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I have lived in Austin, Texas for almost seven years now. Six of those years I have been going to my favorite local convention Staple: The Independent Media Expo. I love is so much that for the third year in a row, I’ll be volunteering at the show. If you haven’t heard of it and you’ll be in town on March 5th and 6th, come join us!

What is STAPLE?

STAPLE! is a quickly growing convention located in Austin, Texas that has been bringing the best of independently produced comics, zines, art, crafts, and games and more to local fans. This year, there will be over 150+ exhibitors of comics, zines, art, crafts, games and more! There are events and workshops and live podcast recordings throughout the day and live screen-printing of the annual STAPLE t-shirt.

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Some of my past highlights: meeting Kevin Eastman, mastermind behind Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and interviewing Sean Wang, the creator of Runners. I’ve also met some other amazing artists like Kate Leth, E.K. Weaver, Jamie Kinosian, and so many more. Last year there was also a really stellar panel about queer diversity in the gaming industry with folks from my favorite Bioware. There is always great things happening at STAPLE! and this year is no different.

Who are the Guests this year?

There are some fantastic and talented creators coming out for this year’s STAPLE! Four time Eisner Award winner Gene Ha is the artist of books like Fables, Justice League, Cyclops & Phoenix, and Oktane. Emily Carroll is probably best known for her short stories collection Through the Woods and her gorgeous illustrations. C. Spike Trotman runs Iron Circus Comics, Chicago’s largest comics publisher, and puts out some pretty awesome Kickstarters. Danielle Corsetto is the creator of Girls With Slingshots and has written three Adventure Time graphic novels. These are just a few of the guests that will be showcasing at STAPLE! You can read up on who else will be there on STAPLE’s Guests page.

There will also be TONS of exhibitors showing off their work. You can find the whole list on STAPLE’s Exhibitors page.

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STAPLE! Details

STAPLE! The Independent Media Expo
When: March 5-6, 2016
Where: Marchesa Hall and Theater, 6226 Middle Fiskville Rd, Austin, TX
Tickets: Sold at the Door

Interested in attending? Great! Here’s the scoop. On Friday (the 4th), there will be a pre-party out at Austin Books and Comics starting at 8pm. On Saturday, the expo officially opens at 11am and there will be workshops, tutorials, panels, interviews and more until they close down at 6pm. On Sunday, the show starts at 12pm and goes to 6 as well. And throughout the whole thing there are two rooms full of vendors for your to peruse to your heart’s content. The complete STAPLE! schedule can be found on their site.

Tickets aren’t sold online, so just head out and purchase them at the door. $10 for a day pass, $15 for both days. On Saturday only there is a Student/Military discount: two-day pass for $10 with valid student or military ID.

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Join Us!

Can’t wait to see you there!

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If I’m not careful, this is quickly going to turn into a nothing-but-youtube-videos-and-music blog, but y’all are okay with that right? RIGHT?

(I promise real posts are coming soon – they’re in the works.)

Musical!Inspiration!

I’m absolutely in love with the band Walk off the Earth and this song, Red Hands, it just PULLS at me in a way most songs don’t. I absolutely love it.

I realize that I got red hands, I wanna change this / Don’t ask me why I choose to lie, I stay blind, oh / It’s clear to me that you are human too, your accusations are burning through

The other song that I only just learned about last night is by a band called Alpha Rev who just played Blues on the Green here in Austin and they’ve quickly become one of my favorite bands. And this song, Sing Loud, has been on repeat all morning. So good.

Sing loud from the roof tops / Come dance on the rivers edge / Carry me over mountains to the end of love / Close the gates to the city / Hear the drums on the hillside / Carry me over mountains to the end of love

That’s it. That’s all I wanted to blog about today. Be good. Do good. Listen to good music.

At the beginning of March, I was able to attend STAPLE!, the independent media expo that happens here in Austin every year. I’ve been the last three years and it just keeps getting bigger and better every time. I have a lot more blog posts that I’ll be writing showcasing some of the folks I met, but I’m going to kick it off with an artist showcase/Kickstarter fundraiser post all rolled into one.

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Sean Wang is the writer and artists for the comic/graphic novel RUNNERS. I had never heard of it, but was introduced to Sean through the awesome event coordinator from Dragon’s Lair Comics, which is my favorite comic shop in Austin (but I can’t remember the event coordinator lady! Who are you? You are awesome!). I picked up his book while I was talking to him and was instantly hooked – I love his gorgeous lineart and the story grabbed me from the first page. I ended up going back a few hours later to buy the first RUNNERS book and ask I could interview him for Snailbird.

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Sean Wang and yours truly (I need a haircut)

Timing was perfect – Sean did a panel discussion on kickstarting your webcomic with Kickstarter and was currently promoting his own Kickstarter campaign as well so he agreed! So without further ado, here is the interview!

Interview with Writer/Illustrator Sean Wang

01. Tell us a little about yourself and what Runners is all about.

Sure! My name is Sean Wang and I am a comic writer/artist. I got my start on the TICK comics for New England Comics and also did MELTDOWN for Image, but my main project is my self-published sci-fi series RUNNERS, which is a fun action-comedy space adventure that follows the exploits of a crew of alien smugglers. Basically, they’re a rag-tag group of (mostly) aliens who take on smuggling runs for the mob that tend to spiral out of control. In the first story arc, RUNNERS: BAD GOODS, they are trying to complete one particular run that has them pursued by pirates, mercenaries, and an entire space station full of police, all trying to get to their cargo. In the new story, RUNNERS: THE BIG SNOW JOB, they take on a seemingly trivial job to steal a herd of yak on a frozen planet, but that job also goes south rather quickly as they find themselves pawns in a series of escalating double crosses.

Both the first and second story arcs have been posted online at Runners Universe, where you can read them in the entirety completely for free! I am also running a Kickstarter campaign to fund the printing of the second story in graphic novel form, so you can get the books that way. That campaign ends very soon (March 28!), so be sure to check it out

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02. What is the process for creating each page of comic – is it completely digital or do you combine it with traditional work?

It is a combination. I still pencil and ink traditionally on bristol board at comic size (11 x 17″). I typically use blue lead mechanical pencils for the penciling part and then a combination of Micron pens and Japanese brush pens for the inking. Once that’s done, I scan the page and do the coloring and lettering digitally in Photoshop.

03. Why did you decide to start a Kickstarter and did you expect it to get so big so fast?

Once the second story had finished posting online, I started planning to also get it into print form. The first book was black and white (and grayscale), which wasn’t all that expensive to self-publish. But the new story is full color and I knew the printing would be much more expensive than the first book. So I decided to turn to Kickstarter to help me fund the printing. My modest hope to to bring in enough money to offset some of the costs, but I was very pleasantly surprised to see it completely funded! I hit my initial goal of $6000 in the first 2 days and my first stretch goal of $8500 (to print the book in the U.S. instead of overseas) a few days later. I guess a lot of readers were very excited about having the new book in graphic novel form and I’ve also had a great number of new people discovering the series, which is always a plus, because beyond just funding the project, it was very important for me in using Kickstarter to bring in as many new readers as possible.

04. What was the most surprising technical thing about the Kickstarter process?

I was actually surprised with how easy it is to put a project together on the site. That’s not to say there isn’t a lot of work that had to be done, IE figuring out all the cool reward items to offer for the various tiers, researching all the shipping and supply costs, getting the video and all the visuals together, etc. But once all that was done, getting all that info up on Kickstarter was a fairly easy and painless process. I was expecting a few more quirks and technical glitches, but they really designed a great site with a very smooth process.

runners-snowjob05. What advice do you have for someone wanting to start their own webcomic/graphic novel/Kickstarter?

I can’t really say I have the best advice for doing a webcomic, since I don’t really follow the successful mold there. Given the nature of my storytelling and art, I need to fully script each storyline ahead of time, then do all the concept design, and then do the actual pages, which also take a lot of time to pencil, ink, color, and letter. So when I was posting the stories, I could only get up a page a week, and then there are long hiatuses between arcs as I frontload the work on the next one. To have a webcomic though that really builds traffic, you need a very regular (and frequent) update schedule. There are a number of successful webcomics out there, and you’ll usually find them posting new material several times a week without ever missing updates. It’s important to maintain that kind of discipline.

As for Kickstarter, it’s important to realize that it’s not quite as simple as you putting up a project and getting free money. Your chances of success will be greatly improved if you go into the project with a sizable audience already. The more people you have already familiar with your work, the more you have already willing to contribute without you having to sell them on an unknown quantity. But as far as bringing in new people, it just helps to have as professional a product as possible. Presentation is key: try to have the best art possible, clearly explain your series and goals on your project page, put together a good video that conveys that information as well, and stay in constant contact with your backers through updates and other postings online.

06. And finally! Who is your favorite Runners character?

That’s a tough one. I really can’t say I have a favorite since I always wanted to develop them all in such a way that any one of them could be a favorite for any reader. They all have different personality traits that make them fun or interesting in their own way, so hopefully no one character really steals the show. That said, I do think Cember is a lot of fun to write just because he is the most jokey one of the group but isn’t a total clown. He comes across as carefree but I think he’s only able to do that because he knows he actually has the chops to take care of a bad situation should one arise. I also love Roka as a character because he’s the exact opposite of Cember. He’s a bit more broken and unsatisfied with his lot in life. I didn’t want him to be a depressed or depressing character, but he certainly carries a lot more weight on his shoulders than anyone else, and that kind of struggle with the burden of leadership is very interesting to me.

But I think all the characters are a lot of fun, and it seems my readers are really having a great time with the series as well, so if you like fun sci-fi action adventure with cool alien characters, be sure to check out the RUNNERS: THE BIG SNOW JOB Kickstarter project (ends March 28)!

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Thanks Sean for the awesome interview! If you enjoyed this, be sure to check out more of Sean Wang at personal website, at Runners Universe, and on Facebook! And don’t forget to pledge to his Kickstarter project!

Day One of SXyote Sponsor: Embrace Pet Insurance

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Embrace Your Pet!

Well it’s Day One of the #SXyote adventures and while the majority of my day will be spent in the Gaming Expo for game reviews, demos, and a few sessions, I wanted to start off the day by thanking my Day One Sponsor: Embrace Pet Insurance! They are not only a sponsor this year, but they were one of the very first sponsors of the first fundraiser last year – so HUGE thanks to them for continuing to believe in my cause. You guys are awesome!

I now only love them because of their sponsorship, BUT they are also our very own Pet Insurance company! Most of our furkids are covered under their insurance so my shirt is pretty on the mark for us – “Don’t just love your pet, EMBRACE your pet!” We do! Do you!

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About Embrace Pet Insurance

Embrace was created by Laura Bennett and Alex Krooglik in July 2003. Laura and Alex spent several challenging years establishing Embrace. With a number of “one step forward, two steps back” experiences that often led them to wonder if they would ever get Embrace up and running, they persevered and laid the groundwork for Embrace today. Their core values are: We Are Open & Honest, We Believe In Customer Fixation, We Give Back to the Community and Help the Environment, We Take Personal Responsibility, We Seek Innovation, and Be Passionate.

We love Laura, Alex, and the whole Embrace Crew! Thank you again for sponsoring Day One of SXyote! Don’t forget to follow the hashtag #SXyote for lots of great livetweeting and pictures!

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7 6 5 4 3 MORE DAYS TO DONATE! WE ARE FULLY FUNDED BUT FEEL FREE TO DONATE IF YOU STILL WANT THE INCENTIVE!

Remember last year when y’all sent me to SXSW Interactive and I livetweeted the whole thing and shared all my notes and pictures? Yeah? WELL LET’S DO IT AGAIN! This year’s interactive is going to be even bigger and better and once again, I want to go and bring you all with me! Of course that can only happen if you help me again. This year I have some even more awesome incentives to help send me to my third SXSW Interactive. Read on!

The SXSWi 2013 Snailbird Proposal

If you help to send me to SXSW Interactive 2013, I promise you I will bring to you all the latest, greatest news and education from the most awesome conference ever hosted in Austin, Texas. I will create a brand new SXSWi 2013 page (similar to the Design Coyote Resource Guide for SXSW ’12) where I will write up all my notes, post all my pictures, and share all the tweets (both on designcoyote and rescueanimals), and resources I find. I’m even going to revive my #SXYote hashtag for Twitter usage so all you have to do is follow it to see my SXSWi tweets.

This year I have a fun theme I’ll be exploring: Embracing the Geek Life! I will be covering gaming culture (specifically from the eye of a female gamer), the influence of social media on space travel, and the heart and mind of the creative entrepreneur! And of course there will be a bit of comics and illustration thrown in there for fun. Some of the sessions I hope to go to (which is also all the things you get to learn about as well!) include:

OH! And don’t forget I would totally take pictures and share notes from speakers like Al Gore, Neil Gaiman and Chuck Lorre, Matthew Inman, Rachel Maddow, and Tina Roth Eisenberg. Because hell yes, you know you want to hear from all those amazing people.

We all love learning. And you already know that I love sharing knowledge – on here, on @designcoyote, on I Love Rescue Animals, and on @rescueanimals – so you know that I’m only going to be bring you the best quality and create a stellar resource for those of you who can’t make it to SXSWi yourself. This is your chance to be a part of SXSWi for just a small donation (and some fantastic incentives). I will be sharing a ton of resources for social media, sharing positive causes, utilizing the internet and social media to raise donations, and how to market yourselves online, as well as design tips I learn, the newest technology for artsy folks, and other great education resources.

How Much Will This Be?

The total amount of money I’m trying to raise is $1,150 – which is JUST the price of one SXSWi ticket. Since I live in Austin, all the lodging expenses are taken care of, and I’ll pay for my own food and goodies. I just need help getting the ticket.

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What You Get For Helping!

Don’t worry. You won’t be walking away empty-handed either. Besides the shared knowledge of all I learn, you will also get an awesome incentive depending on what level you donate to. These are as follows:

$1 or more: Join the list of other donors on my SXSW page.*
$15 or more: The above and an individual shout-out on the designcoyote twitter (2,000+ followers).
$30 or more: The above and a pencil sketch of your pet/favorite animal (in The Family Menagerie style).
$50 or more: The above and the pencil sketch gets inked and colored with marker.
$75 or more: The above plus a 100×100 pixels digitally colored avatar of your choice (in TFM style), as well as a shout-out on the rescueanimals twitter (28,900+ followers).
$100 or more Be included on the donors page, receive a twitter shout-out (on both), a sketch of a pet/favorite animal, a 100×100 pixel digitally colored avatar, and 1 month of advertising on either the Snailbird or I Love Rescue Animals blog*.
$175 or more: Sponsor A Full Day and I’ll *bring your company to SXSW with me! (Does not include any of the above incentives.
$200 or more: Mention on donors page and twitter accounts, marker-colored image of pet/favorite animal, 100×100 avatar, 2 months of advertising on either blog*.
$350 or more: The $200 incentives AND a full-colored digital illustration of your choice.

$500 or more: SPONSORSHIP LEVEL 1! You will have a large prominent THANK YOU at the top of the SXSWi resource page, thanks on both Twitter and Facebook (for both Snailbird and I Love Rescue Animals), PLUS 6 months of advertising on the blog and a full blog post thanking you on Snailbird*.
$950 or more: SPONSORSHIP LEVEL 2! You will have a large prominent THANK YOU at the top of the SXSWi resource page, thanks on both Twitter and Facebook (for both Snailbird and I Love Rescue Animals), PLUS 12 months of advertising on the blog and a full blog post thanking you on Snailbird AND I Love Rescue Animals (and if you or your company has a blog, I will also write up a guest post about everything I learned because of your generosity that you can use on your website)*.

Interested in donating but looking for some other prize/incentive? Feel free to comment or email me and we can talk! I’m open to hearing your ideas.

*Being included on the donors page, as well as getting posted on Snailbird and I Love Rescue Animals websites, means getting your name and link seen by artsy folks, nature-lovers, and lots of animal advocates, pet bloggers, and other activists. Snailbrd gets on average 5,000 unique visitors a month with 30k page/visits a month. I Love Rescue Animals receives an average of 6,000 unique visitors a month and 40k page/visits a month.

Donate to the Send-Nikki-to-SXSWi Fund!

7 6 5 4 3 MORE DAYS TO DONATE! WE ARE FULLY FUNDED BUT FEEL FREE TO DONATE IF YOU STILL WANT THE INCENTIVE!

So you can all help keep track of where I am in donations, I’ve set up this nifty Paypal Donation widget. Once you donate, you will receive an email from me/Paypal confirming the amount and I will follow up with a Thank You and a list of the incentives you get. Just click on the yellow button in the Paypal widget below to donate.

***Simply click the yellow “Give” button and on the next page, you will be able to fill in whatever amount you would like!***

****The PayPal widget is slow to reflect actual donations – we are fully funded at exactly $1150, but you are still free to donate until March 8th if you want one of the incentives.***

The Final Plea

Guys, I want to go to SXSWi a lot. It was an incredible experience last year, especially because I got to share it with all of you, and I want to be able to give that to you again. I learned so much, and I feel that this year is going to be even better. So for just one donation, you can help send me to this awesome conference full of great opportunities and in return you get to learn all that I learn and some (you know those incentives are pretty awesome). Pretty great deal, yeah?

So please please help, and share with your family and friends! I will be forever grateful to you and so very honored. Thank you! You guys rock!

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Badass Girl Gamer by Samuel Deats

Saw this in my reader this morning and I had to share it. You don’t often see artwork, let along game-themed artwork, with a female as the centerpiece.

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This particular piece of artwork was done by Samuel Deats, who goes by poojipoo on DeviantArt. Samuel actually lives and works as an Art Director here in Austin, TX at Powerhouse Animation and worked on both Epic Mickey and DC Universe Online! Yay fellow Austinite! Definitely go check out more of his work on his deviantart page.

The artwork was created for this article on the Boston Phoenix called, Why I Play Violent Video Games. Also worth a read!

Originally found on The Mary Sue.

A Plea for Rain in Texas

We need rain here in Texas. Badly.

That’s a picture from Big Dog Rescue’s Facebook page. They’re located in the Austin area, and their Vice President just had her house burned down and they’re looking for fosters to take in animals displaced. The Bastrop County Animal Shelter was evacuated as well and thanks to the awesome folks at Austin Pets Alive and the Austin Humane Society, all the animals were saved and they’re looking for donations and temporary fosters.

If you’re in Texas and want to help in some way, check out the Help For Fire Victims Facebook page and keep updated with the news on the Statesman, they’ve been on top of everything. It’s been crazy down here, and today is supposed to be worse. If you haven’t heard, Central Texas is being hit HARD with fires right now. The biggest being the one in Bastrop that has burned up to 25,000 acres since yesterday, jumped the Colorado River twice, and has desecrated more than 300 houses. Over 5,000 people have been evacuated so far, and a mother and her 18-month-old child were killed. The winds from the recent hurricane aren’t helping. You can check out the placement of all fire activity on this page.

Ash and I are in east Austin and while the fires are supposedly moving away from us, we’ve still come up with our evacuation plan (packing up 20 animals is no easy feat). Standing outside in our front yard, the smell of smoke is strong. It’s scary. If we didn’t have so many fosters already, I know we’d both be at the shelter taking in animals right now. I’ll be continually nagging friends all day to make sure they’re okay.

Please send good thoughts, positive vibes, and lots of rain.

Excuse Me? I thought I was in Texas.

Someone forgot to give Cold Miser the memo: TEXAS DOESN’T HAVE SNOW. Let me break it down for you.

This is where I live. It’s this nice little state in the SOUTH called TEXAS.

The place where it does not snow

This? This is what is NOT supposed to happen.

WTF WORLD

Could someone please make this stop? Like now. I’d like to be able to drive home without being hit by a Texan driver that has never seen snow or ice in his life. People here are already pre-panicking and it hasn’t even stuck on the ground.

In conclusion. This is Texas. Snow does not belong here. Please make it stop.

KThnx.

BLOG OF DOOOOOOOOOOOM!

Okay not really, but maybe that got your attention. Remember when I said I was going camping and I lied and stayed home instead? Yeah, well now instead of telling you I’d be gone, I just up and deserted the blog. I’m actually in Austin at the moment – I drove another car-full of crap down to storage and I also had an interview (which I must say was probably the best experience I’ve ever had in an interview – everyone was so chill and laid back and easy to laugh). I’m going back to the good old Smokey Mountains on Sunday, but until then, I’ve been hanging out with Ash’s family, going to a Queen Sing-a-Long with her brother (you are all so jealous of my stick-on Freddie Mercury mustache), and attempting to not melt my brain in this heat (and gosh, it’s hot!). I’ve also been looking through the paper and online trying to find us a place to stay. Tonight I’m going out to dinner with Ash’s dad, and tomorrow her sister and I are going to go house hunting.

All of this is to say that there is a reason behind my lack of blog posts (though it is by no means an excuse since I was going to try and have some set up to post while I was gone but I simply ran out of time and, well, didn’t do it). Hopefully you can forgive me – I’ll try and make up for it in the coming weeks by posting at least once a day when I get home.

This post is so sad you don’t even get a picture. No time, no time. But to make up for it, have a really bizarre Jackie Chan commercial.

I’m still not quite sure what just happened, but Jackie Chan kicking butt on a Segway? There’s nothing else quite as cool.

One by One, Hurrah!

Well we made it back to Tennessee. I’m already missing Austin, but if all goes well, we’ll be back for good in a month or so. I’ve been coughing ever since we’ve been back, and considering that Texas is the second state with the most cases of Swine Flu, I’m crossing my fingers that I just picked up a nasty cold. I’ve got my cough drops and ThermaFlu, so I should be fine.

The last few days in Austin were good. We continued to help out Ash’s dad at his carwash, and in return, he’s looking after Kendi for me until we can get down there. We moved Kendi down there because we set her up with a new ten gallon tank (as opposed to her large Tupperware tub) and it will be easier to control the humidity in Texas than it has been here in Tennessee. She’ll be much happier down there. I’m already missing her. She has Ash’s leopard geckos to keep her company though until we get down there.

It’s been raining nonstop since we’ve been back, and I can’t say I’m not enjoying it. I love the thunder and the sound of the rain on the pond outside. Speaking of the pond, while Mama Goose hasn’t had her goslings yet, the ducks have two new ducklings! They’ve taken to spending the rainy days in our backyard and no one is complaining. They’re very cute. I’ll try to take pictures at some point.

The ant infestation has also come back tenfold since we’ve left. Honestly, ants are the most amazing insects. They just stun me by how much they do. They walk for miles to find the smallest crumb and just know exactly what they’re supposed to do in life. I wish I had that security. Ants. Amazing. Just amazing. I just wish they would keep their amazingness limited to the outer walls of our house. I have to walk on my tiptoes for fear of squashing some poor defenseless scout.

In any case, I love being back and seeing all our kids, but I miss Austin. I can’t wait till we’re all there. It can’t come soon enough.