Making a splash at BookBar in Denver, part 2 November 22, 2017 09:00

From Jess: 

In my last blog post, I shared some memorable moments and great photos from our first appearance at Denver's BookBar -- now, on to the second event!

Friday, November 10th

While our first event dealt with our children's storybook, "Rescue Sirens and the Great Fish Round-Up," our second appearance featured our middle-grade/young adult novel, "Rescue Sirens: The Search for the Atavist." Chris and I each planned to read selections from the book, after which we'd hold a question-and-answer session and signing.

I chose to read the novel's prologue; it was my initial pitch for the property as well as what convinced Chris that I had a good idea going, and it's a perfect introduction to the world of our mermaids (if I do say so m'self).

When I'd finished reading the prologue, Chris flipped through the book until he reached Chapter Six, "Put to the Test," and he read the section describing Pippa's portion of the mermaid tests that the Rescue Sirens put Kelby through while trying to determine if she's the Atavist.

The Q&A segment was so much fun! The audience was really engaging and asked great questions. Here are a few, along with (less-rambly versions) of our answers:

  • What was the process of making the novel? ...Okay, I've already made a liar of myself, because there's no way to answer this question without rambling at least a little bit! Fortunately, it's all in the response to the frequently asked question "How do two people co-write a book?" (Just click the + sign to expand the answer.)
  • Does Chris prefer drawing or writing? Writing! Why? It's less physically demanding, for one thing. You can write and write and write all day long.
  • Did we do any research about mermaid myths in other cultures? Absolutely! From the beginning, I've envisioned "Rescue Sirens" as a global property, paying homage to mermaid myths from around the world. In our universe, Rescue Sirens exist wherever there's a shoreline to protect, and it would be a lot of fun to travel in the stories and encounter Rescue Sirens inspired by, say, the Mami Wata of Africa, or the selkies of Scotland and Ireland. Celebrating diversity is really important to us. On a related note, there are a surprising number of myths describing women who jumped or fell into the sea and became mermaids instead of drowning (like Assyria's Atargatis, Macedonia's Thessalonike, or Ireland's Liban), which aligns nicely with the mythology of the Atavist that I invented especially for "Rescue Sirens." I spent something like a year and a half developing "Rescue Sirens" before ever starting work on the first novel! I love world-building.
  • When was Chris's "That's it!" or "Ah-ha!" moment while reading the pitch/prologue for the first time? Chris said that he'd realized I'd had something special with my "Rescue Sirens" concept when he saw that I'd "solved" a couple of stubborn issues related to mermaids living amongst humans -- so many mermaid stories rely on the tradition of mermaids transforming into their tails automatically when they get wet, which creates awesome tension but also severely limits what your mermaids can do without being found out. I chose to head in a totally different direction and devised my own mermaid mythology and "rules," which allowed for more agency and adventure without sacrificing the suspense, and Chris responded really positively to that. He'd been trying to come up with a unique take on mermaids for years and says that I "cracked the code" with "Rescue Sirens." He's very kind!
  • Why did we opt to self-publish? That one's easy: speed (we wanted the novel printed in time for SDCC 2015) and creative freedom.
  • Did we have an artist in mind for our novel's interior illustrations from the beginning? Oh, yes -- that was always Genevieve Tsai! Chris gets all the credit for suggesting her after buying one of her art prints at SDCC years ago. We were so fortunate that she was available during the time we had to finish the book and that she was interested in contributing to our project! We love Genevieve.
  • Follow-up question: what it was like working with Genevieve under such a tight deadline? Amazing, because Genevieve is a phenomenal artist and person, and she just gets it. Since Chris and I were co-writing the novel at the very same time that Genevieve was creating the illustrations -- that is, she didn't have a completed manuscript as a guide -- Genevieve and I exchanged lots of long, very detailed emails to get each piece just right. She nailed it.
  • How many outlines do we have for future books? I have the next two novels outlined and a further four (maaaybe five) loosely planned, while I have storylines in mind for five more children's books.
  • Do we want to make "Rescue Sirens" into a movie? We're actually in the process of developing it as an animated television series! There's so much good TV right now (whether that's referring to traditional television or streaming like Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu), and we love the way showrunners can tell longer stories and develop characters over time as compared to a single ninety-minute film.
Because Chris was seated with me for most of this event, we only have a few photos from Friday night, but they're fun ones (even though I'm in my human form).

(Click to enlarge.)

One of the highlights of the evening was meeting Garrett in person! He was a "Rescue Sirens" early adopter who purchased a copy of the hardcover during our first online sale in 2015, and Chris and I were stoked to find out that he'd be attending our second reading. We've chatted a bit via Tumblr and Instagram, and getting to talk face-to-face was such a pleasure!

We also loved meeting Violetta and Gabby, who took time off from their jobs at the tattoo parlor down the street (SO COOL) to listen to the reading.

What was really fun was seeing people from the previous evening show up again on Friday night! One family had brought their younger daughter to the children's book reading on Thursday, and then brought her, their older daughter, and their older daughter's friend to the novel reading. Other people came by to buy books as gifts for their family members who couldn't make it, which always warms my heart (we see that at SDCC all the time).

Everyone was just so nice! I can't possibly express how happy it made me to connect with an audience like this. I miss interacting with kids and families the way I did daily in my former theme park Education and Animal Care gigs, and it was so wonderful to have the chance to meet new people and share my passions.

I want to thank BookBar for inviting us and for their hospitality, all the fin-tastic folks who showed up to our readings, and, once again, Chris, for taking time out of his busy schedule so we could fly out to Denver and for doing such a great job at both events. I couldn't do this without him (quite literally, when it comes to getting into my silicone mermaid tail!), and I'm thankful every day that he's my husband and my creative partner.

Speaking of thankfulness... for our American friends, have a joyful and relaxing Thanksgiving this week! Chris and I are thankful for all of you, and for your decision to accompany us on this mer-mazing journey.

Making a splash at BookBar in Denver, part 1 November 21, 2017 09:10

From Jess: 

Chris and I had such a wonderful time at our recent appearances at BookBar in Denver, Colorado! Chris grew up in Colorado and we have family and friends in Denver, so any excuse to visit the Centennial State is welcome -- particularly when it involves reading and signing both of our "Rescue Sirens" books!

Thursday, November 9th

Our first of two events focused on our water-resistant children's book, "Rescue Sirens and the Great Fish Round-Up," released earlier this year and fully illustrated by the amazing Dylan Bonner. I opted to squeeze into my gorgeous custom-made Merbella Studios silicone mermaid tail for this one, which takes ten or fifteen minutes of Chris's help -- and a ton of water-based lube. (Mermaid life: not as glamorous as one might think!) I got ready in BookBar's offices located next to their awesome indie bookstore/wine bar, then was wheeled out onto the sidewalk and into position inside BookBar perched atop a rolling chair. We mer-made quite the entrance!

By the event's official start time of 4:30 PM, the little shop was crammed with kids -- mostly between the ages of five and seven, I'd guess -- and their parents, and I delighted in the shocked, drop-jawed expressions of the young mermaid fans.

Some kids were shy (which, as a lifelong shy person, myself, I totally understand -- especially when approaching a mermaid with flukes wider than some of these children were tall!), but I got lots of hugs, and one tiny girl sporting a Pebbles Flintstone hairdo seemed particularly captivated by me and my tail. She brandished a mermaid doll in one hand and clutched a mermaid purse in the other, staring at me and repeating, "Mermaid. Mermaid. MERMAID!" with adorable urgency. (She'd just had a mermaid-themed birthday party, we learned, so it was probably blowing her mind that there was a mermaid in the bookstore.)

There were the skeptics, of course. Mostly the boys.

"Are you a real mermaid?" demanded one boy.

"Yes. Are you a real human?" I replied.

"Yes!" he responded, taken aback.

"Well, how do I know that for sure? Can you prove it?" I asked him. Turning their questions around on kids seems to throw 'em for a loop.

In the lead-up to my introduction and reading, I showed some of the kids short video clips on my "shellphone" of myself swimming in my tail, both in the pool and in the ocean in Hawaii. That was enough to convince most of them that I was the real deal, and prompted the cutest debate between another of the boys and a girl with fluffy blonde hair and glasses (she could've been me at that age!).

"Of course she's a real mermaid," Chris and I overheard the little girl say passionately to the boy seated next to her. "She swims in the ocean!"

We were utterly charmed. Kids are magic.

I'd brought a "Rescue Sirens" coloring sheet that BookBar made copies of and distributed to the gathering of guppies, and I handed out blue iridescent resin mermaid scales as a special souvenir. ("Why are these hard and the scales on your tail are soft?" "Good question! After I shed my scales, they dry out and get hard." "Like Play-Doh?" "Yes! Like Play-Doh.")

Shortly after 4:30 PM, BookBar staff introduced me and Chris, and I dove into reading "Rescue Sirens and the Great Fish Round-Up" to my young audience.

(Click to enlarge.)

Once I'd finished reading the story, Chris and I signed copies of the book and handed out more mermaid scales. The entire event went really well, and it was such a thrill to acquaint a whole new group of people with the Rescue Sirens!

Seeing so many families bringing their children to participate in a book reading really warmed my heart; I grew up with my nose stuck in a book everywhere I went, and I found it incredibly encouraging that these kids showed up to listen to an old-fashioned story rather than to look at a screen. That made me really happy.

As always, I want to thank my husband and partner in all things, Chris, for making this possible -- not only is he my co-author, but, when we travel, he also makes sure that my mermaid tail gets to its destination and home again safely (which is no small matter!), he helps me get all mermaided out (something I absolutely couldn't do on my own), and then he takes beautiful photographs to commemorate special events like these. I couldn't be more grateful that he's my pufferfish.

Tomorrow: part two!

Book reading and signing at Denver's BookBar, Nov. 9th & 10th November 6, 2017 00:00

From Jess: 

Something really cool is coming up later this week! The fine folks at BookBar ("A book shop for wine lovers. A wine bar for book shoppers") invited us to come out and hold not one, but TWO book signings/readings at their establishment in Denver, Colorado. The first event (RSVP on Facebook) is for "Rescue Sirens and the Great Fish Round-Up"; the second event (RSVP on Facebook) is for "Rescue Sirens: The Search for the Atavist." Chris even drew a gorgeous new illustration to shell-ebrate the fun!

On Thursday, November 9th, I'll be reading our water-resistant, fully-illustrated children's storybook, "Rescue Sirens and the Great Fish Round-Up," dressed as Rescue Siren Nim in my beautiful mermaid tail from Merbella Studios. Doors open (with half-price kids' meals and wine!) at 4:00 PM; story time starts at 4:30 PM. This is the perfect opportunity to get your hands on our children's book, since we haven't had the chance to make it available online just yet!

The next night, Friday, November 10th, Chris and I will be reading selections from our novel, "Rescue Sirens: The Search for the Atavist," after which we'll be answering questions about our series and signing copies of the book. That event lasts from 5:00 to 7:00 PM and includes discounts on pizza, beer, and wine, so, really, you can't go wrong.

We hope to see you there!