Elvira’s dagger

I threw together a dagger at the minute for Elvira. And a belt. I need to get pics of the belt. But my dagger was made from s plastic toy dagger sold as a set of 2 for $0.98 at Walmart the day before I had to leave for con. I’ve included a pic of the real dagger for comparison



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Manic Panic Hair Dye Review

Manic Panic Amplified Hair Color

I haven’t dyed my hair in years due to an allergy to a chemical commonly found in permanent and semi-permanent hair dyes. The chemical is para-phenylenediamine (PPD) and from my personal experience, I recommend avoiding hair dyes containing PPD, even if you have successfully used them many times before with no adverse reaction. Even the “natural” hair dyes sold in most retailers contain this chemical or some variant of it. An easy way to check to see if a particular product has PPD is to see if the dye has two components that have to be mixed together prior to use. If so, this is a chemical hair dye requiring a chemical reaction during the mixing. Be especially careful with chemical hair dyes if you have ever used black henna temporary tattoos.  

Having mousy, dirty-blonde hair gets old after a while. Even though I waited most of my life for my first full hair dye experience, I was accustomed to having at least highlights or lowlights or both. Once I discovered I was allergic to PPD, I thought I was destined to live with the dishwater blond until I turned gray.

Enter Manic Panic semi-permanent hair dye. My oldest daughter introduced me to the product. She works at Hot Topic, a retailer in malls that specializes in pop culture fashion and accessories. They also happen to carry Manic Panic hair color. Manic Panic is also available online via Tish and Snooky’s Manic Panic website or through Hot Topic’s website. The product is vegan; it contains no animal ingredients and it is not tested on animals, but tested on celebrities. The best part for me is that Manic Panic is PPD free!  

I was ready to dive into the wonderful world of hair color again. The classic cream formula comes in about forty different colors. I chose to try the amplified version because it is touted to last as much as thirty to forty percent longer than the classic cream. The color selection in the amplified line is a bit less diverse, with only fourteen of the most popular colors currently available. Let me warn you, if you are looking for a “natural” color, you are not going to find it in the Manic Panic line. These colors ROCK!   

After checking several Pinterest boards and doing extensive before and after Google searches, Vampire RedTM and Purple HazeTM are the colors I chose, while my daughter went with Rockabilly BlueTM. Not being very experienced in the hair dye process, I found it very helpful to have a partner. I dyed her hair and she dyed mine.

For the most part, we followed the instructions on the bottle, which are clear and easy to understand. For purity of color, the manufacturer highly recommends that you lighten your hair first and they have products available for this. My daughter and I opted NOT to bleach our hair and just apply the dye directly over our natural color.

The amplified line comes in a squeeze bottle and we just applied it directly from the bottle to our freshly washed and still-wet hair. As the instructions suggest, we combed the color through until the hair was saturated and frothy. I’m very glad I had my daughter to help me, since I was doing two colors. She applied the Purple HazeTM to the longest layer of my hair and then wrapped the purple part in foil before she applied the Vampire RedTM  to the two shorter layers of my hair.

After we were well saturated and frothy, we applied heat to our hair with a blow dryer set on low for about ten minutes. Then we wrapped our hair in plastic wrap, put a plastic shower cap on over that, and topped it all off with a knit cap. The dye is activated by heat rather than chemical, so we figured the more heat, the better.  The bottle says to leave on for thirty minutes. In our research of before and after pictures, we found that many consumers recommend leaving the product in your hair much longer, even overnight if possible. This is the method we chose.

In the morning, we rinsed the dye with water as cold as we could stand until it ran clear. We followed that up with a rinse of 1 to 1 vinegar and water, which I’ve since found is recommended on the website, but not on the bottle. You can use a conditioner on your hair and rinse through one more time, but we found our hair to be soft and shiny without the conditioner. Our color came out fantastic! I am very pleased with this product. Not only did I get great color, but I had no allergic or adverse reaction even after leaving it in for ten hours!

Definitely check Trish and Snooky’s website. There are all kinds of handy tips and tricks to use when dyeing your hair. Especially pay attention to the eleven commandments. As the website says, live fast and dye your hair.

So far my color has lasted a week without any noticeable fading. The bottle recommends not washing your hair for at least a week after dyeing and only washing your hair once a week thereafter for maximum color retention. I only lasted four days after dying and then three days after that. I will post updates as to how long the color lasts for me.

Happy dyeing! Happy Cosplaying!

Jumping Off Buildings and Anthologies

I never would’ve thought in September 2013 (while I was attending KillerCon Convention in Las Vegas) that only a few months later I would be writing a blog for my author site. I accompanied my husband, as I had the year before, and was looking forward to catching up with friends from the last con and spending some quality coupe time. I also planned to take the SkyJump off the Stratoshere, which I had been looking forward to since the previous year.

I did all of those things and I had a great time. But, as I went around to the panels and took a couple of classes and in general soaked up all that creative energy and support, I began to believe that, perhaps, I actually could become a writer.

There are some fun, creative challenges held at KillerCon each year. There is the gross-out, which was most hilarious and the erotic writing competition was titillating, but the stories written in just 15 minutes for the 200 word horror short fiction challenge were amazing.

To begin this challenge, the writers are given 5 words and a phrase that must be included in their story. I didn’t formally participate in the challenge, but I wrote down the words and the phrase and got about one hundred forty seven words of a story written.

What does this have to do with anything? Well, I was going through our business records for last year and mixed in amongst the hotel and food receipts, hastily scratched out on a hotel note pad, were those one hundred and forty seven words. Something about them just struck me, and I was able to see the rest of the story, complete in my head; all I had to do was write it down.

I started writing in October, but I hadn’t fully committed to it yet. I was afraid. Afraid of judgment, afraid I wasn’t good enough, afraid I would edit my work to death. Afraid of so many things, I ended up being afraid to try. November wasn’t much better as I failed NamoWriMo, but managed to get over four thousand words written. It’s more than I wrote in October, I tried to reassure myself. December dissolved into holiday frenzy and I decided to make a New Year’s resolution to write five hundred words a day, five days a week.

That, I felt I could do. As I picked up on the stories I had previously started, five hundred words didn’t seem too difficult. I was keeping up, and as I placed my word count into my tracker each day, I felt excited and proud, and soon I had written over five thousand words for the month!

My husband had been accepted into an anthology and he said I should write something for it. I started a new story, with this anthology’s theme in mind, and had close to eight hundred words completed on it, when I found the one hundred forty seven words from KillerCon.

Using those words, I wrote the story for the anthology in 2 days. It is approximately fourteen hundred words in length and was submitted, accepted, and published. Suddenly, I was an author.

Never give up on yourself, especially before you even try and don’t throw away any of your ideas, you’re going to need them someday.

Traveling to Conventions

My husband and I travel to quite a number of conventions every year, generally a total of twelve to fifteen. Although many of the cons are local, we do attend select events around the country, often as far as 1200-1300 miles away.  A twenty five hundred mile round trip for a convention is an easy 4-6 hour flight and maybe an additional day’s stay at the con hotel. However, our normal course of action is usually to drive the distance.

Our perspective on what constitutes a “day trip” is a bit skewed. Many of our author friends and fellow con-goers find our preferred method of travel somewhat less than sane. Agreeably, driving does have disadvantages.

We receive the gift of hours of conversation, uninterrupted by FaceBook  notifications or incoming emails. It’s just the two of us, unplugged and thoroughly exposed to one another. Eighties music often plays in the background, reminding us of younger days and good times past. My husband sometimes even sings along in his best Arnold Schwarzenegger  impersonation. Our bonds of love and friendship are renewed and strengthened and we’ve reconnected.

Pen and paper are always at the ready because, as is like to happen with creative minds, we use this time to brainstorm as well. I have notebooks filled with ideas, outlines and plot summaries.

Originally published on October 2014.

It’s Not All Just Gears and Goggles

The term Steampunk has entered our lexicon over the past few years, cropping up in literature, movies, and even fashion. But what is it really, and what is all the fuss about?

Wikipedia defines Steampunk as:

“…a subgenre of science fiction or science fantasy that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery. Although its literary origins are sometimes associated with the cyberpunk genre, steampunk works are often set in an alternative history of the 19th century’s British Victorian era or American “Wild West”, in a post-apocalyptic future during which steam power has maintained mainstream usage, or in a fantasy world that similarly employs steam power. Therefore, steampunk may be described as neo-Victorian.

“Steampunk also refers to any of the artistic styles, clothing fashions, or subcultures that have developed from the aesthetics of steampunk fiction, Victorian-era fiction, art nouveau design, and films from the mid-20th century. Various modern utilitarian objects have been modified by individual artisans into a pseudo-Victorian mechanical “steampunk” style, and a number of visual and musical artists have been described as steampunk.”

{CAPTION}Steampunk has entered the cultural mainstream in clothing style, fiction, video games, TV, movies, and more. There are even sub-genres of Steampunk such as Cyberpunk, Gearpunk, and Dieselpunk. As Steampunk becomes more widespread we have more and more character choices for our cosplay. “Glue some gears on it and call it Steampunk” is no longer enough when it comes to costuming in the genre. Characters such as Madd Moxy from Borderlands or Mrs. Lovett from Sweeney Todd are some examples of pre-existing characters we can choose as a basis for modding. Post-apocalyptic characters are also available to play with – think Mad Max or even Waterworld.

When creating an original Steampunk costumed character, you really need to imagine an entire background story for the character. Ask yourself what is their occupation, what is needed to do that job, and how does this person live? Are they rich or poor or in-between? What is the society like? Answering these questions will help you determine if the character needs weapons, tools, goggles, an aviator’s helmet, or a pith helmet. The answers will also help you choose the types of fabrics to use in creating your costume.

I cosplay across many genres including Steampunk. I’ve created two original Steampunk characters. The first is Eve Parker, aka The Two Faces of Eve, which appeared in Cosplay edition of Modern Nightmares Magazine. Eve is a schoolteacher by day, but once the students are gone her sassy side comes out. Eve has more of a purely Victorian aesthetic yet doesn’t need a lot of special equipment to do her job. She has no need of goggles or gears so they are not part of the costume. I believe metal and leather add a lot to the Steampunk aesthetic, so Eve’s outfit has carved metal buttons, chains, and buckles for adornment. The fabrics are modest and affordable by a spinster teacher, but the clothes are comfortable without large bustles or hoop skirts that would make teaching in a cramped classroom difficult. To introduce her sassy side, she simply pulls up her skirts by means of buckles and straps and gives you a cheeky peek at her lace and ribbon-trimmed pantaloons.

{CAPTION}My second original character is “Steampunk Sadie”. Sadie’s look is an eclectic mixture of old west characters. Part saloon girl, part gypsy, Sadie is fun-loving and free willed but still has a touch of Victorian lady hiding underneath. She wears a bandolier with glass bottles of potions and herbs – the tools of her trade. Sadie is an apothecary and a matchmaker, so naturally her specialty is love potions. Again, with this character, there is no need for goggles or gears; she simply doesn’t require those items in her day to day life. But let’s not be mistaken, she has plenty of impressive stuff back at her workshop. Mortar and pestle, jars and boxes of herbs and plants stacked high on shelves, vials of colored liquids, specimen collection containers, and maybe even special oculars to help her pull tiny seeds from their pods. She may carry some of these items out and about with her, but mostly she just needs to carry her best-selling potions for a quick sale to a lovesick traveler.

If you are still stumped trying to create an original character, consider a genre mash-up.  Find a character you love from Sci-Fi, Disney, comic books, or anime and re-imagine them in a Steampunk setting. What needs to be different? How does the wardrobe change? What kind of tools will they need in the new environment? I’ve seen some very well-done combinations at conventions around the country. Princess Leia, Ariel, Steampunk Adventure Time characters…the possibilities are endless! I’ve been envisioning a Steampunk Velma (from Scooby Doo), but that’s still a future project.

For more ideas on mash-ups talk to your artist friends or visit artistic websites such as Deviant Art. I’ve seen numerous artist renditions of existing characters re-imagined as Steampunk. If you find a drawing you like, contact the artist and get his/her permission to use the concept to spawn the three dimensional version. Once you have the character and costume finished, make sure to credit the artist and send them some photographs.

Watch movies and TV shows, read some Steampunk fiction, use your imagination, and even consider looking to designers such as Kato (Steampunk Couture) for inspiration. Go antiquing and check out thrift stores. Visit old hardware stores or stop at ghost towns on your travels. Get your gears turning and have fun creating your own Steampunk character.






Photo Credits


The Two Faces of Eve (Eve Parker) An original character
Model: Tonya L. De Marco – CosPlayer
Costume designed and Built by:  Tonya L. De Marco – CosPlayer
Photographer:  Lynn Deming of Deming Creations
Make-up: Caitlin De Marco
Steampunk Sadie
Model and Makeup: Tonya L. De Marco – CosPlayer
Costume/Character Concept and many of the pieces built by:
Tonya L. De Marco – CosPlayer
Photographer: Mike Tafoya