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It’s the first day of a new year, and it’s a good time to look back at some of the big positives of 2016, and see how I did as far as achieving my goals for the year.

Per last year, I said I wanted to write more. Well, in 2015, I wrote 12 blog posts, down from 51 in 2014. I know that a part of that was the end of the Trifecta Writing Challenge. So in 2016, I got myself back into writing with a lot more book reviews and non-fiction posts. I got myself back up to 43 posts. My goal for this year is a minimum of 52 posts, one per week. There are some things that are going to facilitate that, and I’m pretty excited.

I mentioned that I’d like to submit more work. I only came close on this one, didn’t really hit it as well as I would’ve liked (I lost track of several deadlines for submissions to magazines, and that’s no one’s fault but mine). Still, I did manage to send a piece to a local counter-culture newspaper for a zine that they were making, which was a fun way to get my work out to a new audience. This year, if more time allows for writing, I’d like to send some new stories out.

Goal #3 from last year was to draw more. To an extent, yes, I got more drawing done. I did some more doodles, but also worked on some new costume designs. I’m not sure when I’ll have the time to start assembling more costumes and cosplays, but I’ve got a pretty good start to the look of several. It’s fun to find more inspiration in things around me and start working on transforming that into a physical bit.

Communicating more was another goal that I set for 2016. I think I did okay there, but you can always tell me differently if you disagree. I got to meet a new nephew and see the other before he went off to Europe, so that was definitely a good thing. Now I’m going to be relying on things like Skype a lot more to keep in touch with my family, but it’s fun to look forward to those moments. It feels more important to me to talk more now that we’re farther away.

Goal #5 was to vote. Been there, done that, and I’m not going to get into politics in this post. I want to continue to increase my political literacy over the coming year, though, because there are a great many challenges that will have to be overcome.

I didn’t manage to hit my sixth goal until almost the end of 2016. It took many tries over the year, but my determination paid off. I start my first full time job with my library tomorrow morning. It’s bittersweet to be leaving my old location, but I’m super excited about having a regular schedule. This is one of the biggest changes in my life in years, and it’s going to make it much easier to accomplish a lot of my other goals. No more dependence on substitute hours to bring in the income I need, and no more moving from location to location, putting in split shifts six or seven days a week.

My final goal for 2016 was to read more. Per goodreads, I got through 187 books in 2015, and bumped up to 217 last year. Again, my current reading list contains a lot of comic books, but I’m working on a lot of teen fiction for this year. I’ve got a couple of books I’d like to revisit this year too. I’ll be aiming for at least 200 titles this year, so we’ll see how that goes.

I’m looking to learn a couple of new games this year, as I picked up my first Malifaux crew. It’s something that V has been telling me about for a while now, so I’m going to eventually be assembling and painting these: rasputina

There are a lot of other big changes on the horizon, folks. Thanks to all of you for sticking around. I’ll be keeping you updated.

I managed to accomplish quite a bit this summer, and I’m almost sad to see it go. I survived (and thrived!) during an extra-long anniversary season of the Colorado Renaissance Festival. I attended my 10-year high school reunion. I blew past my Goodreads goal (granted most of those were graphic novels, but still…). I reprised my Kimblee cosplay at NDK over the Labor Day weekend. I met Shinichiro Watanabe and Dai Sato, and now I must re-watch all of Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo. I was recognized for five consecutive years of service to my library.

Not too bad, all in all. Here’s hoping for an equally productive autumn.

 

Half my life ago. Eighth grade, Tuesday morning. Mom and Dad were watching the news while my sisters and I were getting ready for school. All eyes were on New York as the planes hit. I remember getting to school and going to the library with the rest of my social studies class, watching the footage as the towers collapsed. Everyone was a mess of fear and confusion and anger and grief.

We shouldn’t forget. It does a disservice to too many to do so. But we should also learn. We need to remember that ignorance and fear and hate help no one. We have to find an understanding, realize that our differences make us stronger.

There are generations to come. Teach them that our divisions can be healed, that we can find common ground and grow to be better than we were. Do not forget how to love.

 

Harry Potter made a return to the forefront of pop culture at the end of July with the release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a screenplay of the new stage play that takes us back to the magical wizarding world. It’s a bold new direction for the story, taking place nineteen years after the events of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (please note that this review will assume that you have read or, at the very least, watched the final entry in the series), and the world is a very different place for Harry and his friends.

Almost two decades have passed since the Battle of Hogwarts. Since Voldemort’s defeat, our original heroes have attempted to move on with their lives. Harry is a Ministry of Magic official now, head of the Office of Magical Law Enforcement. He’s happily married to Ginny, and father of three children. Hermione is Minister of Magic, and married to Ron, who has taken over operation of Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. At the outset of the play, Harry and Ginny’s second child, Albus, is bound for his first year at Hogwarts. While on the train, he meets his fellow first year, Scorpius Malfoy, and despite their fathers’ history, they become fast friends. In short order, the boys arrive at school and are both sorted into Slytherin, much to Albus’s surprise.

The following years pass quickly (we are only shown hints of events during the first three years that Albus and Scorpius are in school), showing the lack of real communication between Albus and his father. Being the son of The Boy Who Lived, it turns out, is not easy. Albus has Scorpius as a friend, but neither of them seem to be the children their fathers hoped they would be. You see, a rumor has been flying about the wizarding world that Draco Malfoy isn’t actually Scorpius’s dad. Gossip is that Malfoy wasn’t able to have a child, and so he illegally used a Time Turner in order for his wife to conceive a son with Lord Voldemort. This rumor is given more credence when the Ministry of Magic confiscates what is believed to be the last Time Turner in existence, one that doesn’t appear to have the one-hour-back limit of previous ones. But if someone could go back more than one hour in time, what would they seek to do with that power?

In their fourth year, Albus and Scorpius learn about the existence of the Time Turner and ask themselves that question. When Amos Diggory arrives at the Ministry to implore Harry to go back and save his son, Cedric from Voldemort, Harry refuses, for fear of what disrupting the past might do. When given the opportunity, though, Albus and Scorpius leap at a chance to change the world in the hopes of finding their place within it. However, the threat of Lord Voldemort doesn’t only linger in the past.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child isn’t a Harry Potter novel. It’s a play based on a story by J.K. Rowling, but the heavy lifting of the writing was done by Jack Thorne and John Tiffany. It’s a vastly different sort of read because of that, and we don’t get anywhere near the level of insight into each character. It doesn’t move in quite the same way, but it is no less magical. Cursed Child is to the Harry Potter series what The Force Awakens was to Star Wars: a return to a beloved world that retreads some familiar moments while still laying the groundwork for a younger generation. New perspectives on classic moments left me feeling more connected to the characters than I had since first finishing Deathly Hallows.

Having read through the entirety of the screenplay, I only want one more thing from Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I want to see it on stage.

“Visit”

I saw the rows of gold and green
Bursting forth from the brown
Below a sky of white and blue.

I took your hand and led the way
Down paths I’d walked many
Years ago, and saw them all anew.

 

Today is World Cancer Day. It’s a day of spreading awareness. It’s a day about coming together to fight this together, to finally put an end to cancer.

I’ve lost more than my fair share of friends and family to cancer, folks. More than I’d like to count right now, from my preschool teacher to one of my oldest friends.

It’s not just seeing music artists and actors die before we’re ready to part with them, though that hurts too.

For me, it’s deeply personal. Today, I’m remembering all of my friends who fought cancer, and thinking of those who continue to fight. I love you all.

So apparently June was a thing that happened this year. I’m not sure exactly how I missed it, but I want to apologize. I’ve not been writing lately. I’ll make all manner of excuses. Working at the Ren Faire again this year eats my weekends, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Faire’s a whole different world, and it gets even better when you get to know the people who make the magic happen. I moved, too. Not far, only about five miles, in fact, and my shortest move from one residence to another in over five years. Now I don’t have the workout room that I was finally utilizing at the apartment, and I don’t have the pool, and so on and so forth, but I have a house that my roommates and I can spread out in. We have space. So much space. SPAAAACE.

I’m closer to my favorite cemetery. I’m closer to work (all three of the various things that I do that people pay me to do). I’m closer to most of my friends (with one notable exception [the one who would go walk in said aforementioned cemetery with me if circumstances would allow]). It’s going to be a good opportunity for me. I’m really very happy about things (except as mentioned above).

My room’s coming together nicely, so there’s that. On the other hand, I’m still more than a little sleep deprived (for all of the best reasons). I’ll post a picture of the new setup once it’s all done. I’m pretty proud of the whole thing.

Anyway, I’m going to get my ass in gear and knuckle down on my writing again. It’s not been fair to you, dear readers, especially after tolerating my poetry for the last few months. New original stories are coming. I’m also hoping to get into some more writing challenges. Stay tuned. This is going to be big.

Thanks.

I had something else that I was writing today, but I just learned that it’s going to have to wait. As Somerset Maugham said, “We do not write because we want to; we write because we have to.” I really wish that this were not something I had to say.

Where to start?

On Tuesday night, I lost one of my oldest friends. Kurtis and I had known each other since preschool. We grew up together, or at least got older together. We were good friends all the way through high school. I can’t say that we were best friends, because it’s simply not true, but we always got along, even when we would agree to disagree. In high school, we were part of the local FCCLA chapter, doing community service work, and traveling across the country. We went to Philadelphia, Chicago, San Diego, and Nashville, and came in as one of the top teams in the nation for the Parliamentary Procedure competition as freshmen and as seniors. Nashville was our last big adventure together, and we didn’t talk a lot after we went off to college. An occasional “Hey, how are you?” or “Happy birthday!” was the closest we really got.

Some time later, I heard that Kurtis had been diagnosed with cancer, but he fought it. With help from his wife, Liz, and his friends and family, he fought. And for a while, he won. On Tuesday night, though, after another long bout, Kurtis knew that it was time for him to say goodbye. I wish that I could be that brave, and that strong. I wish that I’d taken the time to talk to him a little more. Others knew him better, I know, but I am proud to have known him.

Words cannot express my gratitude for John Scalzi’s Convention Harassment Policy. Read it. Embrace it. Co-sign it. Stop harassment.

Whatever

I’ve been asked if I would add a thread for writers/editors/artists/fans/human beings to co-sign my recently-announced convention harassment policy. Well, sure. Here it is. If you’re a writer/editor/artist/fan/human being who wants to adopt my convention harassment policy for your own, put a comment in the thread here. Just a simple “co-sign” will suffice, if that’s all you want to say.

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Sometimes a conversation leads to an unexpected phrase. In this particular case, something came up that I absolutely loved. I was told that it should be my catchphrase. Never thought I’d have one, but here it is. “Hello, sweet chaos.”