this,” he said wild-eyed, as he crept into the bathroom behind us. He said my mom’s name into the mirror five times and she abruptly awoke. I was certain the hook was coming for us all as punishment for playing around like that. This began a lifetime of avoiding mirrors at night.
Fast forward to 2016. My love and I were beyond excited to party with our horror fiend friends at Texas Frightmare Weekend. We walked into the center doors of the main vendor floor and I froze. At the very first table, in the center aisle, was Tony Todd. I was 10 feet away from the towering terror that fueled my Candyman nightmares.
He was smiling, laughing, and hugging fans in photos, but it made no difference to me. All I saw was the hook, the bees, the blood. For the rest of the convention I tried to remember to walk into that room through other doors, but in the excitement of the event, would forget and have to face him again and again.
This summer I was asked to run the pub trivia for the Greater Austin Comic Con. Just days after confirming my spot with the convention I saw a promo post for Tony Todd pop up on the GACC page and my eyes grew wide. I just couldn’t escape him. Candyman was coming for me… Again.
At the first night’s afterparty, an artist introduced me to Tony Todd…
I had just enough vodka to be convinced this was a good idea. My heart pounded louder and faster with each step as we walked to the deck where he and his friends were seated. A lot of things were hazy, but he said something along the lines of “Nice to meet you, Gemmi” as he shook my hand and smiled. Our artist friend told him that I had been scared of him most of my life and he laughed and wanted to know why. After recounting the family movie night incident he looked me right in the eye and said, “Tell your parents I said they never should have let you watch that movie so young.”
Moments later he decided he wanted to take advantage of being in Austin by seeing some live music. He mentioned C-Boys Heart and Soul and causally turned to us to ask if we were going to join them. Obviously, I went.
Tony Todd was the absolute nicest, most laid back and down to earth guy ever. At the end of the night I worked up the nerve to ask him for a photo, and he kindly obliged. I’m sure I’ll still never recite any names into mirrors, but I will always think back to this fun night as the night I faced my fear and hung out with Candyman.
The Austin-based creator and writer of Halloween Man Comics, Drew Edwards, is releasing a special feature starring Halloween Man’s girlfriend, the buxom brainiac Lucy Chaplin. The Science Starlet drops on Comixology Wednesday, July 4th, with a release party and signing on Saturday, July 7th at Hops & Heroes.
I had a chance to read the comic and it was a delight. Lucy Chaplin is a brilliant scientist who uses her inventions to fight evil-doers in this dimension and beyond. She’s a beautiful, full-figured, smart woman who, at the end of a tough day of saving the world, comes home to a tender relationship with an undead man who has also been out fighting his own monsters.
There’s obvious political satire, social commentary, and cheesecake comic book quirkiness in this fun and overdue read. Edwards gave Lucy many qualities of his wife, Austin’s own voluptuous pinup, musician, and activist, Jamie Bahr. The character was written with so much adoration and respect.
Key things I loved about this comic:
*At no point does Halloween Man have to step in and save the day. He knows Lucy has her business handled.
*Who Edwards made the president in this universe. No spoilers, just saying.
*Lucy crushing unhealthy societal beauty standards without mocking smaller-framed women in the process.
The message from the comic is clear- women are powerful, important, and equal, and can do anything they want. Want to be a leading plus-sized model AND a badass crimefighter? YOU CAN! Want to be a pioneering scientist AND celebrate your own sexiness? YOU CAN! And further, you can be loved for it all.
It’s my favorite time of year! No, I’m not a winter person. And, though I am no Scrooge, I just don’t get that excited about the holidays. No, something amazing is happening in my corner of the world December 7th-10th- Other Worlds Austin Science Fiction Film Festival (OWA)! Let me explain why this event so awesome I had to get a babysitter for my dog.
OWA is now in it’s 4th year as Austin, Texas’s only dedicated science fiction film festival. And yes, I’ve been every year. It has grown into a 4-day fest that screens and celebrates the diverse spectrum of scifi, as well as adding horror in 2016 with its Under Worlds sidebar. There are independent, international feature films and short films all making their Austin debuts at least, some as much as making their world premiere.
Films are voted on by festival attendees for Audience Choice awards, as well as given awards from the programming staff (Cthulies). In 2015 OWA added the Mary Shelley Award, awarded to “the artist (writer, director, or actress) whose film best furthers the involvement and representation of women in genre filmmaking.”
This year’s Launch Film is the 20th Anniversary screening of Event Horizon with writer Philip Eisner in attendance. I just had to painfully hold myself back from writing that entire sentence in all caps to show my excitement. Eisner is also leading a screenwriting workshop Saturday morning at the Austin School of Film Motion Media Arts Center. I will be there taking all the notes.
Did I mention the parties? One very important thing that sets OWA apart from other great festivals is the community it builds. Brunch, happy hour, preshow parties, and after-parties are scheduled with the attendees in mind. Though some are reserved for top-tier badgeholders, there are parties available to everyone. They have specialty drink menus appropriately themed for the occasion, and this year they’ve added a trivia night. Every year I get the chance to meet other fans and some of the film casts and crews over cocktails to talk about the films and scifi in general. I’ve made many great friends and valued acquaintances during these fun mingling times.
The staff really are the reason why OWA is able to build such a great event. I would know, I used to work with them. They are kind, funny, true fans who want to do the best they can to bring OWA to the scifi fans of Austin and beyond. They work year-round to find the best new scifi films to screen in Austin and make each fest better than the last. They can always be found around the fest, are helpful and ready to engage in any conversation about their favorite films. They’re good people doing stellar work. I am over the moon for all of them.
Last year OWA moved it’s base from central-ish Austin to the far north end of the city. I must admit, traveling to a galaxy far, far away (driving from South Austin to Round Rock) is not ideal. However, having Flix Brewhouse host the fest was the right move. Flix has a wonderful kitchen, a superb microbrewery, a huge free parking lot, great screens, and convenient food and drink service during the films. Their tables even slide out to meet you at your seat so eating in the dark isn’t quite as messy. I definitely need that. The venue upgrade vastly makes up for the drive.
The only real complaint I can come up with is that each film is only offered once in the program and with two theaters running, I will have to miss some of the film selections. I know how much work and care the staff puts into curating such an incredible program and I want to see all of it. I think this is just a symptom of the fest still being on the newer and smaller side, and something they could possibly remedy as the festival continues to grow. But getting the twelve guaranteed screenings, the film guest Q&As, the pre and after parties, brunch, and the screenwriting workshop that all come with my top-tier badge, at under $100, I actually feel selfish and guilty for complaining that I can’t get more.
So, this week I am faced with decisions. I haven’t figured out all my film picks yet. But these are what I know for sure. The shorts programs are always my favorite. This year there are three collections of short films- one horror, and two scifi. These take priority for me. Beyond Skyline is the only film that plays both theaters at the same time, so that is a sure bet. I think it should go without saying that I’ll be there for Event Horizon. The other films I’m leaning toward (probably?) are Flora, Tuftland, Restoration, and The Black Hole. This really is a tough one to call. I might just do blind picks and know I’ll be happy either way.
If you’re a science fiction fan in the Austin area, you’d be doing a huge disservice to yourself to miss this film festival. Badges are still on sale, and tickets for individual screenings are also available while they last. I hope I see you there. I’ll be the overly excited girl in some sort of spacey dress. Please say hello if you see me, so I can reiterate to you in person why Other Worlds Austin consistently makes me so happy.
P.S. Don’t forget to follow my new Facebook and Instagram accounts so we can discuss all your favorite festivals and films!
Austin, TX has so many wonderful interest groups and communities. My favorites are obviously the ones for creatives and entrepreneurs. These groups do everything from hosting skill-building workshops and networking meet-ups, to planning public film screenings and artist markets.
One such event is happening this weekend and I can’t wait. Nerd Cave is a free annual art and music showcase celebrating comics, gaming, and general nerdiness going on Saturday, May 13th at The Sidewinder in downtown Austin from 1-7pm.
Nerd Cave started in 2011 when Jennifer Cunningham and Matthew McCoy organized a small comic book art show at Tribe Comics in South Austin. Once Bad Barry Comp (Music Manager) and Shane Campos (Graphic Designer) got involved the group rebranded and grew into the showcase it is today. And for a dash of super hero bonus points, they also take donations at the events for local charity organizations. Tomas Fierro has stepped up as the Charity Liaison to help keep this aspect well organized.
I didn’t get involved with Nerd Cave until last year. Jennifer Cunningham, who, on top of being a super talented artist and cosplayer, is also an incredible make up artist, asked me if I’d like to join in the nerdy fun. Jen knew about my work in the different geek realms and my previous gig hosting a YouTube show, so she asked if I would come in cosplay and do interviews at the event. I went dressed in my new Super Mario Bros. fireball throwing piranha plant costume, set up a small merch table (which my fellow Frisky, Stormy L’Amour, helped me run), and filmed a handful of interviews with some of the awesome cosplayers.
I loved every minute of Nerd Cave 2016. I got to chat with fellow nerds about our shared love of fandom, geek out over clever costume construction, and meet more artists and makers and see their craft up close. The sweet and funny guys of Punching the Walls of Reality interviewed me on their podcast, and I won some great prizes in the costume contest. The live nerdcore hip hop music was new to me, but a fun and impressive surprise.
I took quite a bit of footage of the event, in addition to the interviews. And then I sat on it all. For a year. I had every intention of launching my YouTube channel last year but some things just don’t work out as planned. 2017 brings new opportunities, new goals, and another Nerd Cave Showcase. I’ll be there with new goodies on my merch table, wearing my favorite cosplay, judging the Hops & Heroes Comics sponsored cosplay contest, and filming all new footage and interviews for a real YouTube launch.
So come join us. Meet fellow nerds, talk about fandom, enter the cosplay contest, support local geek artists, enjoy the music, play games from Austin Toy Museum, chat with me on camera, donate to the Central Texas Food Bank, and have a good time.
I used to be so much more adventurous than I am now. I have driven all over this country seeking new thrills, but recently I have found myself settled into a comfortable life lacking the same spontaneity of my previous self.
In an attempt to bring more adventure back into my life, I’m saying yes to more new opportunities. So last week I modeled for the local community college’s life drawing class. FULLY NUDE.
Obviously I was nervous. Would they harshly judge my expanding waistline and my blotchy skin?
I booked the gig over a month ahead and tried not to let my nerves build up in the time leading up to it. The day of the class I made sure I was all properly shaved and moisturized, wore loose-fitting clothes (no bra!), ate a very light breakfast, packed a water bottle, and headed to the Austin Community College Pinnacle Campus.
The classroom was on the 8th floor and two sides were sprawling windows that gave the most serene views of the southwest Austin greenbelt. The teacher, Janet Brooks, instantly put me at ease by explaining the process of the session while I filled out paperwork, like it was so completely normal. Then she set up my stage, in the center of the room, brightly lit, with a cushioned and draped box for my seated pose.
The stage offered the six students 360 degrees of viewing options, which they took advantage of for their work. Brooks set a timer and circled the room giving critique and guidance to each artist until the gentle alarm sounded and I was able to get up and stretch and see the progress of each piece. After a short break I would get back into the same pose as best I could and we’d repeat. We did this about five or six times until the class was over.
Can I just say that sitting completely still for seven to ten minutes is very difficult? Because it really is. Add to that the six strangers analyzing my entire form, and you have a recipe for odd and insecure thoughts. How splotchy is my skin today? Does this pose make my belly pudge out? Or make by boobs look lopsided? Oh God, that light is directly on my back fat! Deep breath. Keep looking at the same shadowy floor tile. Posture. Is my foot resting at the same angle as before? How much weight did I put on this arm last time? Why is that muscle clenched? Has it been tense this whole time? If I relax it now will that change my pose or the light? Shit. Try not to mess up their light. Breathe. Tile. Posture. My neck hurts. Maybe don’t turn my head so far if I get this gig again? Stomach, please don’t start growling. I should get lunch after this. I haven’t had sushi in a while. But do I have a sushi budget today? Tacos might be a better choice.
The students were using a method of toning their paper with charcoal and then lifting it with erasers to draw the form. I was so impressed with all the pieces that I asked if I could share them here. But I also want to keep my nudity off of this blog, so you can see all the images of the work from this class as a Patreon Freebie!
All in all, modeling for this class was such a great experience that I even booked a couple more dates. Many thanks go to Janet Brooks and her students!
My first true love is Science Fiction. This is something I’ve known since middle school. Reading Ray Bradbury cracked open my mind to whole new worlds of possibilities. I was hooked. It’s almost impossible to pick my favorite stories of his, but The Veldt, The Earth Men, and The Pedestrian are candidates. At some point I started reading Vonnegut and Dick and my worlds got a little more twisted.
This was the start of a life-long love affair with anything SciFi. I watched Star Wars with my dad. I watch Star Trek with my mom. And I will forever be torn by the debate of Wars vs. Trek. Although, I do have some thoughts on this matter that can be an entire post on it’s own, so we’ll probably revisit this at a later date.
SciFi covers such a broad range of genres and I don’t have just one favorite. I enjoy the silly just as much as the serious. I love all the different imaginings of technology, life forms, space, and time. Some of the best works really focus on humanity and it’s response to these different imaginings. Black Mirror is probably the best show doing this right now. (In my opinion, obviously. I know there are more shows doing an amazing job with this right now.)
Two years ago I had the opportunity to attend a new SciFi film festival, Other Worlds Austin, as Press with my old YouTube show. I was completely blown away with the quality of the films curated for the event, and the friendliness of the staff and film guests involved. Directors and actors flew in from across the world to represent their films in Q&As and were kind enough to give us interviews in a quiet corner of the movie theater. A few of the feature films even went on to success on Netflix and Video On Demand, and many of them I have watched again.
I soon learned that OWA coordinated year-round events and screenings in Austin. I started attending and promoting them and soon they gave me a staff position in their Social Media/Marketing department. I worked with this dedicated staff of scifi fans and curators for over a year before my crazy project load forced me to make the very hard decision of leaving.
Next week (Dec. 1st-4th) is OWA’s 3rd annual festival! And as if I couldn’t be any more excited to go, they added HORROR to their program! Yes, Under Worlds Austin is OWA’s new expansion and I think it’s bloody brilliant. (Note: Horror post coming soon.) If you’re in the Austin area you should check it out. If you’re a filmmaker you should definitely check it out and submit to next year’s fest.
What do you like about Science Fiction? What are your favorite subgenres? Favorite writers/stories/films? Give me some recommendations to check out!
There is something I’ve known for a very long time, and from a very young age. I am weird. For a while I was ashamed and afraid that people would find out just how weird I was so I tried to hide it in many ways. That didn’t really work. First of all, my weirdness wasn’t easy to conceal. Second, I didn’t like who I was when I tried to be someone else to fit in. And honestly, I don’t think I really liked the people I was trying to fit in with.
After years of fighting it, I finally gave in to it. And I grew from just finally accepting my weirdness to fully celebrating it. What’s more is that I actually really like the other weirdos I meet. I found entire communities of people who like the same weird things I like and who have ways of celebrating their weirdness too. I fell completely in love with many subgenres of geek culture. Mostly the scifi, comic book, and horror realms and their fans. And even more specifically, my fellow creators in these fields, like writers, directors, artists, and cosplayers.
So let’s lay down some brief points of my evolution. In my early childhood I liked to play dress up. Mostly, I wanted to be Rainbow Brite and Madonna. I would build big standing microphones out of my Legos, layer on scarves and belts, and strum a fat plastic baseball bat like a guitar and sing. At some point my desire to be on stage took a back seat and I became a super nerd. I just wanted to read. I was always at the top of my class. My interests grew from stories about ballerinas to Nancy Drew. That was about the same time I started crocheting and crafting. In junior high I found my love for art, mostly sketching, and I found Edgar Allan Poe and Ray Bradbury and my life was never the same. In high school my love of horror really kicked in. In college, my first love taught me all about comic books. That was also the time I reclaimed my love for music and started photographing and writing about bands.
And then I got lost. For a few years. In that place where you try so hard to be almost anybody else that you almost don’t escape with any memory of who you really ever were. Those were dark times. Had I not found cosplay and burlesque performance, two things that are amazing both separately and together, and been led back to a world of creating, I might have been gone forever. Metaphorically and/or physically. I struggled with a lot then, so who knows.
I am at my absolute happiest when I am creating. It can be anything at all, but making a costume, a necklace, a story, a character…These things give me life. I want to celebrate that and support others who do the same. So welcome to my party. I’m your weirdo hostess and I’m glad to have you here with me.