Gifts from an amazing friend

So, one of the wonderful things in life is getting to see people you love become awesome at something they truly enjoy. My friend Marina has become truly excellent at crochet in the last few years. She’s added works to the county and state fair, been commissioned to give them as gifts, and she has gifted me my absolute favorite blanket ever. But sometimes Marina gets inspired by crochet books or people she knows from Facebook and she likes to surprise people with her works of art.

I have not written enough about The Last Unicorn on this blog, but believe me when I say it was probably my first or second fandom ever and has never given up that place in my heart. So when she showed up one random Thursday with this…

Reader, I cried.

No, I did. And wouldn’t set her down for hours.

You understand now why I had to share it???

Look at her! She’s glorious!

As if that isn’t mind-blowing enough, a few weeks later, Marina came over again with a large box. Something else I haven’t talked about much on this blog is my love for the Pern series by Anne McCaffrey. The Harper Hall trilogy was kind of my gateway out of regular books and into fantasy as a genre. It was similarly beloved by Sarah who read every book she could get in every library in Ohio.

And Marina made her a personal fire lizard…

Sarah did *not* cry because that’s not Sarah’s way, but her feelings were just the same. We have them both set up next to our TV now, which basically means we can see them from anywhere in the living room or kitchen. And we both find ourselves staring at them sometimes.

In terms of citations:

Both can be found as individual patterns for sale on Etsy or Ravelry. The unicorn is also available as a pattern in this book.

Marina herself doesn’t have a link to promote; this is just something she does for love. And I am permanently grateful to receive that love and all the beautiful things that come with it!

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Me and my weird stats

So, for as long as I’ve put serious effort into writing, I’ve been tracking everything I begin and everything I finish. I mostly only celebrate what I finish, but today is going to be different. However, to do that, you have to understand when and how a story becomes — or doesn’t become — complete.

Since I started this tracking all the way back in 2004, I’ve developed basically a 3-stage writing process.

Stage 1 is the idea dump. I have a running document of ideas that I just gush out when they arrive, no censoring or editing. They’re numbered, and as time passes I either develop them into stories or decide the idea wasn’t worth saving and move it off the page. At present, that document is 27 pages long with 47 entries on it. (I probably need to thin it out again, honestly.) Stage 1 is where ideas get recorded so they’re not forgotten, and far more make it to reality than get discarded overall.

Stage 2 is the baby steps. I open a blank doc and start the story in some way. Maybe I only write a couple of lines of actual story and spend the rest of the page elaborating on my original idea with notes and outline info. Maybe I write the scene that came to me in full color and sound and try to work out what story goes around it. Either way, Stage 2 is my middle ground. Some stories, especially shorter works or stories that don’t need much in-depth outlining, get finished in Stage 2. I go from a doc of notes and bits to a whole completed work all in the same file.

But more and more frequently, as I get more serious, more focused, and as my outlining (and plotting) gets more complex, I advance to Stage 3. That’s where The Spreadsheet comes in.

Stage 3 is where I create a spreadsheet with a minimum of 3 tabs on it. Tab 1 is where I track my daily writing. Any day I work on the project, I record how many words it has at the end and compare to where it started. And I do nerdy things like check my average wordcounts, my min and max, etc. Tab 2 is my chapters tab where I put my outline, but broken up by chapter. I note all the beats and scenes I know are coming and update as I go with the ones I didn’t find until I got there. And I track how many words are in each chapter, what the chapter title is, etc.

From there, The Spreadsheet expands as fits the need of the project. For my Urban Fantasy, for example, I had a tab of all my characters and their info, a tab of “big notes” which was 2/3rds worldbuilding reminders for myself and 1/3rd links to useful resources, a tab showing the parallel plots with crossovers called out, and a tab tracking feedback from my beta readers. (I also have a whooooole spreadsheet for the query process, but that’s a different thing altogether.)

The Spreadsheet is my way of organizing my thoughts but also keeping myself accountable. If I’m not averaging at least 1,000 words every time I sit down to write, it helps me work harder. If I’m sensing a problem in the pacing, playing with my chapters in an outline list helps me spot where I need to adjust. And, frankly, most things I write are heavily dependent on information from elsewhere — maps, bits of history or science, reference pictures — and it’s easier for me to have it all in one place.

Stage 3 is where I have clearly declared that I’m taking a story seriously. I can’t say I’ve never gotten all the way to that level of planning and abandoned a work, but it’s rare. Stage 1 is a paper airplane, just a dream taking flight. Stage 2 is a hanglider — you can get around that way, but you can’t go far and you can’t weather a storm. Stage 3 is a proper airplane that will carry you across an ocean or above a hurricane.

Anyway. I told you all that so I could tell you this.

Since 2004, this process has worked wonders for me. I’ve spent close to 20 years tracking all my works from the shortest of short stories to the longest of novels. I’ve tracked when I’ve done character backgrounds or worldbuilding in TTRPGs as well as creative writing that will never see the light of day even on the internet. And I’ve also tracked when I advanced every project out of Stage 1. Maybe it’s 90% notes and only 10% story, or maybe it got to Stage 3 and has a spreadsheet before I put it aside for good, but I’ve tracked them all.

Last night, as I was organizing my spreadsheet for my YA that is fully in Stage 3, I got curious about those abandoned works.

Guess what I found?

Here is my writing tracker as it stands right now. This is completed works only, original, fic, TTRPG. But these are stories that are done only, no notes or outlines included:

A spreadsheet showing my writing totals by length of work (novel, novella, short story, etc). The overall count is 190 works totalling 3.6 million words.

Then I added up the wordcount for everything that has ever been started but discarded. I wasn’t careful with recording those — if the doc is 90% notes and 10% story, I still took the full wordcount of the doc rather than figuring out which bits were me talking to myself and which were narrative. Which means this figure is inflated.

Do you want to know the wordcount of stories I’ve begun in any way since 2004 but never finished?

52 individual works for a total of 329,901 words

Which means, in essence, of the 3,890,763 total words I’ve written since 2004, only a maximum of 8.5% has gone unfinished.

(And a lot of it doesn’t count. There’s fully 40,000 words of those discarded works which were folded into the Urban Fantasy story nearly wholesale. A lot of notes are counted in that 329,901, too, which I would never count in my finished works. So it’s inflated no matter how you look at it.)

Put another way…apparently once I advance a story from Stage 1 to Stage 2, I finish it 91.5% of the time if you go by wordcount. Going by count of works instead, it’s still a success rate of 78.5%. Either way, the vast majority of the time, if I begin, I finish.

Maybe it’s because I’m selective with my projects, with what I even consider putting any effort into. Maybe it’s because my process helps me stay focused and disciplined. Maybe it’s just because I’m damn stubborn about my writing.

But still. It’s a badass stat and I’m proud of it as a writer. I’m proud that I have come so far and can complete so much. I’m proud that every single work I have ever written is better than what came before it, even now. I’m proud of getting this far and I’m excited to get farther.

Sometimes when I’m struggling to be creative, it helps me to do a little analytical magic on my own accomplishments. It gives me a little scorecard, and that gives me a boost. And while I may still be learning, I think I’m a pretty good student getting pretty good grades here.

Time to go make progress on that YA that I’ve begun and get it to the finish line too. I’ve got a pattern to uphold here!

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I have a cosplay page!

On the excellent advice of someone I highly respect in the publishing world, I have added a whole page to this website chronicling my cosplay journey since 2013. With pictures! If you read this blog and you have awesome pictures of me especially from the years I’m missing, send them over! Otherwise, it’s a pretty nice timeline of how my style has evolved.

I’ll say nothing on the matter of skill. My sewing is as good as it’s ever been and it hasn’t progressed since I was 14. I can sew and it’s functional. If we want pretty, we shell out for experts.

I have to say, in the dream future where I have an author’s picture on a book somewhere — I really want it to be something like this from 2022. Maskless, but just as badass.

Me wearing a tiara with a moon on it perched on a crown of braids, red long-sleeved shirt, underbust corset, and golden shoulder armor that looks like dragon scales joined in front with a golden crescent moon.

Don’t you agree?

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I survived CONvergence!

Actually, I had a blast. There was plenty of chaos that was fun and silly — and plenty that was neither — and I managed to pace myself relatively well both physically and emotionally. I’m still TIRED AS FUCK, mind, but that’s to be expected after 4 days of 16 hour shifts and 2 days at either side moving in/out. I have lots of feelings about the performance Sarah and I did for HarmCon, and lots of stories (many of which are not really for the blog). But the point is that it was fun. It was good. It was, dare I say, restorative? Even though my heart breaks when it ends, there’s a moment in the middle of the convention when I have this absolute clarity about myself. When I know what I’m capable of. When I have done myself proud and I can look at myself and know that I am a badass. When I feel truly and wholly like I am exactly where I belong.

It’s a really good feeling. I try to hold onto it, but it always surprises me when it comes back.

Anyway. Due to the VERY TIRED I’m not going to try to get into all that now. But here’s a picture of me. I did 3 big dresses this year at con and this was the 2nd one. I went for kind of a valkyrie look and actually really enjoyed it. You can’t see the leather bracers or boots in this shot, nor the belt pouch. But it’s still good.

Me from a sideways angle wearing a leather crown with wings, a drapey blue gown, a moon pendant, and a mask and radio earpiece - looking slightly skeptical and having "artfully windswept" aka frizzy curly hair down my back

And, yes, that’s a bandage under my mask. Every year the wearing of a mask eventually turns into a need for something to keep from having my nose by rubbed to the point of open bleeding. I also messed up my feet, but there’s no need for photo evidence of that.

I’ll try to do better than a month between updates, but you know me. No promises until I have good cause to make them!

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Art! (And Friends)

So, I think I’ve written previously about my total and complete lack of art skill. It’s not just that I can’t draw, or paint, or otherwise produce visual art. I’m also not great at envisioning it. I can imagine a scenario in a story, or characters, or abstract symbols. But creating something visually interesting and artistically coherent is just not my strength. At all.

But I love art. I love to have color around me, and images of things that make me feel. I have collected figures and pieces from every place I’ve ever traveled or lived, and I love being able to look at them or pick them up and remember what the air tasted like, or how the birds sounded, or what I learned while there. And I love art that is unconventional, art that means something to me but others would find stupid. It’s like an in-joke with myself.

The house used to be filled with art, a picture or a hanging or a carved statue every 3 feet. We kept all of it, because it all had meaning, but moving to a smaller place meant rethinking how we deal with it. Also, while you absolutely can just line the wall with paintings, it’s much more effective visually when you cluster them together in a collection.

So, on Saturday, after 6ish hours of meetings for CONvergence, a couple of friends came over to help us do just that.

Here is the result:

Can I just say? MY FRIENDS ARE AMAZING. For so many reasons. But in this case…I mean, just look at it! It’s beautiful!

I keep walking into the room and just STARING.

I love everything about it. I love the shape, I love the balance, the colors, the way not all the frames have to be black to look like they belong. I love having all the disparate pieces that add up to who I am (and who Sarah is — it’s hers too!) put together like this. And this is just one collage of the three we did!

Moving left to right, we start off with a picture of Princess Mononoke. Beautiful art we bought at CONvergence two years ago from the artist, along with the picture of Nausicaa at the other end. Next in is the newly framed picture of our art print from Beth Kinderman’s album, which arrived just in time to take its rightful place amidst the beauty. Below that is my signed picture (that I bought, did not get in person, SIGH) by the voice cast from the 2012 TMNT. I like everybody, but, let’s be honest, IT IS ALL ABOUT ROB PAULSEN VOICING DONATELLO.

Ahem.

Starting above Beth’s art are a matched pair bought at the same 2017 CONvergence from a different artist; they happen to be characters in a series she puts out, but they also pretty much stand in for Sarah and I (I’m the tiger and she is the hawk). Next to them is the framed Morpho butterfly which was a gift from a friend after I saw them in person when we were in Ecuador in 2009 and proceeded to have a series of life-changing realizations about myself.

Then we have the two big ones, the centerpiece of everything. These we also bought in Ecuador from the artist. They represent the sun god and the moon goddess and they are. Just. Perfect.

(Even if the matting in the frames is giving way — we intend to get that fixed eventually.)

Those two used to hang over our fireplace in the house, so I’ve pretty much been staring at them nonstop for a decade, and I have yet to get tired of them, of the colors, of the symbols. They’re made with banana leaves and recycled paper, if I remember correctly, and the texture is really neat up close, too. Even after all this time, they still speak to me.

Anyway.

Below the moon goddess is a set of three which goes back to 2008 in one of the apartments. All three were found online somewhere (probably a long-dead Deviantart site) and meant to represent the three of us then living together — Sarah, me, and another friend. It was our promise that we would be a home and a refuge for one another, no matter what life threw our way. The friend lived with us for a long time, even in the house for a while, and now lives just across the river from our condo. But for 11 years, we have still be home base for him and for others.

The condo really couldn’t be home if it wasn’t home for more than just Sarah and I.

Left of those is my signed picture of Leonard Nimoy as Spock. It was in one of the last batches he ever signed before he passed away, and I was lucky enough to buy it from his website just in time. That was when he was also offering to be a surrogate father or grandfather for people as well, and I got in on that, too. He also sent a free gift when he sent the picture, which I have perma-loaned to my biggest Trekkie friend so she has something of him in her house as well. I miss him in the world and his wisdom and wonderful humor, but I’m so glad to have this piece of a person who helped define me as a nerd when I was sneakily watching TV long after my parents had gone to bed.

Above is my big TMNT print, also bought at CONvergence in 2017 but not by me. That was a gift from a friend who saw it and thought I would love it. I pretty much broke down and cried when he gave it to me. I didn’t even SEE IT when I was looking for art, and it just…I…IT TURTLES OKAY!!!

Above the turtles are a pair of wolves Sarah bought for herself, also from the artist at CONvergence, but back in 2013. She says they don’t have specific meaning to her other than the fact that she also strongly identifies with wolves, but I look at them and I see her reflected too.

(Which is not to say that the rest of the art is “mine.” It’s VERY MUCH MUTUALLY SHARED. But some things, like the butterfly or Leonard Nimoy, speak more to me. These wolves speak more to her. Mostly, though, it’s both of us.)

And lastly is Nausicaa, so we have Miyazaki on either side.

It makes me SO HAPPY to have this. To see these things brought together intentionally and beautifully, a space made for all of it. And doubly, triply so because I could never have fashioned this layout on my own. I needed my friends for that.

But I never could have fashioned myself alone, either, so it all works out.

There’s more art to hang, but this will be the centerpiece of it all, and very rightly so. After all, this is who lives here, feelings and experience and knowledge of self all wrapped in one.

And also nerdity and fandom.

Because, well. What else would you expect, really?

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Nothing to Prove

I spent the long weekend catching up on sleep, playing an impromptu game of volleyball with about a third of my Operations leadership, and continuing to turn the condo into home. I also started swimming again, and I’m up to 500+m of swimming in a session, which is a good start.

Which also means I’m very tired and my brain is all over the place.

Therefore, I just leave you with this. I love this song, and what it stands for, and everybody who contributed to it.

And also — the Doubleclicks are coming to CONvergence 2019! So if you want to see them live, be in Minneapolis in July!

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The Hero’s Journey

“so walk your path in your own shoes
send off what you stand to lose
cause you can let it be
or let your destiny
become the one you choose”

These lyrics are by my dear friend and acquired sister Beth. They come from the first track of her newest album, The Hero’s Journey.

And now I’m going to tell you why this album is FUCKING EPIC and you need it in your life.

The concept of the hero’s journey as written by Joseph Campbell was the original inspiration when Beth began on this journey of her own more than a decade ago. It’s a structure more than a trope, a monomyth that underpins so many, many,many stories in our culture. You can tell the story of Jesus, Ahab, Jane Eyre, Frodo, the last unicorn, Spock, Wonder Woman, Harry Potter, and a gazillion others under this model. Roughly, it’s been illustrated this way (thanks Wikipedia):

It’s a natural subject for an album, especially for someone so deeply embedded in music and filk culture as my friend Beth. But Beth’s perspective is always unique and I find it no less so this time than I have on any other song project.

(Look here for Beth’s rewrite of Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” No, seriously. And look at the lyrics. When you finish laughing your ass off, you’ll thank me.)

I’ve known Beth for more than a decade as well. We started as friends of friends — I was pulled into her group by a then-roommate who was regularly at her place for roleplaying on Sundays. Before long, I became a fixture at their table, and those Sundays were my escape from everything. Then I became a player in Beth’s game, and there was pretty much no going back from there. The people at Beth’s table became my friends, and ultimately many of them became family.

Sarah and I had tried doing music in the cities a tiny bit before we met Beth, including one hilariously disastrous Christian music competition (spoiler alert: being married kinda played against us). But we really didn’t know anybody, didn’t know where to perform, didn’t have any contacts or anything. One night, though, Sarah came up with me and we jammed with our guitars with Beth for a while, and she thought we might have something worth sharing. Not long after, we played our first gig at a bar.

(The only people who showed up were our friends and Beth’s band. But that was our biggest audience outside of a dorm room so we were more than pleased.)

For a few years, Sarah and I did some light gigging around the Twin Cities. We didn’t really seek it out for ourselves — but if Beth was performing with her band somewhere, a lot of times we could sign up to open for them. It was fun. Her bandmates are fantastic, and as often as not, they’d end up on stage with us jumping in to back us up.

Then, in 2010, Beth was performing at CONvergence but her usual backup singer couldn’t be there and she asked me to step in. Singing with the full band was amazing, but I got a lot more that night than a neat experience rocking out with Beth and the Player Characters. That was the night I spent at my first CONvergence, and when I crawled home at 3am, I woke Sarah up to tell her that I had just discovered our community and we needed to go to it the following year.

So, really, everything that’s come since then for me and CONvergence can be traced back to Beth.

In 2012, Beth and Dave (her producer, engineer, and originator of all the weird guitar noises) helped Sarah and I put together a 4-track album of our own. We only ever sold about 5 copies, but the experience was great for us regardless. And it meant we were a lot more prepared when we started performing at CONvergence ourselves.

But all the while, as Sarah and I figured out our style, and what sort of performance schedule worked for us, and what songs we could share versus which ones we kept for ourselves, Beth was working her way through this album.

Beth’s songs always seem to speak to a part of myself that I don’t always remember to listen for. She does things with music that would never occur to me. (Dave calls it the “key of Beth” and Sarah and I have to agree. It’s that thing where a level of mastery means you can break all the rules; Beth just does it naturally. It’s amazing.) She can hear combinations, melody lines, arrangements that my brain just can’t grasp. But she also writes lyrics that are so strong, so beautifully crafted. What she does putting language together to create meaning always leaves me in awe.

Like the hero in her album, Beth’s made her choice to walk this journey, but she does not come to it empty-handed. She’s not the plucky hero who has nothing going for her but a quip and dumb luck. She embarked on this journey well-supplied with talent and experience and allies and clarity in her eyes.

As an author, the hero’s journey is an important motif — knowing it, knowing when to invoke it, knowing when NOT to invoke it, these all help me create narrative. But I use it as a tool. I don’t think I could have done what Beth did here. She didn’t just tell a story. She turned the journey into an emotional one.

Not without help — the Player Characters really outdid themselves on this album. I will never get tired of listening to what they can create when they unleash their massive talents.

But anyway.

I’ll admit it. I am more often than I am happy with thoroughly intimidated by Beth and what she can do as a musician. Her style, her skill, her raw talent, her lyrics, her drive — there’s really no part of me that feels I could ever do what she does even remotely as well. But then Beth invites me to sing on her album, and all my feelings go WOOOOOOSH.

Sarah and I both sang on this one. We’ve sung on others, too, but this one was so much more. It was a project that was close to Beth’s heart and soul, and it was a project we watched eagerly when Dave gave us access to the files, because we could feel what it was becoming. The chance to be a part of this journey, well. There was no way we wouldn’t happily sign on to be a couple of side characters for a few steps of the quest.

You’ll hear us singing backup in a few places, but the ones that had the greatest impact are the Crossing the First / Crossing the Return Threshold songs. They’re some of the finest and most well-crafted pagan invocations of the elements and directions I’ve heard put down, and we got to be part of them. Sarah sings for Fire, and I sing for Earth. And when I think about standing in the studio next to Sarah and Beth, putting these verses together, I am humbled by the trust Beth put in me to sing this all-important set of tracks with her.

There is nothing easy or simple about letting someone else into what you hold dear and giving them the chance to ruin it. And I wouldn’t ruin it, if I could help it. But there was always the possibility that what I would contribute would not be right, would not be enough, would not fit. (Between Sarah and I, I am the one who is super lousy at harmonizing, and I have to really, really work at it to get something respectable together.) But Beth didn’t worry about that. She trusted me, and she invited me into her heart to get this project done.

Besides the music — and, believe me, the music is enough ALL ON ITS OWN — there is also some absolutely, positively stunning art. The artist made art for all 17 of the songs. They’re very difficult to describe. But they…I mean, they just LOOK like how the songs sound.

Talk about fanart. That is just the ULTIMATE in fanart.

So. Now that I’ve gushed at length about Beth, and her art.

Why did I want to put this in today’s blog?

Well, first. Because the album is out, and I have one, and I love it, and you will love it!

Second, because wayyyy back when I began blogging in the first place, I had always intended to spotlight people who were making things, people who deserved an extra boost of attention. Not that I have a wildly robust readership here, honestly. But if I have a thing, I share it, regardless of how big or awesome it is. I have this small blog, and this small audience, and if that’s all I can offer to a person who has been friend and sister and supporter and source of wisdom and kindness and help, well, then that’s what I’m going to do!

But third?

Last week I wrote about my own writing and inspiration, about the relationship between me and those who contribute to my creative process.

Beth is one of the most supportive people in my life when it comes to my own art. She has always helped Sarah and I with music, has believed in us, has offered us opportunities to perform or grow or learn. But she also can understand my investment in fanfic, can ask me about writing and genuinely care how I feel about it. We approach writing differently, but she has never been far from my list of trusted people I could talk to about stories.

What people do on AO3 with comments, on Twitter/Tumblr with fanart, Beth has done for me in person for the better part of a decade.

I don’t talk about my friends, my family, my Clan very often. Many or most of them are private, and I try to respect that. I don’t give many real names, nor links to ways to reach them. (Sarah is different; she’s always up on YouTube with me.) But promoting Beth, spreading her music and her message and her talent as far as I can is not an invasion or an unwelcome peek into her life on the interwebz. I have her enthusiastic consent to make known to however-many people read this thing how awesome she is and how you should buy her CDs.

While writing this blog (and also working), I’ve had the album on repeat. And I finish writing it feeling like that first time I’ve stepped into a new situation, a new place, a new adventure, and I’m breathing in that new wind and looking up at the new sky, and I am ready to start walking.

She actually captured that feeling for me, that feeling of taking a journey, of stepping into one’s best and truest self, and thereby finding the way home.

“so I’ll depart for more adventures
but know they’re only for a while
though my journey goes on, I am anchored
I’ll come back knowing I am free

I am awake
I am awake
I am awake
I have always been awake.”

My journey as an author is my own. My journey as a musician is bound always to Sarah. But Beth has been there for all of it for a decade. And now that I get to experience her own version of that journey, feeling what she has felt and hearing her heart in her words, all I can do is grin and feel my own heart soaring in return.

I put a lot of music in this blog. Rarely does the music mean as much as this does.

Beth let me step on her journey for a bit, and I am the better for it.

Go listen to it, go buy it. You’ll be better, too.

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HarmCon! And not quite a year late!

So, thanks to a friend with strong Google-fu, and some free software, I was actually able to get our video from HarmCon in 2017 into shape for YouTube! Truly, better late than never. Right?

Right?

We were joined on many of the songs by our friend and fellow nerd Dave Stagner, who always finds a way to make our music a hundred times better. The set list for this particular show turned out to be a mix of 3 covers, 2 of our original songs, and 8 parodies. We got a lot of laughs and commentary on the parodies, though you have to listen closely to get it all. I’m listing the songs for you here, in case you want to know:

Warrior (by the Wyrd Sisters, joined by Marina Krinsky)
Secure Yourself (by the Indigo Girls)
Phoenix Rise
Fearless (by Kat Perkins)
Sunfire/Breathless
Parody of Babylon 5 based on “Angles from Montgomery” = Aliens from Babylon
Parody of Stargate: SG1 based on: “Brown-Eyed Girl” = Brown-Eyed Goa’uld
Parody of ET based on “All By Myself” = All By My Kite
Parody of The Fifth Element based on “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” = Hit it With My Four Stones
Parody of Transformers based on “Hand in My Pocket” = Hand In Its Socket
Parody of Signs based on “The Water Is Wide” = Water, Water Everywhere and OMG It Burns
Parody of Star Trek based on “Take Me Home, Country Roads” = Insert Noun Here
Parody of Toy Story based on “Man of Constant Sorrow” = Toy of Constant Sorrow

We’re finalizing this year’s set now, to be performed a week from Friday. And now that I have new and exciting technology, I’m hoping it’s easier to get the video up sooner.

I was chatting back and forth with some of the CVG folks on Slack and a point came up about how hard it is to be creative with all the awful that’s going on in the world. What I said was this —

The shit part just leaks into everything though, doesn’t it? I’m working on my set for HarmCon and I keep looking at our songs and thinking “can we really laugh about gaming and Star Wars when insert-horrific-reality-here is going on?” And I have to keep telling myself that yes, we can and we must laugh. We can’t keep fighting for humanity, for dignity, for equality, for justice, for compassion, if we lose track of ourselves. You can’t beat back the dark without a light, and sometimes that light isn’t righteous anger, but the relief of taking one day off.

It was true last year in the summer of 2017 and it’s certainly true now. CONvergence in general has been something for me to look forward to, something for me to give time and energy and positivity when even the brightest day seemed dark. And it is silly to sing about gaming stories (we have some outrageous ones in the set and nerd jokes), but it’s also necessary. Just as it’s necessary to stop and breathe and rest between the waves of a struggle.

Not by accident, I think, this year’s set is more heavily weighted towards “our” stuff, and fewer parodies. At least for now. In a week, it might have grown a few more parodies. They’re sneaky like that.

Anyway.

Sarah and I named Candles Enough for the idea that between us, we have enough light to get us through dark times. Sometimes, that light is giggling. Sometimes it’s steady courage. Sometimes it’s just pure silliness. Sometimes it’s tried and tested in fire. But that’s who we are. That’s what we do. And this year, as much as we all need to laugh, we also need to be that boost of hope and truth. So “Jagged” is back this year, and so is “Trial by Fire” — along with new stuff written more recently.

If we can be that one candle in the dark for someone who needs it, then it’s all been worth it.

I think there’s only 4 or 5 people who ever consistently read this blog, and half of you will be at CVG this year. We can’t wait to show you what happens when you put out an open call for people’s ridiculous, silly stories. But for those of you who aren’t (yet) part of the CVG family, here’s a sample of what you’re missing.

It’s a MILLIONTH of what is good about CVG, of course. This is just our tiny, musical corner of it.

(P.S. You will NOT hear from me for at least 2 weeks. Next week and the week after will be my time to dive completely and totally, heart and soul and body and lack-of-sleep, into CONvergence. I’ll try to emerge with stories. Join us vicariously on Twitter, though. #CVG2018 is a good way to experience the fun from afar!)

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Rolling blackouts ahead, and wisdom from a Minnesotan native

So…yeah, things are really busy.  I have something like 5 evenings of meetings in a row this week, and more next week.  And then it will be CONvergence!

The blog might go a little fallow in the meantime.  Not that, you know, it makes a HUGE difference given my, uh, small but mighty readership.  I’m better about Twitter these days because I can put stuff on it from my phone.

But I’m here.  And I’ll be here afterwards, too.  Possibly with the whole story of why this year is trying so hard to break our community and how, exactly, we’re keeping that from happening.

If you do happen to be in the MN area the weekend after the 4th of July, come come hang out with us at HarmCon on Friday, 11am at CONvergence.  Hopefully we’ll record it this year, too, but no promises on when I put the stuff on YouTube. We do have several new songs, though. Including one crowd-sourced parody.

Not even kidding.

Also, crowd-sourcing is a FANTASTIC way to get hilarious gaming stories.  Just sayin’.

So if I drop off the map again, I’m sorry in advance.  I’ll be back, though. In my own time and my own way, probably, but without fail.

In the meantime, I hope your summer is treating you as well as can be expected.  The world is tough for a lot of us right now. For a lot of different reasons.

So take your lesson from this week’s viral adventure.

Make like the MPR Raccoon.

Keep climbing and never give up.  Rest when you have to, and know that it’s okay to be scared.  We’re all afraid of the fall.

But we were born for this climb.  Every one of us.

No matter what specifically your climb is, you can do this.

Climb on, my friends.  Climb on.

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Sense8

CVG season is heating up, and most of the time I’m not running around getting a million things done and sometimes wanting to throw a cupboard-worth of plates at walls is being spent aggressively taking time for myself to balance the chaos.  This has led me to binge-watching a few new shows to keep my mind and heart occupied and chill when the world around me is descending into near madness.

When it’s all over, maybe I’ll do a post about what the actual FUCK has been going on this year.

Anyway, in the meantime, Sarah and I have chewed through the TV series Sense8.

WHICH IS AMAZING.

NO, SERIOUSLY.

Sense8 was created by Lana and Lilly Wachowski and J. Michael Straczynski.  So, first of all, GODSDAMN THAT IS A PEDIGREE. Storytelling and representation, HERE WE GO.  It’s about a group of 8 total strangers from all over the world who find out they are linked in a “cluster” — a sharing of minds beyond telepathy and going right down to being able to step into one another when needed.  So, if one is being beat up by some bullies, the combat master can take his place in his body and defend herself. It also leads to amazing and hilarious interludes of others in the cluster popping up and having opinions where, really, they might not have been needed.

The cinematography is fucking magical, and the storytelling is superb.

Oh, and representation?  YES.

Eight very different people, four men and four women which include people of color, LGBT people, people from 7 different nations, different economic backgrounds, educational experiences, etc.  And there is intersectionality represented as well. The fluidity of the representation of identity politics really drives the central idea that we, as a people, are more alike than we are different.  That humanity is humanity.

During some truly hectic days, when sometimes my life felt too big and too hard, it was a wonderful escape to settle in and see how it would be to be living  my life and seven other lives at the same time.

I had to hide a lot because I can’t watch needles even on TV without fainting and there’s a good amount of needle-sticking that goes on.  And because of a particular interest in sex across the cluster, there wasn’t really a good representation of aexuality or gray-A characteristics, which I would have liked to see.

But overall?  Absolutely, positively worth your time.  This series made SARAH cry. REPEATEDLY. And NOTHING does that.

Also?  I loved J. Michael Straczynski from Babylon 5.  That love was very much returned with Sense8. The man is just outstanding.

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