Recap – Browncoat Ball 2010

October 31, 2010

The Browncoat Ball is a Firefly fandom gathering that different cities take turns hosting every year. As I understand the process, there’s a sort of national ball committee that runs the bidding and selecting process… there’s a list of requirements that you need to satisfy to put together a bid as a local organizing committee, including suggesting a hotel that people can stay at, different Firefly-themed events that you could run in your city, and the quotes for how much you’d charge for tickets and how much the hotel rooms would cost people, and the National committee picks the venue based on that. There’s probably already people sketching out their bids for the 2011 ball.

I flew down to Charlotte from Buffalo on Friday morning, with my brother giving me a ride to the Buffalo airport, and back again. There were classes on Friday afternoon, including a fencing demonstration that I really enjoyed, where they had us do some basic footwork exercises, put on the mask and pick up a sword one at a time to practice with an automated target. I sang at the Karaoke, (the books were labelled Klingon Karaoke but it was officially Shiny-oke for Firefly,) and there was a woman singing Firefly ‘verse folk songs that she wrote herself, and a screening of two Firefly episodes on DVD. I won a pony in pajamas in a random drawing, and got to bed after 2am, which is really late for me.

Saturday was the field trip-ey day. We rode the Charlotte light rail to a pub for lunch, with burlesque dancers for entertainment,  and then split up into different tracks. I was on the ‘tour the core’ track, which basically involved going to a few museums in the city. The ‘museum of the New South’ was interesting, a lot of local history stuff since after the war. The film footage they had about people who had participated in lunch counter sit-ins during the sixties was very moving.

I also got to chat a fair bit with Reba on Saturday, who’s from around Toronto, but lived in the Charlotte area for years with her husband and just moved back recently after her divorce. She’s interesting, I’m glad I got to meet her and hope she starts coming out to the Toronto shindigs soon. And I met Leila, the woman who helps run the Karaoke. She actually dresses up as a Klingon to go to conventions, and told me several times that she was adopting me as the son she never had.

Dressing up in my Simon Tam outfit for the banquet on Saturday night was fun, but I didn’t stay out that late, because I still felt low on sleep from the night before. And there wasn’t that much of note on Sunday, except that a bunch of us who’d taken the airport shuttle together ended up finding each other again after going through the security checkpoint, and all had lunch and drinks at the Chili’s together, sharing stories about other conventions and meeting stars and what-have-you, until it was time to show up at the gate for our flights.

It was a really fun weekend, and I think it helped to charge my creative batteries for Nano!

Photos available from Flickr

Blogisode Seven

October 30, 2010

There was a moment’s pause before the hobgoblins panicked and ran for the edges of the forest, hoping to escape the terrible curse that Ismay was threatening to loose on them – the one that he didn’t have. Thank goodness they fell for the bluff, he thought, keeping his cross raised in silence until he couldn’t see any trace of the disreputable creatures any longer.

At that moment, Clast turned to him and started to stagger forward, grimacing more with each step. Father Ismay met him as quickly as he could. “Well done, Father,” Clast told him. “I was worried that you’d admit there was nothing further you could do, since we hadn’t rehearsed that bit of trickery before.”

“I almost did,” Ismay admitted. “Until I saw what the only solution to the situation was. How badly hurt are you? I see that slice on your arm, and you have clearly taken another hurt.”

“The hobgoblin clubs have broken a few of my ribs, I’m afraid,” Clast told him. “But don’t worry about me – the captives are too close to the fire. We need to untie them as soon as possible.”

Ismay looked over at the hobgoblin’s cooking fire, still burning hot, and the trussed bundles sitting next to it, and his throat tightened at the thought that those bundles were two of his parishioners. “I’ll take care of that. Give me your blade.”

“My axe won’t be much for this, but two of the enemy that I felled had knives.” Clast gestured to the dead body of a hobgoblin. Ismay rushed over towards it, and picked up the knife that lay near its hand – the bronze was covered with Clast’s dried blood, and there was a coating of dust sticking to the blood on one side, but the edge was still sharp enough to do for cutting rope.

The time from that moment until full dark set in around the hobgoblin camp was blurry for Ismay – freeing the captives, making sure that they were okay, and using the healing gifts that Birgit had entrusted him with for the sake of the others, especially Clast’s battle wounds. The Millers had also taken some hurt during their days with the hobgoblins, unsurprisingly.

“So, what is next for us?” John Miller asked. “Do we stay here all night?”

Struck by the question himself, Ismay turned to Clast, and the wandering errant took only a moment more to decide. “No – there may be some dangers from making our way back to town through the forest in the dark, but the hobs might come back to their camp before dawn, and I don’t like our chances if they figure out that Ismay doesn’t have a great and horrible curse waiting for them. Though they have better night-vision than we do, there should yet be some torches around the camp – we can ignite them in the campfire and have lights to cast upon the way our feet must go, eh?”

And that was the way it went. Tabitha Miller got her foot stuck in the hole of a digging vermin halfway back to town, and it was about five minutes before the menfolk were able to get her free. John ended up digging the hole up wider with his bare hands. But that was all the excitement of their return trip, and before midnight they had returned the Millers to their children at the house of their foster parents. Clast and Ismay stood aside together and watched the happy reunion.

“I’ll be traveling on after a day and night, father,” Clast told him. “There’s an ogre up by the path to Northton demanding tolls of wine and jewels to leave passersby unmolested. Dare I to hope that you might come along to help again?”

Ismay considered that. “I’m afraid not. It’s great that you will go wherever you’re needed, to help the people against such monsters, but that’s not my path yet. But see me tomorrow night, before you leave town, yes? If Birgit allows, I may have some gifts I can bestow upon you before you leave.”

“That would be a great kindness, Father,” Clast agreed. “And your own path?”

“I’m not sure,” Ismay said slowly. “I shall go back to preaching to my congregation in the usual manner – but if any here in my home town need aid of a more direct nature, then I hope next time I will not need a stranger to come and tell me so.”

“So will you challenge the creatures of evil yourself?”

“I may not need to – there are a few other brave souls in the area, that I may be able to recruit when they are needed. Good luck, Clast.”

“Best of luck yourself, father,” the strong errant said, bowing his head. “And God bless you.”


Nanowrimo: Just around the corner!

October 28, 2010

There’s only three days and a few-odd hours left until November starts, and with it comes National Novel Writing Month.

Even though October feels like it’s flown by, (and many of the items on my creative to-do list will remain unfinished,) I’m very excited. It’ll be great to see all my Nano-er friends at write-ins, I’ll be going back to San Fran for the Night of Writing Dangerously, (and staying in the Bay area for nearly two weeks this time!) and I just always love the creative boost that I get from going onto the Nanowrimo site during November.

There’s also my birthday somewhere in there.

I shared some of my snowflake notes with the Hamilton Writers group this week. Got some very excited and enthusiastic feedback, and some good suggestions, including plenty of ideas about how to make the fact that my main character is a dead person sent back to Earth by the angels in the body of another man into a HUGE surprise reveal nearly half-way through.

However, it seems like I need to come up with a catchy word to describe the concept of ‘a dead person sent back to Earth by the angels to complete a mission in the body of another person.’

Any ideas or suggestions? Also, if you’re going to be doing Nano this year – how ready are you?

Blogisode Six

October 23, 2010

“Ahhyi!” Ismay exclaimed, putting his rapier up in a guarding position in front of his face by habit, and then realized how useless it was to use a light, edgeless sword to try to parry a heavy wooden club with. At the last moment, he tried to dodge back, and managed to sprawl backwards onto the sparse grass – effectively avoiding being hit by the club for that moment, but the hobgoblin was still orienting on him, chuckling nastily, and Ismay knew that wouldn’t be able to scramble out of the way of the next attack. Birgit’s curse upon the hobgoblins might have helped him slightly there, or it might have just been his own dumb luck, but the priest doubted that he could count upon that again either.

As the tall brute made his way closer, though, Ismay realized that he did have one opportunity. He’d dropped the weapon, but its handle was lying quite close to his right hand still. Choosing his moment, he grabbed the rapier again, and drove the point into the hobgoblin’s upper leg.

For a moment the monster didn’t seem to notice, and even moved forward and forced the shaft further into himself. Then he seemed to notice that something was wrong, looked down, and gestured with his club to brush the rapier away though it was now piercing him too deeply to make this possible.

Desperate to incapacitate this inhuman creature quickly, Ismay pulled the rapier out, stabbing again, lower on the opposite leg, where a stumpy knee could be seen between the heavy clothing that the hobgoblins wore. Suddenly the hob fell – toppling forward, onto Ismay’s own legs, and he began immediately thrashing and punching with bare fists against anything within reach, including much of Ismay. Try as he might, he couldn’t extricate himself from the maddened hobgoblin. Was it in its death throes? Would Ismay be, soon enough?? “Clast, I need your help!” he called.

“I’m busy,” the gruff Errant called back. “Can’t Birgit come to your aid again?”

Somehow Ismay didn’t think that he could concentrate enough to discharge Saint Birgit’s grace now, even if she had left him any blessings or other gifts that would avail in this situation. But since there didn’t seem to be any other option, he racked his brain, and desperation seemed to make his link to the back of his soul firmer, instead of impossible to reach. No, there were few of the new bequests that remained to him – a few works of healing, which might be useful if Clast incurred injuries in his own struggles, or if the prisoners that they had come to save were badly hurt, but Ismay could not ask them on his own behalf – and they would not keep the hobgoblin from striking him again in any event. But there were a few minor signs of the power of his patron Saint that he had held for a while, which Birgit had not withdrawn in preparing him for this trial…

Hoping desperately, Ismay seized a dry pine branch with his left hand, and held it above the hobgoblin’s face. It would serve, if only… “May the flame of the Holy Spirit serve my need in this desperate moment,” he croaked, his voice failing him.

That was enough. The pine needles burst into vigorous flame, and the hobgoblin spooked. Though they used fire, his kind must be primitive enough to still fear it more than civilized people did. The wounded hob had only enough strength to scramble a few feet away before lying still, but that was enough to free Ismay.

When he had finally struggled to his feet, Clast was still trying to fend off three hobs, and he appeared to have taken an ugly gash on his left arm from a bronze blade. When he spotted Ismay, the warrior called out hoarsely. “Do it, father! We have no other choices. Let loose the most dreadful curse of all upon these vermin!”

That sounded good to Ismay, except that he had no curses at all remaining to him, never mind the most dreadful one of all! “Do it now!” Clast called again, more authoritatively. “Before it’s too late.”

Then Ismay thought he saw what Clast was getting at, and dug in the pockets for his silver cross, and raised it high, taking a deep breath.

That was enough for the hobgoblins, who must have also been watching to see what the priest would do next.

To be continued…

On my way to the Browncoat Ball…

October 22, 2010

Well, almost – my brother should be here to drive me to the airport in about 10 minutes.

I’m so excited!

A little netbook trouble.

October 21, 2010

I brought my Acer Aspire One netbook in to work yesterday, more to do some organizing of video files I wanted to take with me to Charlotte for the Browncoat Ball than to actually get any writing work done on it.

Unfortunately, a minor tragedy struck. When I brought the computer up out of sleep mode when I got into the office, I immediately realized that something was wonky with the colors. It seems as if the red levels over the entire screen are wrong, neither as low or as high as they should be – so black comes out as a dark red, and white usually a pale blueish-green.

The laptop expert at work, Sasha, figured out that if you bend the screen forward at an angle of more than forty-five degrees from perpendicular, everything pops back to normal – this isn’t terribly useful, but it suggests that there’s a loose connection between the video card and the screen.

I took it to the electronics repair desk at the local Walmart, and the guy said that they could take a look at it, but it would probably be three business days. I decided not to leave it with them until I was back from Charlotte, as I could still use it for a lot of things like this – just about anything other than looking at color photographs or watching videos is okay. Of course, I was hoping to be able to use it to watch videos, but that’s the way things go sometimes.

I’ll let you know how things sort out. And doesn’t it just figure that something like this would happen less than two months after the ‘puter is out of warranty? 😉

Fanart 3: Kyle/Tess banner, ‘My Alien Wife.’

October 20, 2010

Fanart series index.

I have another Roswell fanfic banner to share with you this week, one of a series that I did in the summer of 2009 in an attempt to stretch my artistic skills. 😉

The storyline was one that was inspired by a challenge on the Roswell Fanatics forum, about any couple but Max and Liz getting married in Vegas, I think. I picked Kyle Valenti and Tess Harding.

Read the rest of this entry »

Going down the Snowflake, part Four

October 18, 2010

Okay, so Project Snowflake Nanowrimo is continuing to go fairly well, I’ve pretty much finished with step 5, which is more in-depth character profiles. This did cause me a bit of trouble at first, partly because of the way it was phrased:

Take a day or two and write up a one-page description of each major character and a half-page description of the other important characters. These “character synopses” should tell the story from the point of view of each character.

For one thing, I’m a little tired of rewriting the story from different points of view, I feel like I did enough of that in step 3. And without that, I wasn’t quite sure what to put in these longer descriptions. I tried pulling out my usual character questionnaire and hit some trouble with that too, since a lot of the questions weren’t really that applicable to Richard.

What I ended up doing, was a bit more of a free-form interview, with myself asking different questions for each character, inspired by what I thought would help me write them, and then doing the answer in that character’s voice. It worked pretty well… except for one character, who I’ll talk about further down.

Here’s the interview for Perry:

– Have you ever blacked out in a church before?
Well, once, but I was very hung over and didn’t think of it as anything unusual at the time. And I only lost a few hours.
– Okay. Where were you born?
I’m practically a local, from a town just west of Rochester, actually.
– What do you think about Jessie, really?
Well, I like her, she’s cute and funny and kinda sexy. Wouldn’t object to getting to know her a bit better in general, but right now, figuring out what she knows about me, if anything, is more important.
– Have you had a lot of girlfriends before?
I’m not sure about lots – at least my fair share. After Heather Millen drove me crazy enough with jealous questions that I felt I had to cut her loose, I’ve avoided trying to find anybody else on account of the trip to Haiti already being arranged by then.
– Have you thought about the possibility that whatever it was in your missing days, you really don’t want to know it?
Yeah, but – come on, it’s my life. Don’t I really have a right to know where it’s taken me?
– What’s your favorite way of spending downtime?
Either exercising or playing old video games.
– Who would you say is your closest friend?
Probably Ace. He’s a crazy goof, but always fun to be around, and I know that he’s got my back – though he might accidentally whack it with an elbow if he’s not looking the right way.

The one character I’m still having problems with is the antagonist, Rhona… no matter what I try, I feel like I still don’t have a handle on her or her motivations. I’ve put together a request for help over at the NaNoWriMo forum, so we’ll see how that goes.

And I’ll try to keep you all posted!

Blogisode Five

October 16, 2010

Clast gasped, lost somewhere between surprise and awe as he felt the benefits of the blessings Ismay had bestowed upon him. And then, slowly, he smiled. “Is that all of it?”

“No,” Ismay replied, running over the other gifts that Saint Birgit had entrusted him with in his mind. Some would have to wait until they had actually met the enemy in battle, but… “Hold out your weapon, sir Errant.”

Clast did so, offering the axe as if he expected Ismay to actually take it from him, but that wasn’t what he had in mind. “In the name of Birgit and our Lord God the Father, I bless this weapon. May it never be raised or swung in in malice, in hatred, or the service of evil, but be sure and true in the service of justice.”

Before both of their eyes, the metal head of the axe seemed to shine just a bit brighter, only when it was held in the sunset light. Quickly, Ismay also spoke blessings on his own rapier, and on their enterprise in general. He next thought of blessing Clast’s armor — and found that if such a blessing existed, it was not one that Birgit had entrusted him with. That seemed to be a somewhat strange omission, but he came across a prayer of safety from injury at dangerous times and recited it for both of them, and for the Hobgoblins’ prisoners, whoever they might be. “Alright, that’s about as much preparation as I can do in advance of the fight,” he said at last. “Lead on, Clast.”

Clast did so. “Try to move more quietly,” he whispered as they made their way into an invisible break through the undergrowth, less than half the width of a proper path. “I suppose I need not ask if Saint Birgit supported my quest.”

“I suppose not,” Ismay answered as quietly as he could. “She has given me much to think upon.”

“Any many great boons,” Clast observed. “I admit, I am curious about such things. Priests seldom explain much about the true nature of the relationship they have with their patron or God.”

“Usually that is true,” Ismay said. “But perhaps if we both survive the night and rescue the innocent victims, I might be persuaded to answer some of your questions.”

Clast nodded, and then shushed him, pointing ahead. Ismay realized that there was a clearing there, and people moving around. Not necessarily ‘people’ in the sense that he was familiar with them, though.

After they had both crept close to the last line of shrubs, and caught their breath, Clast held up his gloved hand where Ismay could see it, all five fingers spread, and began to lower them one at a time. Two heartbeats after the thumb had been brought down to complete Clast’s gathering fist, he sprung from cover, his shadow falling upon the hobgoblins as he charged out of the setting sun, from their perspective.

Ismay stepped forward, his sword drawn, but the weapon he first called on was his voice. “Hobgoblins, for your perfidy of trapping and feasting upon the Lord God’s chosen, his vengeance is approaching you. Renounce the eating of human flesh forever, or be cursed at this moment in the eyes of Jesus the Son.”

All of the dark and twisted figures were staggered when the curse landed. A few small hoblins scattered into the underbrush, like the mice fleeing Vasser’s stall after Ismay had blessed it with health, and one larger hob, perhaps a female, fell over and kicked vainly at the air. But there were still at least half a dozen left to immediately mob Clast, each one carrying a heavy wooden club or crudely fashioned bronze knife.

Ismay rushed to catch up, trying to think of another blessing or curse, or some prayer that would help in this situation. But nothing occured to him, and he realized sickly that he might have used up nearly all of the gifts that Birgit had entrusted to him. Now it would be Clast’s axe and his rapier that would carry the day – or fall.

Fortunately Clast did not seem to be lacking in valour or might, and Ismay remembered some of his long-ago lessons in how to use the rapier for self-defense as opposed to formal fencing. A hobgoblin screamed in outrage when he stabbed it near the neck, but did not fall immediately, and turned to menace Ismay with its club.

To be continued…

Locked inside by my own fear…

October 16, 2010

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming, ‘the Snowflake continues’, to bring you a ramble about what passes for my real life.

The front door key to my apartment started sticking in the last week of September. The first time it happened, I was standing out in the hallway for about fifteen minutes after getting home from work before getting inside. I managed to catch the landlord a few days later, when he was in the building for something-or-other, and remind him that he’d wanted to get the lock changed so that he’d have a master key in case he needed to get in, since he’d lost the master for the old lock. He said that he’d look into getting a new lock, and I reminded him again when I paid rent for October. Over this time, the lock really acted up badly a few times, and most of the time it took ten or fifteen seconds of fiddling. Some times it went with hardly any trouble at all.

Last night, the driving teacher called me a bit earlier than my scheduled time, told me he’d be in the parking lot in five minutes, and so I rushed around, remembered that the key had been acting up a bit more than usual on the way to and from work that day, and hurried out into the hallway. No go. Absolutely no go. As I heard the phone ringing inside, and knew that the teacher was calling me again to say ‘I’m here, where are you?’, I actually got worked up enough to bend the key halfway along, by around thirty degrees.

First reaction – “Well, that’s it, this thing is never gonna work again.”

So I rush downstairs, tell the guy that I can’t go for my lesson that night, call up the landlord. Everything got well sorted out in less than twenty-four hours – the landlord was here around 3 this afternoon with a shiny new lock and key, and I was able to work from home today while I waited for him.

It seems a bit odd to be mentally trapped inside my home, (or at least not willing to go further than around the building for a minute,) when the door can be opened, but on the other hand – this is a reasonably safe neighborhood, but I still just don’t feel comfortable leaving all my things when anybody could come up the stairs and open my front door. I’m not sure if that’s slightly neurotic or just sensibly cautious. After all, people’s doors have locks for a reason.

But it was with a sense of palpable relief that I headed off this afternoon to get groceries.

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