Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Spotlight on Sarah J. Maas - SDCC 2016

This year, Comic-Con: International San Diego (#SDCC) took place 13 - 17 July 2016. What was different from years past? Me. This year, I was fortunate enough to be in attendance.

I'm a huge and very well-rounded GEEK. Comic-Con has long been on my bucket list. I still can't believe that I finally attended this summer. Thinking about the awesomeness for too long makes me want to cry. It was that fantastic! And I was there!

But let's get to the point.

The highlight of Thursday's Comic-Con programming, for me, was the panel called Spotlight on Sarah J. Maas and now (you lucky people, you) I will describe what it was like!

For the first thirty minutes or so attendees of the panel were able to sit back and listen to YouTube star Christine Riccio ask our favorite author some questions. One such question, my dear ACOTAR fans, was...So...Um...Does Tamlin look like Chris Hemsworth or what? 

SJMaas did give her approval on that casting choice, but also shared that she thought Mr. Alexander Skarsgård would also be a great option. I hope that she won't mind that I record the slightly embarrassing story that she shared next! 

SJMaas regaled us with the tale of an encounter she had with the statuesque actor! Believe it or not, Maas, who was an enormous TRUE BLOOD fan at the time, had the opportunity to meet the actor at a party. She'd been schmoozing and shaking hands when she finally had the courage to introduce herself to Skarsgård. Maas made sure we understood she's a happily married gal, but after managing to awkwardly say she was a big fan of his work, Skarsgård shook her hand. Well...starstruck as she was, starstruck as any of us would be, when she turned away she sorta, well, licked her hand. All I could think as we all delighted in her fangirl moment was that Maas has more Rhysand in her than meets the eye!

Yum. Germs aside.

The only really mortifying part is Maas thinks its possible that Skarsgård was behind her to witness the hand licking, in which case he may think she's a little creepy.

Speaking of fangirling... SJMaas is extremely beautiful and very down to earth. It was just lovely to listen to her fangirl about "Jo" Rowling. She's a huge Potterhead. There I was, a huge Maas fan, listening to her speak about one of her own favorite authors. It is on that subject that she shared another endearing anecdote. 

It seems SJMaas was always a very proud Gryffindor. And who wouldn't be? But she had never been properly sorted. To top things off, her husband, who was not into Potter at the time would often do or say things which would inspire Maas to remark, "You are such a Hufflepuff!" (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

Well, one day a friend started asking Maas random questions. It turned out, she was sorting her using an online quiz. So, of course Maas was officially sorted into...you guessed it...Hufflepuff! She was devastated and took a long time to get over it! Any Potterhead can relate! 

But now Maas is a proud Hufflepuff, having learned all of the pertinent characteristics and history.

The best part is she asked her hubs the questions and he, dear hearts, is the Gryffindor. Can you with how sweet that is? I love it.

The best thirty minutes of a Comic-Con panel are the last thirty minutes. That is when our host announces they'll open up for questions and we all run like crazy for the one microphone in the room, praying we will make it and our questions will be heard.

My strategy in choosing where to sit was based solely on getting as close to that beautiful microphone as I could possibly get. 

Then it happened. The announcement was made. The mic shined before me. And I choked. I completely hesitated, my heartbeat pounding in my skull. But my best friend pushed me. She physically pushed me with every ounce of strength she had out of my seat and into the aisle.

SJMaas looked at me and she thanked me for being first. Our favorite author is a very humble person. She intimated that she couldn't even understand how she'd come to have her very own panel. How could she not?? Right?

I said: "Hi my name is Sasha, I'm an aspiring author and my question is, without giving away any spoilers, as you were writing ACOTAR, when did you know Rhysand would be so important?"

Small backstory: I am a discovery writer, which makes outlining very difficult. I had to know if Rhys was a character she knew in and out from the very beginning.

SJMaas said she knew as soon as he sauntered his hot butt onto the page. 

She discovered Rhys and as soon as she did, she was hooked, intrigued and had to keep learning about--dare I say--the most surprising male character in YA fantasy to date.

As a writer, this gave me hope.

Another fan asked how SJMaas learned to do such clever foreshadowing. Like every good writer, Maas is a reader, too, and credits the Harry Potter series for getting her mind working properly.

Did I mention that during the panel I was sitting behind Wonder Woman? Because...Comic-Con.

The last story from the panel that I'll share was one that Christine Riccio posed. It was a mystery for me, too, so I'm so glad that she did. 

Riccio asked: "So, the Rainbow Road in ACOMAF...is it a literal rainbow like Rainbow Road in Mario Kart?"

Oh, the belly laughter! That is so a legitimate question!

No, my friends, it was not at all meant to look like Mario Kart. The Rainbow Road, according to SJMaas, was inspired by artists' quarters around the world. Its colorful. Now I understand.

Thank you for reading.

And thank you, SJMaas for being so inspiring and gracious. It was an absolute honor attending your panel. Teardrop/ 

We have the same initials. That has to mean something cosmic, right?

So, you think you want to attend Comic-Con!? Check out my previous blog post on how to make that happen. 


I am Sasha Janel McBrayer. I have a handful of short, speculative stories published and am an aspiring YA fantasy novelist. I sometimes review movies and TV for local media. I like to shoot skeet and paint my fingernails really loud, pretty colors. (You should totally follow me on Twitter! @storyby_sasha )

Yes, I am LADYHAWKE over at Magic in the Library (@magiclibrary) where we review fantasy books.

We're one month away from the exciting release of SNAKEBIT! My original short story follows the South's most notorious female serial killer, The Medusa Killer, as Special Agent Scott Perseus hunts her down. Does he stand a chance? PRE-ORDER AVAILABLE NOW. You can read the next issue of 9Tales on your kindle or on the FREE kindle app on your desktop or smart phone.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

So, You Think You Want to Come to Comic-Con?

This year, Comic-Con: International San Diego (#SDCC) took place 13 - 17 July 2016. What was different from years past? Me. This year, I was fortunate enough to be in attendance.

What is Comic-Con? Well, what started in 1970 as a modest comic book convention (peopled also by some film and sci-fi fans) has become THE media festival of the year and Mecca to geeks everywhere. According to Comic-Con's official website, the event has topped 130,000 attendees.

If you earn a ticket, you can expect access to an enormous exhibit hall where companies show off exclusive merchandise, hand-out giveaways, showcase unique paraphernalia, and even display video sneak-peeks. What sorts of companies man tables in the exhibit hall? Oh, you know, Top Cow Comics, BBC America (Can you say "Doctor Who?"), AMC's The Walking Dead, Penguin Books, Nintendo, Star Wars, Conan O'Brien, Lego, Funimation, MTV and much, much, MUCH more.

Occasionally, your favorite actors, authors and personalities even schedule visits to their affiliated table. For instance, I was very sad to miss it when Penguin Teen's booth gave away ARC copies of A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir at 3PM on Saturday or the day prior when Tahir herself sat at the booth to sign copies.

The exhibit hall is chaos; however, and daunting to navigate. If you really want to chill with your favorite celeb, there are also panels, which take place in nice meeting rooms above the exhibit hall and in ballrooms inside neighboring hotels. San Diego Comic-Con has taken over a solid chunk of the beautiful city's gas lamp district, right on the water. Needless to say, I've never walked so much in my life.

I'll speak more on panels later, but know that there are often three, at least, going on at any given time, so attendees have to major in prioritization FOR REAL. A panel could be anything from "How to Pitch your idea to Hollywood" (ya know, useful guides for we creative types), to Q & A with the cast of USA's Mr. Robot. Yes, I did attend that one this year and it was marvelous. A fan asked a question and the next thing you know, the whole world has learned that Christian Slater plays Pokemon Go!

Yes, I'd say about 1 or 2% of the crowd of attendees dress in costume. For the uninitiated, we call this cosplay. You don't have to actually "play" your character in any sort of formal setting. If you do dress up, just expect to be stopped by folks who want a picture with you.

There are also screenings of movies, new and old (this year you could celebrate 30 years of LABYRINTH or snag a ticket for an advance showing of Star Trek Beyond). You can learn how to play D&D or White Wolf. Or the serious cosplayer can attend contests or a proper masquerade.

My favorite part of Comic-Con is getting elbow to elbow with celebs. Okay, so 400 feet away isn't exactly elbow to elbow, but it is still very fun. Often your favorites have scheduled time slots for autograph signings also and unlike some newer, smaller, local conventions, there is NO COST to obtain an autograph at Comic-Con. That being said, a celeb can refuse to sign the item of your choosing, so...be reasonable. Kristen Bell may not want to sign your 9 month old's forehead. That's kind of weird and, ya know, alive.

Celebs I was in the room with were Slater, Bell, Ted Danson, Josh Holloway, Sarah Wayne Callies, Rami Malek and one of my favorite, favorite, favorite authors of all time, the beautiful Sarah J. Maas. There were more, not to mention directors, producers and writers for some pretty wonderful shows (BUFFY, yes, I just said BUFFY).

I'll continue to blog about my experience, which was totally fantastic, but for this first installment I want to make sure to explain how you, too, can take part in Comic-Con.

If you're reading all of this and you can barely sit still with excitement, you need to come. If you're reading all of this and you don't understand why a gal from the green state of Georgia would fly all the way to San Diego for such an event, but you'd like to see Christian Slater or, dare I say it, Daryl actor, The Walking Dead's Norman Reedus, what you need to do, my friend, is find a smaller, local convention.

Cons are all the rage right now. Walker Stalker will be in Atlanta, Orlando, London, Chicago...there's even a cruise now. If you're a fan of The Walking Dead, but not a whole lot else. Guess what? It's okay to go small. At least you'll save money on plane tickets.

Likewise, MEGACON takes place every year in Orlando. This year William Shatner and Stan Lee were there as well as actors from Harry Potter, Daredevil and The Walking Dead.

For me, THE Comic-Con had always been on my bucket list. I just had to go. If you feel the same, here's the bottom line. This is what you need to do.

Follow the link right now, right this minute, and register with the official website to get your own, individual Comic-Con ID.

Here's the thing, fanboys and fangirls, getting tickets was HARD. The nice thing is, if you have a blog, some business cards, and have written three media reviews in the past year or so, you qualify as a member of the press and can get one day of Comic-Con free. Sorry, there's no plus one.

Even if you aren't a member of the press, SDCC is very, very affordable. The cost for tix is about $50 per day. What will get you is the flight and hotel.

Do not procrastinate in registering with the site and obtaining your ID. I believe I registered in the later months of 2014. I did this in order to have a chance to purchase tickets in February of 2015. Notice that while Comic-Con is every year in July, tickets go on sale for a minuscule, insane twenty minute window in February. In fact, if you are lucky enough to buy tickets, the official schedule of events isn't even released until two weeks prior to the actual convention in July.

The worst part of this for me was NOT getting tickets in February of 2015. I had already put aside money for the flight. I was heartbroken. I almost didn't try again in February of 2016, but obviously I did and this time with pleasing results.

So, once you have registered with the site an obtained your ID, you wait until February. Comic-Con will email you, informing you that in SEVEN days you'll be able to use the link and the code they send to get into the EPIC Registration Waiting Room. This is a webpage. You will login at the appropriate time and you will WAIT. You won't refresh. You'll wait and wait and wait.

Thousands of people login all over the world and wait for the algorithm to randomly select a few people at a time and drop them onto the page that allows ticket buying.

In addition to doing this myself, I gave my unique ID to two other people. Guess what. I never won this painful lottery. I never was scooped up and dropped onto the purchase page. My best friend WAS and there was lots of screaming (she was on her desktop and I was next to her on my smart phone).

So, yes, you can buy tix for a friend IF they registered and IF they gave you their ID. Likewise a friend who has registered and has your ID can buy tix for you. You cannot give away or buy scalped Comic-Con tix. My badge has my legal name on it.

This year, when my bestie was dropped onto the purchase page, after the screaming, the biggest days of Comic-Con were sold out. We simply didn't have the option to buy tix for Friday or Saturday. We chose Thursday (there's also a preview day on Wednesday and a regular convention day on Sunday available).

A clock then counts down, giving you a bare minimum amount of time to chose who is getting which tix (you need member ID and full legal name), input your credit card info and address and complete your purchase. Oh the humanity!!

This year about a month prior Comic-Con International mailed out our badges. They were sent to her address and we just had to like NOT lose them.

I hear you can guarantee yourself a ticket by volunteering to work at the convention. I'm not sure how the scheduling works, though. If I'm working concessions at the same time as a can't miss panel... Ug.

I also hear that now that I have been to the Con one time, I will get early bird access to buy tix next year. Would I go back? YES SIR (or ma'am)! Fingers crossed, I'll reveal what that's like another time.

So, THAT is the process in a nut shell. There's a lot of planning ahead here, folks, and very few guarantees.