5 Strategies for Writers Stuck in Self-Isolation


Photo via FreeImages.com

Writers are easily stymied on even the best days. In our new, coronavirus-filled world, we’re experiencing a lot of ups and downs. So here are 5 strategies that you, my fellow writer, can use to make self-isolation a little more bearable.

1.  Create a writing schedule and stick to it.
This one is pretty important, even if you’re not really a schedule person. Choose a designated writing time. Sit down in front of your computer, typewriter, or notebook (some of you might be old fashioned like that) and spend at least five minutes staring at it. You could make that a half hour, full hour, whatever you’re comfortable with. Stare at it and then close it. Make sure you keep going until it becomes a routine.

2. Read out loud.
I’m sure you’ve heard that you can strengthen your writing–especially your dialogue scenes–by reading them out loud. This remains true even in quarantine. But don’t stop there. When I say read out loud, I mean do it for EVERYTHING . Read the news out loud. Read the milk carton label out loud. Read your Smart TV’s menu out loud. Not only will you get better writing instincts, you’ll also get the hatred of anyone quarantined with you.

3. Eliminate distractions.
We’re all tempted to check Facebook and other social media platforms when we’re supposed to be writing and/or editing. I do it too. But it’s important to focus on what really matters: taking out any and all distractions. Look, the world is a mess right now. You’ll focus better on your daydreams and creative ideas if you hire a hitman for your real-world life. Start small. Put a hit on your day job. Then go bigger. Put a hit on COVID-19 itself.

4.  Ask for criticism.
Writers have to be thick-skinned. They need to learn how to take punishment. Despite what some romance novels might tell you, it’s not all sexy lingerie and fuzzy handcuffs. Sometimes it’s a highly contagious influenza strain. Now, I’m not saying you should ask the novel coronavirus to critique your writing. But I am saying that the novel coronavirus could show up at your home and ask YOU to critique its work. The best defense is a good offense, as they say, so prepare yourself by getting so much criticism that your entire body develops an impenetrable layer of self-confidence. Then you’ll be immune!

Many writers get stuck on the idea that you have to write linearly. Point A to Point B to Point C. But sometimes jumping around can be really beneficial. That’s a big part of why time travel exists. So don’t write or live chronologically. Get in your time machine of choice and travel to a year that isn’t affected by COVID-19. You’ll get more writing done that way, I promise.

I hope this advice been helpful. Be sure to follow them exactly if you want real* results. Remember, we’re in this together and things will get better. Until then, stay fierce and keep writing.

*Results may vary. This is all sarcastic advice.

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Toothless Quadsuit Update #5 – I’m Finished!

photo 3Hi everyone! Sorry this update is a bit late. Convergence 2015 has come and gone, the wonderful convention where I debuted my Toothless quadsuit. But before we jump to the convention attendee’s reactions, let’s break down the last few steps of my cosplay’s build. Continue reading

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Toothless Quadsuit Update #4

toothless quadsuit Hi everyone! Welcome to another edition of Friday Fun Stuff! I’ve made a lot of progress on my quadsuit project of Toothless, the Night Fury dragon from How to Dragon Your Dragon. I’m happy to report that I’m getting close to finishing it. The next update will likely be the last before Toothless’s debut at CONvergence, a geeky convention held in Bloomington, Minnesota on July 2nd through 5th.

To kick off this update, we’ll be starting with Toothless’s head. I’ve now completed everything from the eyes to the mouth. I decided to open Toothless’s mouth and (a bit ironically) add teeth. I also added some padding around the eyes and nose to give the face more realistic depth. Foam was my friend and (mostly) easy to mold. I used upholstery foam for the lips as well. Once the mouth was open, I cut pieces of stretchy pink material from a T-shirt for the inside of the mouth. The teeth I cut from leftover PVC foam board that was used to create Ruby Rose’s sniper-scythe (see this post). Here is the final result:

photo 4Once the head from complete, I moved on to the neck. This was a tricky part because I needed to find a way to anchor Toothless’s head to the metal frame of the body. What I had at my disposal was PVC pipe, a heat gun, and a handyman whose brain works far better than mine when it comes to construction. With his help, we came up with this:

photo 2Once I bent the PVC pipe with the heat gun, my handyman partner found a long screw that could hold the pipe at a height that allows my head to move beneath it. Drilling holes into both the PVC and the metal frame, we were able to build something strong and able to easily support the head.

Next was giving fullness to the neck, so I took more upholstery foam and glued/stitched it around the neck frame. Remember the foam piece I constructed earlier to use as the dragon’s chest? I secured that with glue and zip ties until the entire neck came together as a cohesive unit. This is an older version of the build, but I did use the dark foam piece in this picture:

photo 3The other big issue I worked on was the wings. Sure, they looked fine in the last update, but they just weren’t good enough. So I added more wingspan, giving more of a curve to the bottom portion on each wing for a more realistic look. Using copper tubing, I made an additional “layer” of wing out of spare black cloth. The new wings look like this:

photo-1After that, it was only a matter of adding black fabric and a way for me to see out of the neck. To do that, I found some stretchy black mesh (formerly the lining of a pair of windbreaker pants). Then it came down to a lot of hand sewing. I mean, A LOT of hand sewing. But that was the only way. So once I measured and cut out the proper amount of fabric to fit the entire neck and left clearance for the meshy material that would serve as my viewfinder, I got to work stitching, and stitching, and stitching.

photo 5I was initially concerned the neck would look too long, but it turned out well. Of course, I also needed to sew the neck fabric to the head’s fabric in order to bring everything together and give the neck a streamlined look.

So now I only have a few more things to do before I can call Toothless complete. First, I need to hand-stitch Toothless’s spine ridges from base of the tail to mid-neck. I cut out different-sized triangles of foam and covered them with the same material I used for the body. Second, I have to paint scales onto specific parts of the body (head, front legs, etc.) using metallic puffy paint. Third, I need to add Velcro to the under-size of the waist because the zipper I used is a bit too short.

photo 2Once those last few steps are done, I’ll be ready to take Toothless out for a test run! I’ll practice walking on the stilts, and most likely end up shocking my neighbors. Be sure to keep an eye out for the final update!

Have a question or thought on my Toothless costume? Leave a comment below! I’d love to hear from you. And remember, you can find me on Twitter (@alishabmarie) and blogging on ThreeIfBySpace.net.

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RWBY Cosplay: Ruby Rose Guide Part 2

photo 5

Hey everyone! I’m back with another cosplay project and another break down of how I created it. Let’s dig into how I turned this…

photo 3…into this:

photo 2Making Crescent Rose—Ruby’s sniper-scythe—is the biggest prop project I’ve ever undertaken. Previous to this, I’d only made a druid staff out of a long tree branch and a staff and dagger set for my San cosplay (from Princess Mononoke). Fortunately for me, I found an amazing tutorial by Hero Tetsuro that helped me tremendously. First of all, I decided to make the pieces out of PVC foam board, 1mm and 3mm thick (depending on what piece I was creating). I ordered the foam board on Amazon, but I’m sure there are other places you can get it, too.

As a guide, I used Hero Tetsuro’s wonderful actual-size reference sheets to the pole and scythe portions of Crescent Rose. After printing them out, I began tracing the pieces out on the PVC foam board.

photo 1

Cutting all of the pieces for both the upper and lower sections of the weapon was very time consuming (and a bit painful, I’ll admit) because I cut everything out with an X-acto knife. The 3mm board was a little tough to cut, and I went through a few different blades because of that. But I wanted sturdy pieces for my prop, so that’s just the way it went.

photo 3

Once I had all the pieces cut, I sanded away the rough edges and laid them out the way they needed to fit together. Then I began the process of gluing them together. The way I cut out each portion was so they would fit together like puzzle pieces. Some people prefer an overlapping method; just do what’s best for you.

I used Gorilla Glue so there would be less risk of having the pieces come apart. Unfortunately, Gorilla Glue takes awhile to dry, so I had to use clamps/my own hands to hold segments in place for at least 30 minutes before the glue set enough to hold. Let’s just say I used a lot of books as anchors so that I wouldn’t have to painstakingly hold pieces at funny angles (which made using clamps nearly impossible).

photo 5

The hardest part of the project was attaching pieces for the scythe head since many of them varied in size and shape. Making the pole of the scythe was a bit easier since it involving gluing (mostly) in a straight line. I connected the pole pieces—left and right sides—with glue before connecting them to a broom handle.

photo 2

The reason I chose to use a shop broom for Crescent Rose is because the top of it has a handy screw-in connector piece on which I mounted the scythe portion. Making the pole and the scythe separate pieces makes it much easier to transport and store. So if you choose this method, you’ll want to cut off all the bristles and trim the broom topper to just the joint piece (where the pole screws into the broom head). I used a hacksaw to cut away the excess broom base.

Once I super-glued the left and right faces of Crescent Rose’s pole (or sniper rifle, if you want to get technical), I had to fill in the gaps with more PVC foam board. Before that, though, I glued small pieces of cardboard into the gaps between the left and right faces as a means to give the interior more stability. I also added these card board “fins” to the inside of the scythe as well.

It really makes a difference and you’ll decrease the risk of something breaking/collapsing from the inside. But it is time consuming.

Once that was finished, I cut the 1mm foam board into pieces that would cover what was still visible of the broom handle. Again, time consuming work, but once the glue was applied it was more a matter of waiting for each piece to dry.

photo 1

Once everything was glued together, it was time to start painting. I bought red and black, of course, but I also bought a light silver primer/paint to use as a base coat. Using the primer help hide the glue marks, and since I got a light silver color, it was already the proper shade for Crescent Rose’s blades.

photo 1The majority of the painting I did was spray-based, but for the finer details, I used acrylic red and black. The two varieties blended pretty well together, although you can still see the difference if you look closely.

photo 3

This post serves as only a minimal guide, so if you want a more in-depth tutorial, definitely check out Hero Tetsuro’s guide. If you have questions or comments about Crescent Rose, feel free to leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you.

You can find me on Twitter (@alishabmarie) and blogging about Arrow, Gotham, and board games over on Three If By Space.net.

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RWBY Cosplay: Ruby Rose Guide Part 1

Hey everyone! It’s another Friday Fun post! What, only a week after my last one? Yep! This time it’s a new cosplay how-to guide: Ruby Rose from RWBY, a web series created by Monty Oum and Rooster Teeth. Let’s dig into how I turned this…

photo 5

…into this:

photo 3

In this post, Part 1, I’ll show you how I put together Ruby’s full outfit. Some people might like to make Ruby’s dress from scratch, but I found a good black dress that suited my purposes. As a bonus, the one I bought already had white lace around the bottom edge of the skirt and sleeves (which made it fairly easy to paint over with red).

photo 4

After painting the lace edges of the dress (I used acrylic paint but in hindsight should have used spray paint), I took a spare red shirt and cut it into long strips. I then folded those strips over, in a back and forth motion, to create ripples. Once I had the material bunched, it was easy to add thread through each fold to keep it in the proper shape. Then I added it to the neck of the dress.

I used this same method (folded strips of a red shirt) to add red accents to a pair of combat boots, along with red shoelaces and red acrylic paint for the soles.

photo 1

Ruby is also known for having a very full skirt, which I took care by wearing a red tutu under the black dress. She also has a signature belt with bullets, rose emblem, and pouch. First, I got a long and wide black belt (from Goodwill) and glued the accessories to it.


I made the pouch from a granola bar box and some grey foam (although you can easily use a gray purse or something similar). I made the rose emblem out of grey and black foam, cutting out the pieces and gluing them together based on an example image. And for the bullets I took some short dowels, painted them grey, and glued pen caps onto their ends. Alternative ideas involve finding empty gun shells or buying a costume bullet belt.

photo 2

The finishing touches on Ruby’s outfit include black tights, a black corset laced with another set of red shoelaces, a couple silver crosses, and a black wig with red-colored tips. These were things I bought outright instead of making. And if you have natural black hair, you probably won’t need a wig. The costume can be a little time-consuming to put on, considering all the pieces, but it looks awesome once everything is in place.


That’s it for Part 1! Part 2—outlining the creation of Ruby’s sniper-scythe, Crescent Rose—is coming soon. If you have any questions or thoughts on this outfit, feel free to leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you.

You can find me on Twitter (@alishabmarie) and blogging about Arrow, Gotham, and board games over on Three If By Space.net.




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Toothless Quadsuit Update #3

toothless quadsuitHi everyone! Welcome to another edition of Friday Fun Stuff! I know it’s been a long time since my last update, and I apologize for that. But I’ve made some great progress on my quadsuit project of Toothless, the Night Fury dragon from How to Dragon Your Dragon. I’m finishing up the dragon’s head and have made substantial progress on the legs and torso as well. Let’s dig into the details…

First, the head. As you may remember from my last update, I’d finished cutting out the 3-D paper fold and added some foam to the interior to give it stability. Since then, I have added a layer of paper mache and fiberglass to give it a hardened exterior (so it won’t collapse). The fiberglass mix was painted on with a large brush and worked pretty well.

photo 1

The paper mache was still drying so it looks a bit saggy.

I also used the fiberglass to help secure a section of PVC pipe that will serve as the neck “bone.” But before that, I bent the PVC pipe with a heat gun so that it has the proper curvature of a neck.

The next important step for Toothless’s head was painting the eyes. I was a little intimidated by this step as I wanted his eyes to look good and also they began as Sytrofoam balls (which can be hard to paint). So I first attempted to create a smooth painting surface with hot glue. That worked okay, but what ultimately helped smooth over the rough bumps of Styrofoam was Mod Podge. Plus, it gave it a nice, glossy appearance. Next step was to simply add acrylic paint (easy, right?).

Here is the photo I used as a reference for Toothless’s eyes:


Image borrowed from the brilliant costume creator, Monoyasha.

And here is what my version looks like:

photo 5

Up close and personal Toothless.

Not an exact match, but decent nonetheless.

Once that was finished, I concentrated on adding fabric (although you can tell from that painted eye picture that I already started). But one issue remained: how could I give Toothless better definition to his nose and lips? The head mold was rather flat after adding paper mache and fiberglass. My solution? Foam!

As you can kind of see in the above picture, I used thin upholstery foam (plus a little stuffing in the nose) to give shape to Toothless’s upper lip. The next step is to stitch and glue on the lower lip, which I’m planning to do soon.

That’s it for the head update, so now we move on to the body/torso. In my previous update, I mention using foam and wiring to give the body proper shape and support. I ended up using copper pipe around the upholstry foam and came out looking like this:

photo 2

That big cut out circle is the arm hole.

Once that was finished, I need to add the black fabric to make it look a little more like an actual dragon body. But not just the body, I also needed arm holes. So I made those separately with my sewing machine and a T-shirt as a pattern. Once the proper measurements and sewing efforts were complete, I added the arms to the torso and it came out looking like this:

photo 3

You can see my pup, Jazz, in the background! Hi, Jazz!

This is only pinned on right now because I still have to add the zipper to the underbelly and finish sewing the pieces together. But I did manage to mold the foam, so now the body is a bit more shapely than the previous picture with only foam and pipe.

I even played around a bit with the chest and head attachments. This is by no means what it will look like once I’m done, but it’s fun to get a vague idea of how the attachment will work.

photo 1

This image was taken before fabric and eye paint were added to the head.

And my Toothless back legs are now finished too! I started with thin pants as a base, but then stitched them in a more form-fitting and added the dragon-like fabric over them. I then added foam to the back of the calf area so it looks as though there is muscle there. You got a peek at them last time, and here they are all done (along with the feet).


They’re a bit tight on, but once the whole costume comes together, that won’t matter.

That’s about it for this update. My next one will feature how I attach the neck and head (which will definitely require some power tools). The other big step is adding Velcro and a zipper to the center underbelly. I’m sure it won’t be easy handstitching Velcro to foam! But it’s important to help with securing the body. Stay tuned for more! Update #4 will be coming soon (or at least, sooner than this update did).

Have any thoughts or comments on this project? Share in the comments! I’d love to hear from you!

You can also find my on Twitter (@alishabmarie). And if you’re a fan of TV shows Arrow and Gotham, or you like board games, you can read my reviews on Three If By Space.com.

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New Arrow and Gotham Reviews on Three If By Space

TIBS logo

It’s been a while since I mentioned it on my blog, but my career as a TV and board game reviewer for Three If By Space (TIBS) is still going strong! This week I’ve posted new reviews and preview videos for both Arrow and Gotham, so if you’re a fan of either of those shows, please take a look! You can find links both on my website and on TIBS.

This week’s episode on Arrow was “Nanda Parbat” and it was full of juicy secrets and emotional turmoil. I discuss the major character’s journeys, motivations, and conflicts as they relate not only to the episode, but to the entire arc of the season.

This week’s episode of Gotham was “Red Hood” and it feature the introduction of the Red Hood gang, as well as intriguing developments about Alfred’s past. I critique each plot line, how the characters are trying to tip the scales of power to their favor, and the most shocking scenes.

You can also find my board game reviews on TIBS, the most recent being Heroes Wanted, a game where you becoming an aspiring hero with special abilities and a burning desire to join your city’s elite team of superheroes. It’s an exciting and super fun game, so go check it out!

Even if you’re not a fan of Arrow, Gotham, or board games, Three If By Space is sure to have something you’ll enjoy! The site’s expansive content covers Sci-Fi and Fantasy TV and movies, comics, anime, video games, conventions, and much more!

That’s it for now, but be sure to watch for more posts. Have a thought to share about Three If By Space? Just want to say hi? Leave a comment below! I’d love to hear from you. 🙂 

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Toothless Quadsuit Update #2

toothless quadsuit

Hey everyone! Welcome to another Friday Fun Stuff update! Progress on my Toothless cosplay has been going well, so now seems like a good time to update you on how each piece is coming together. As a reminder (or for those who missed my first update), I’m creating a quadsuit of Toothless, the Nigh Fury dragon from How to Train Your Dragon. Don’t know what a quadsuit is? It’s a costume where one person fits into a four-legged creature and makes it look natural. See the picture above for what my quadsuit will (hopefully) look like when I’m finished.

First, let me show you my progress on the head. Last time I showed you the model of the paper pep I’d cut out and tape together. Well, now all the cutting and taping is complete! I also added styrofoam eyes, which will eventually be painted to look like Toothless’s pretty green/yellow eyes. Soon I’ll give the head a layer of paper mache, mainly to help the paper hold its form, and then later add a layer or two of fiberglass.

Here’s a picture of my Toothless head currently: Continue reading

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Calling All Gamers – Origin of Games Kickstarter Project

origin of games_pic

Kickstarter Project Alert: Origin of Games Poster

Hey game enthusiasts! There are a lot of awesome projects on Kickstarter, and if you love tabletop games (or know a special someone who loves them) there is one project that you just have to check out!

SweeTooth Design is offering two of the coolest game posters I’ve ever seen. If you’re a gamer of any kind, you’re going to love it! “Origin of Games,” available in vintage and pop versions, would make a super holiday gift, too. If you’re interested in backing the project, here’s the page link: http://kck.st/1Ezs0ho.

From SweeTooth Design’s Kickstarter description:

ORIGIN OF GAMES is an infographic of the world’s famous classic games that is inspired by our surprising research finding on game history!

In the previous months, we began exploring the history of the world’s most famous classic games that our team really loves. It includes ChessScrabbleTic Tac ToeChinese ChessGoChinese Checkers, etc.

Our design team spent months drawing, designing, & selecting the top 25 classic games that we wanted to showcase.

origin of games_closeup
For the Pop version, the poster takes on a checker board orientation for a fun appearance.


origin of games_closeup_vintage
For the vintage version, there’s a classic feel with a natural mahogany background. The games look as if they are physically placed on a wooden tabletop.

SweeTooth Designs has also successfully funded two other fun poster projects, “The Alchemy of Tea” and “The Genesis of Cookies.” Their devotion to detail and quality is admirable and definitely worth backing!

There are only 11 days left to back this project, so don’t wait to take a look at SweeTooth Design’s “The Origin of Games.” Here’s the project’s Kickstart page: http://kck.st/1Ezs0ho.

Happy gaming!


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Friday Fun Stuff: Toothless Quadsuit Update #1

toothless quadsuit

Toothless Cosplay Update #1

Happy New Year, everyone! Today is Fun Friday (and the first Friday of 2015) It’s time to take a look at my newest cosplay project. Here is the first update on the construction of my Toothless quadsuit. For anyone not familiar, Toothless is the Night Fury dragon from the movie How to Train Your Dragon. I’m making a costume of him that requires me to walk on four limbs.

From concept to completion, this is going to be a long road. But definitely a fun one! Here is a rough sketch (not mine, credit goes to nooby-banana) of what will be required for the full suit:

toothless blueprint

So far, I have a ‘skeleton’ created. I’ve constructed extendable front limbs, wings attached to my ‘back’, a partially constructed tail, and a poor attempt at making a dragonhead out of foam. Here is my monster’s origin parts:

photo 1

For the extend-o arms, I used PVC pipe, creating joints and holding them together with carriage bolts. Then I covered them with padding and dragon-skin-like fabric. Here is a picture of them (not complete yet):


And for a tutorial on making extend-o arms, this is the one I used (warning: audio quality kind of sucks)

For the wings, I used more PVC pipe attached to a hiking backpack (the kind that has hips straps and a metal frame). To create this, I referenced a guide here.

For Toothless’s head, I started with a big hunk of upholstery foam. There is no one way to create his head, and there are a lot of examples to be found online (especially on DeviantArt). After an attempt with the foam, I decided to go in a different direction. I found a 3D pep online and have begun cutting out the paper pieces that will eventually create this:

toothless pep head

All create must go to Graham Wiebe and his incredible guide, which can be downloaded here.

For the tail, I started with a pool noodle and wrapped it in padding and dragon-hide fabric. Then, to start making the tail’s fans, I used a silkier black fabric and bamboo sticks to create the boning. When I realized that the fabric was too flimsy, I hot-glued thin foam sheets to the back for a firmer look. Again, there are other ways to do it, this was just my trail-and-error method. Here is a picture of what I have so far:


That’s about it for this first update! I’ll let you know when I make more progress. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask!

Have you ever created your own cosplay or Halloween costume? Thinking about starting one? Leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you.

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