Tuesday Tip

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You finished your first draft; now you’re done, right? WRONG. Not even close. Theoretically, you’re at the beginning yet again. After all, a great book isn’t written–it’s rewritten.

I’ve heard people say they don’t revise or rewrite. Shame on you. A good book, I mean one worth paying money for, has three things.

  • A well-constructed plot
  • Fully-developed characters
  • Smooth prose

Trust me, you can’t achieve those three things in one draft.

Writing requires imagination, creativity, and long hours of time. Rewriting requires less imagination and a whole lot more courage. It’s not for the weak or timid. You’ll be making big decisions. Most of us struggle to make small ones like what to order in drive-thru.

You have to decide if your protagonist is the best voice for your story; if entire scenes should be revised, removed, or added; whether characters be removed or added: whether or not your beginning works; or if the end provides any payoff.

These are the choices you have to make before you even decide does this sentence sound good?

What is rewriting?

There’s a big misconception about what rewriting is. It’s not perfecting a sentence here or there, or correcting typos, it’s gutting, hacking, and dismembering your first draft.

This might sound daunting. You’re playing doctor–God even! I’m talking total reconstructive surgery, not a botox injection.

Difference between revising and rewriting

Some people use the two terms interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing although you’ll probably do a combination of both.

To summarize: Revision is adding and deleting a few words or adding more character motivation or adding or removing description. Rewriting is deleting or adding whole scenes, deleting characters, or changing a POV.

For some straightforward and hilarious examples, see here.

How many rewrites?

There isn’t a certain number. It depends on the MS. My current MS is on rewrite number two. Planning helps cut down on rewrites.

So what’s the first step?

Back away from the manuscript and nobody gets hurt. It might be easier to make objective opinions once you’ve separated yourself from your writing. When you come back to it (say in a week or month or so), that glittering sentence might not shine anymore, or you might unearth some hidden gems.

Look at the big picture

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Ask yourself with an objective eye: What does my protagonist want? Is it clear?

What is the plot? The theme? The conflict?

Did you select the best character to be your protagonist?

Could some characters be cut or blended? Do multiple characters serve the same purpose?

Is your plot well structured? Do any side plots deviate from the main plot?

Be objective or find an objective eye

Looking at the big picture can be challenging when you’re nearsighted, and all authors are–we’re way too close to our WIP to see it clearly. This doesn’t mean we can’t try to be objective. I usually read through and make an often very long list of questions that arise, changes I want to make, plot holes (often gaping and cavernous), side plots or character arcs that are unfulfilled, and other areas of concern.

If you know something is wrong but can’t put your finger on it, consider enlisting help.

Step two: outline

Did you outline before you wrote? Even if you did, once isn’t enough. Rewrite your outline before you rewrite your MS.

You’re not mistaken. Not only am I telling you to rewrite your novel, I’m telling you to rewrite your outline. That’s a lot of rewriting–but the more prepared you are, the less you’ll have to rewrite. Planning can make the difference between two and ten rewrites.

I look back at my first outline and realize I either deviated from it for better or for worse, or I decided to change it. Don’t work off of an old outline. An outline can be your typical diagram or a detailed description of each scene and chapter. If you don’t know how to create an outline, check out this prior Tuesday Tip.

Example of a detailed outline:

Chapter one: Introduce main character, best trait, fatal flaw, ordinary world, goal, and conflict.

Scene one: Start with attention grabbing sentence. Main character is doing this . . . then this happens . . . and so on.

I’m shy about sharing my work but to give you an example of how much my beginning has changed since I started rewriting, this is how my WIP used to start.

Character (side character) discovers that a city has been destroyed and all the inhabitants killed after a very long inner monologue. Next scene takes place years later and introduces main character with major supporting side character.

Notes that I made before revision:

  • No clear main character
  • POV character doesn’t appear again for a couple of chapters
  • Info dump: Might be more interesting to slowly reveal the back story leading up to current events
  • Might be better to start with the destruction of the city from the POV of main character
  • Next scene is too jarring. Too much relies on understanding the characters and their relationship, culture, etc that can’t be summarized in a paragraph

Revised Outline: This is how it starts now (still in progress).

Main character is introduced. Reader is introduced to his world and culture. Exposition is interwoven throughout text instead of being dumped. Character goes to city and destroys it. Conflict is introduced with inciting incident and call to action. Character refuses the call. Character then answers the call to action.

It’s still in the works but what I like is that the main character starts the story. You see how the events that the other character stumbles upon unfold. You see how the main protagonist and main supporting character meet. You get to know him and his goals before the action starts.

What’s still needed. I still need a clearer definition of my character’s goals. I have a basic idea of what he wants, but I need to make sure his goals are strong enough to always be his driving force.

Step three: should it stay or should it go

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Get rid of the clutter and your manuscript is going to be fabulous

I love those home remodeling shows where they make the homeowner choose what to keep, toss, or sell from their clutter. I adopted a similar strategy for revising my MS. I read through from beginning to end, highlighting every word and sentence I want to keep. In a different color I highlight what I want to delete. In a third color what I want to keep for a different project. After I do this I can delete this version so I don’t end up with five or seven word files.

Try this. Chances are, even if an entire scene has to go, you might find a good snippet of dialogue or a wonderful description. If you can still use it, don’t lose it.

Step four: Rewrite or revise

If the scene is good, you may only need to revise: correct syntax, cut and add sentences, etc. But if you are making major changes, you might just want to rewrite. I usually rewrite the entire scene without looking at the old version, or else you just end up with a version that is only slightly different. Then combine the elements that you are keeping from the previous written scene.

Essentially how you rewrite or revise will depend on what kind of writer you are. Do you overwrite? underwrite? Based on that, you may need to cut scenes or write new ones to fill in the gaps. Do you go into too much description or need to add? Do your characters talk too much or not enough?

This is my method. There are others out there. Find the one that works for you. What are some methods that work for you? What are some tricks or tips that you use to make the process easier. Please share.

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Speak Friend and Read Tolkien

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Happy Tolkien Reading Day! Today is the day to celebrate with your favorite passages and works by the late and great J. R. R. Tolkien.

MV5BMTkxNDQ0MjQ3OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDE1NTE1MDE@__V1_SY317_CR12,0,214,317_AL_The theme this year is friendship, which I think is really appropriate considering friendship is an important theme throughout his works, not to mention the movie about the famous friendship between Tolkien and C.S. Lewis comes out April this year.

The theme of friendship in Tolkien’s works has been studied by critics who have debated whether or not his friendships are based on his own personal relationships and if there is homo eroticism in his works.

When I think about friendship, the Fellowship of the Ring immediately comes to mind, but the theme of friendship appears in Tolkien’s other works as well. You don’t have to read an entire book to celebrate Tolkien Reading Day (impossible to do in one day). Just read passages that focus on friendship. Here are some of my favorites.

Sam & Frodo

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This is probably the most famous and controversial friendship in Tolkien’s writing. A friendship founded by loyalty and love, this friendship could easily have been based on the bonds he formed during his military career.

This friendship stands out because of the extreme devotion Frodo and Sam have for each other, but also because of the accusations of their relationship being homoerotic (a theory that was made even more popular after the release of Peter Jackson’s adaptations). Stroking and kissing doesn’t necessary mean they are romantic, though the idea they are romantic is supported by the philosophy of C.S Lewis as outlined in his book,The Four Loves. Without going into great detail about the four love types, Frodo and Sam fall into the romantic category.

I think it’s open to interpretation whether or not their relationship is platonic or homoerotic. I like it either way. The friendship is based on values that we can all agree relationships should have. To borrow a little from Thorin’s quote, I think if we all valued friendship as much as Frodo and Sam, the world would be a merrier place.

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The Fellowship

Fellowship Another friendship that may or may not have been based on personal friendships. Critics have argued that the Fellowship is based on the Inklings, a literary group Tolkien was a member of with C.S. Lewis. The group was founded in friendship instead of the goal of gaining power (cough, cough Boromir). The members of the group became friends through the shared quest of writing. The members of the fellowship become friends through the shared quest of destroying the one ring.

Like the members of the Inklings, the members of the fellowship divulge very little information about themselves. Hence why no one knows for the longest time that Strider is the lost heir Aragorn. They focus on the common goal, not personal commonality.

Legolas & Gimli

picProbably one of my favorite friendships because they start off hating each other. If you want to read about their friendship, it really doesn’t start until after they leave Lothlorien. By fighting with each other Gimli and Legolas form a bond out of mutual respect. This friendship could also have been based on his military relationships or even his Oxford days.

Thorin & Bilbo

tumblr_nfal4rNEIF1sns9vwo1_1280You have to love the friendship of Bilbo and Thorin. Their’s is a friendship founded in trust and loyalty. I’m still reading The Hobbit, so I haven’t gotten to the end. I like how Peter Jackson’s films portray the friendship, but I wished he would have played it up a little bit more like he did with Sam and Frodo. I wanted more of that.

 Túrin & Beleg

doriath___beleg_and_young_turin_by_ekukanova-d55u100A lesser known friendship. This one is from the Silmarillion. It’s about Túrin, also known as Neithan, Gorthol, Turambar (you get the picture). While he was known as Túrin, he was the adopted human son of the elvish King Thingol and brother-in-arms with the warrior Beleg. Essentially Túrin is accused of murder and is exiled. His friend Beleg is extremely loyal to him. He gets permission from Thingol to go in search of him. In a series of reunions, he begs him to return, but Túrin won’t go back with him. Since Túrin won’t return, Beleg ultimately decides to stay with him. Eventually Túrin is captured by orcs during a raid that leaves Beleg gravely wounded, but he is a great warrior and an even better friend, so he goes after Túrin. His loyalty, love, and devotion aren’t exactly repaid when Túrin accidentally kills him while he tries to free him from the orcs. If you think this friendship sounds one sided, it’s not. Túrin does love Beleg. He grieves his loss and sings a song for him called “The song of the great Bow” in honor of his friend.

My sister, the C.S. Lewis to my Tolkien. The Frodo to my Sam.

My sister, the C.S. Lewis to my Tolkien. The Frodo to my Sam.

This Tolkien Reading Day, celebrate the friendships in Tolkiens works as well as the ones in your personal lives. My best friend is my sister. We do everything together, even write together like C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. We often joke that we are Lewis and Tolkien reincarnated because of our bond and our writing styles. Today I will celebrate with my sister by watching The Battle of the Five Armies and reading The Hobbit.

Whose your best friend? What is your favorite friendship in Tolkien? How will you celebrate Tolkien Reading Day?

 

Tuesday Tip

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This Tuesday’s tip is about something we all, not just writers, struggle with: How to be positive.

It’s hard to be positive; after all, our brains are innately hardwired to be negative. That doesn’t mean we can’t be optimistic, it just means it requires some effort.

I’ve always considered myself to be a positive person, but the last couple years (weeks even) have really proven it.

For those of you are negatively inclined, Here’s a quick course in optimism.

Tell yourself it will be OK

This sounds like a placating lie you tell to children, but consider repeating this to yourself when you feel down. Remember the last time you felt this way. Everything probably worked itself out or wasn’t as bad as you thought it was.

Rate your problem

On a scale of mole hill to mountain, how big really is your problem? Did you spill your coffee? Break a shoelace? Smear some lipstick on your face? I’d file these in the mole hill category.

Start your day in a positive way

How you start your day sets the tone. Repeat positive affirmations, set your alarm to play your favorite song, call your favorite person on your way to work.

Like a good story, the end is just as important as the beginning. Think of only the good things that happened that day. Don’t dwell on worries before going to sleep.

Fine something positive in any negative situation

This can be difficult. How do you find a silver lining in a bad situation?

Here are some examples from my personal life.

Mom has cancer: Our family spends more time together. She is responding to treatment. We have more time than we were told initially. We don’t take things for granted.

Office closed: Found a job that pays more and has benefits.

Ended a relationship: I live with my sister (it’s like a sleepover every night). I see my son more. I have more money and time. I have more freedom and control over my life.

Remove negative influences

Who is the most negative person in your life?

Divorce them, block their number, break up with them, remove them from social media, avoid them like the plague.

What are you doing when you feel the most negative?

Facebook? Watching TV? Stop doing those things or limit your time doing them.

Don’t stress the small stuff

I cannot stress this enough. Pun intended. Going back to the rating scale, if your problem is a molehill, don’t make a mountain of it. If you lost a five dollar bill. Move on. You dropped some food on your shirt. Deal with it. Some toilet paper followed you out of the bathroom on your shoe. Carry on.

Make a list

If negative thoughts are swimming around in your head, get them out of your mind and put them on paper. Listing your problems helps you sort them.

Be a positive influence

Negativity spreads like the flu. Luckily so does optimism. I’ve had customers enter my store with a frown and leave with a smile because of my sunny disposition.

Have a laugh

Laugh until you sound and look like a seal.

Watch a comedy, go to I waste so much time.com or ifunny. Spend time with people who make you laugh. Heck, my mom makes me laugh about cancer.

Enjoy this funny video that sums it up the message of this post.

Speak Friend and Take the Poll

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Wednesday is Tolkien Reading Day! This year’s theme is friendship, so for fun, here are some of my favorite friendships that appear in Tolkien’s writing. Which one is your favorite?

Take a Break from Life to Watch this Video: Game of Thrones/Taylor Swift Mashup

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Life has been firing lemons from a lemon-grenade launcher at me all week, so instead of my planned post, here’s one I whipped up in a pinch just for fun. After all, humor is the cure-all for life’s troubles. But don’t worry, for those of you who follow me for content, I will try to resume my regular blogging schedule on Tuesday with a new Tuesday Tip.

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A blog post is coming. It’s on it’s way. It’s gonna be amazing.

In the meantime, I’m going to be catching up on my blog, writing, editing, and life in general, I’ll also be catching up on Game of Thrones. One more disc and I’ll be finished with season 4.

And speaking of Game of Thrones, if you haven’t seen it yet, please enjoy this Game of Thrones/Taylor Swift parody “Blank Page.” I promise you, there are no spoilers, but I warn you, it will be stuck in your head for days.

http://www.nerdist.com/vepisode/nerdist-presents-game-of-thrones-meets-taylor-swift-in-blank-page/

Ask An Author

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If you have a question about writing, the right person to ask is another writer. It’s March already, which means it’s time for Ask an Author: the guest feature that puts the author in authoritative.


54d25dc9b6577.image March’s featured author is Kylie Betzner, author of comedic fantasy, reader, blogger, coffee lover, and my very own twin sister. For the record, I’m not featuring her because she’s family. I like to consider myself more objective than that. My sister and I give each other advice on everything: hair, clothes, dating, etc. It just so happens, she also has a lot of advice about writing, mainly how to work on multiple projects simultaneously. If I were to consult anyone on this subject, it would be her. While she worked on her debut novel, “The Quest for the Holy Something or Other.” she was also drafting books one, two, and three of her upcoming fantasy parody (tentative release in 2015). I like to think of balancing writing projects as cooking food on multiple burners, but she has her own spin. Enjoy!


The Book Factory: How to Manage Multiple Writing Projects

huge_7_36918Writers often have more than one writing project going on at once, whether we plan to or not. It can’t be helped. Our busy minds are constantly churning out new ideas and finding inspiration just about anywhere. And sometimes we just can’t wait to finish one project before tinkering with the next. I know I’m guilty of it. I’m sure you are as well. I’m not here to tell you to stop. I’m here to give you some advice on how to successfully manage multiple writing projects.

Now before we start, I just want to make one thing clear: I am not an expert; I’m a published author. I’m only sharing with you a system that works for me and some advice to make it your own. Take or leave what you will. Keep in mind the purpose of Ask and Author is for authors to share their best practices with their fellow writers. And because juggling multiple projects is something I do well, my sister requested for me to speak on this subject.

So what makes me such a successful juggler? For starters, I’ve got this great metaphor that really helps me keep things in perspective. I refer to it as “the book factory.” I know what you’re thinking: that’s a cold comparison. But the end goal is the same—to put out a product that is suitable for public consumption. And in the same way that a product—say an automobile—is manufactured on the production line through a series of sequential operations, a novel undergoes the various stages of the writing process: planning, drafting, editing, and publishing. To keep all of my projects moving forward, I try to put one project on the belt at a time and let it reach the next stage before I start the next, and so on and so forth until I have a never-ending line of projects in the works.

The key is balance, and for me it’s keeping all projects at various stages. Think about it. You wouldn’t want to have two or three projects in the editing stages; your editors would kill you! And I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how exhausting it is to draft more than one novel at the same time. What’s worked best for me is having one project in each stage. While I’m drafting one novel, I’m editing another, all while simultaneously planning the next. This keeps things moving forward, so when I finish the edits on one book and begin the publishing process, I’ve already got a finished draft ready to be edited and a new one to start.

Are you overwhelmed yet? Don’t worry, that’s normal when tackling multiple projects. Here’s some advice to make juggling multiple projects more doable:

Allot a Specific Block of Time for Each Project Every Day

For those of us with short attention spans or limited free time, this method works well. For example, I drive approximately one hour to and from work each day. I might allot this time to brainstorming my upcoming projects. I have a half hour lunch each day during which I could dedicate to drafting a scene from my work in progress. This would leave me several hours in the evening to complete edits on my most advanced project.

My suggestion if you choose to try this method: schedule the time slots according to your energy level. I am most alert in the evenings after a quick power nap. That’s why I tackle the most difficult tasks then. If you’re a morning person consider drafting or editing after breakfast.

You might also schedule at least an hour for each task but no more than two or three. It’s not about spending a lot of time on a task but making use of the time you have.

Schedule Each Project for a Different Day of the Week

 Instead of trying to tackle multiple projects every day try spreading them out throughout the week. For example, I have three projects going on right now: one in the editing phase, one in the drafting phase, and one in the planning phase. And might I add I have a published work that needs some attention in regards to marketing. You have to factor that in, too. So here’s an example of how my week might work: Monday and Wednesday I might devote some time to marketing my published work. Tuesday and Thursday I might work on drafting my novel. Saturdays and Sundays might be good editing days, while Fridays, being lazy days, might be ideal for brainstorming new ideas.

My suggestion would be to keep a calendar, whether on hand or electronically. Myself, I keep a Google calendar.

Work on One Project at a Time for a Fixed Number of Days

 For those of us who would prefer to focus on one project at a time, there’s an option. Choose your most pressing project to work on first and dedicate a certain number of days to work on it. Maybe one week, two weeks, an entire month, whatever works best for you and then spend a certain number of hours each day focusing solely on that project—no tinkering in other projects. Then, when that time is up move on to the next project. You don’t have to give each project the same amount of days. Planning a new project might only take a week while drafting and editing might require at least two. Don’t expect to finish each project during that time. And remember, you’re not giving up on it, you’re only setting it aside.

Whatever method you choose, make sure you stick to it. Falling behind on one or more projects is a good way to back up your line and ensure that none of your projects get done. And there’s no shame in reducing your work load if you discover it’s too much. One of the keys to successfully managing multiple projects is to be realistic about how many projects you can handle.


 

untitledFor more advice from my sister, or to learn more about her recent and upcoming projects, please visit her blog here.

or follow her on Twitter @kbbetzner

You can find her debut novel on Amazon. Also, don’t forget to stay tuned for news on her upcoming projects.

Join me again in April for another awesome author!


 

Meet the King of Sass and Class

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I love meeting other Tolkien fans, but that can be a challenge in my hometown (We do, however, have a surplus of Harry Potter fans). Thank goodness for the Webosphere.

Since I started cosplaying, I’ve met so many awesome people (and other Hobbit fans). One of which, I had the privilege of interviewing recently.

I discovered the King of Sass and Class, Joshua Dart (better known as Thranduart) while browsing Thranduil cosplays on Google while I was developing my own Thranduil costume. I saw a couple of pics of him at a Starbucks and I thought to myself, here is a fan I want to get to know.

For those of you who haven’t heard of Thranduart, you must not be a fan of the Hobbit. He has a strong online presence and he’s a very enthusiastic Tolkien fan.

Without further delay, here is the interview with the Party King.

Thranduart: It’s Good to be the Elven King

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How long have you been a Tolkien fan?

Since I was about 15 years old–over half my life.

Is this your first cosplay? How long have you been cosplaying as Thranduil?

Yes, Thranduil is technically my first cosplay. I dressed as him for my first convention ever, Dragon Con 2013, and that’s where it all started.

What drew you to this particular character? Why do you think Thranduil has such a large following?

Honestly, the look. I was super impressed by the Weta team’s design for the character and I just felt like I could pull it off really well–I guess I was right!

Agreed : )

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How long did it take you to develop this costume?

About four months of on and off work in the beginning. The Starlight Robes (silver) took about two months on and off. The crown alone took thirteen to fifteen man hours.

Are you going to continue developing your costume? What additions or changes will you make now that you’ve seen BOFA?

Well I definitely want to make the armor version. And I have to re-make my crown because i sold the second version.

How far have you traveled as the Party King? How many cons or fan events have you attended in costume? Any plans for this year?

I’ve been to Dragon Con, Tampa Bay Comic Con, Mega Con (Orlando), and NYC for the Hobbit BOFA Fan Event. NYC is the farthest this costume has been so far. 

When you’re not the Party King, tell us a little about yourself when you’re not in character.

Hmm . . . hard to really put yourself into words. I’m a pretty easy going guy, but I love to read and watch movies. I ADORE going to movies. It’s probably my favorite thing.

Where did you see BOFA for the first time? Your reactions/responses to the movie.

At the NYC Fan Event. I cried like a baby afterwards. It just felt like an ending and I didn’t want it to be over. 

As a die-hard Tolkien fan, I think you’d be a reliable person to ask, what do you think (against or in defense) of some of the changes Peter Jackson has made in his adaptation.

I think you have to separate the two, honestly. Tolkien created this beautiful, fantastic world of characters and places. Peter took that to another level and made it his own. Whether or not you agree with that is a whole different story. I think the movies are spectacular in their own way, just like Tolkien’s writings. 

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Pace face!!!

You met the fabulous, handsome, and charming Lee Pace. Tell us about that. Is this the highlight of your year?

Oh, gosh, definitely. He was so kind to come out there and visit with us. He didn’t have to–what an amazing feeling when his assistant came out and told us he wanted to come out and say hi to us. Incredible. And the things he and his assistant said about my costume just made me feel like all the hard work had paid off. Best day.

I, as well as other fans, would like to see some Thranduil tutorials on YouTube. Any plans for this or expanding your presence on YouTube?

Gosh, it’s so hard to find the time, but I really want to make a makeup tutorial, as well as a bloopers reel for the music video.

Speaking of your presence on YouTube, the Lady Gaga video was perfect. Tell me about this project.

It was a labor of love, to be certain! SO much planning and hard work went into it, but I had help from amazing people. Without them, it never would have been as amazing as it was. As far as future videos, I would love to do more! We shall see!

(If you haven’t seen this, check it out now. I’m sure this was just as much fun to make as it is to watch)

You certainly feel the love as the Party King. I think some people obsess about you as much as they do over Lee Pace. Ever run into haters? How do you deal with them?

I think everyone has people that don’t care for them, no matter who they are or how “famous” they are considered. Sometimes you know that they exist, sometimes you don’t. If you are unfortunate enough to be made aware of their presence, you just have to remember that at the end of the day, the only opinion that matters is your own. I truly try to live by one of my favorite quotes, “What other people think of me is none of my business” -RuPaul

As first time cosplayers, after the convention ended, the makeup and wigs were removed (with much effort and spirit gum remover), my sister and I were at a bit of a loss. Do you ever feel this way after a convention or fan event?

Not really, honestly. I’m usually in costume for long periods, so I’m ready for it to be off. And by that point, I’ve had my fill.

Speaking of feeling at a loss, we’ve probably seen our last Peter Jackson adaptation of Tolkien’s works. How do you feel now that we’ve come to the end of this journey? Do you think Tolkien and Peter Jackson’s works will live on or do you think they will be buried under future trends?

I think the movies will live forever in their own way because they are so special and mean so much to so many people. I know they will for me. Hello Extended Editions!!!

Long live Tolkien and Peter Jackson’s creations, and long live the Party King!

thgIf you’d like to connect with Thranduart, check out these links:

Facebook

Twitter

Redbubble (where you can purchase Party King memorabilia)

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