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Wow, this place is dusty. I mean, really dusty. Layers of dirt and cobwebs everywhere. It’s not the first time I’ve taken an unintended break from my writing, letting it fall to the side for more than a month, but I think this is the longest gap I’ve had in posts since starting this blog. Previous breaks from writing were at least peppered with good intentions of trying to return, a day here or there where I’d post, and then still fall back into the break.

But it has been almost 2 full months since I posted even an attempt at keeping up with my writing. Which is because I haven’t attempted to keep up with my writing since February 17th. Looking back through my blog, it was even before that that I really started into this slump. It’s interesting to me, at least, to see the progression. It went something like this:

I finished revising my first novel, “Pithea,” to the point of even being able to send it off to a few publishing companies.

I dove right into revising my second novel, the first draft of which had already been written.

I got a new job on the weekends, which largely affected the rest of the week enough to make finding time and energy to write more difficult.

I hit an early roadblock in revising my second novel, and more time and thinking was required to push past it.

My new job started to ask more of me than I expected, including working during the week for a few weeks, thus exhausting me more and making things more strained at home.

I made a conscious decision to put off revising for a few weeks, dropped my daily writing habit, and let myself be lazy in the evenings (my normal writing time) instead of pushing myself to sit at my desk and get some writing work done.

It’s important to note that I am one who in the past has insisted that even people who lead busy lives should be able to find time to write. And I’m not saying now that it’s not true, but I definitely have more perspective on that now. It only took one change to my life and normal routine to throw me off enough to just give up on writing for a while. It took me two months to get to where I am right now, which is starting to feel a strong enough desire to get back to my writing that I’m willing to put aside the lazy evenings for more structured ones again.

It may take a few weeks to be back to where I was for 9 months before this break, writing almost every day. I don’t know when I’ll have time or ideas for another Write Every Day post. It may even take me a few wasted evenings of going back over what I was last doing in my work before I’m able to make any real progress. But the important thing is that I’m finally feeling up to it again.

Something else that bothers me about this break I took is that I fell away from all things writing and blogging. I haven’t read posts by others that I normally keep up with, and I know there’s no way I can find time to go back through 2 months worth of posts (not that I follow all that many blogs regularly).  I’m going to scan through my WP reader and try to hit the highlights, but I don’t want to take so much time reading that it hurts my attempt to start writing again.

I do want to say that I appreciate those of you who contacted me during the last few months to check in or ask if everything was okay. I’m sorry I didn’t respond at the time. I didn’t mean to be rude or anti-social, I just couldn’t get my head into the right space to think about any of this. Hopefully that makes at least some sense.

Thanks for reading my rambling. I hope things get back to normal around here soon. I miss my story world, and even the blogging world I’d created.

A Little Q&A

These questions come from a post on aliasfaithrivens’ blog. I like reading Q&As like this from people I know, and it’s kind of fun answering them too.

When did you first start writing? Was being a writer something you always aspired to?
I started writing stories in elementary school. I recently dug up one of my first stories, written when I was 10 years old. I don’t know if the hard copy exists somewhere (I suspect it doesn’t), but I’d typed it into my parents’ old Tandy 1000. This was around 1992.

When I was older—somewhere between twelve and fourteen—I wrote a good start on what I had planned to be the first in a series of books for teenagers. That story I still have in several notebooks tucked away.

But apparently in middle and high school, I left fiction writing behind and turned to poetry. I wrote some good, some bad, some uplifting, some angsty poems. And during a creative writing class in high school, I even went as far as to say (in a reflection paper at the end of the class) that though I’d enjoyed writing the short story required for the class, I didn’t think I’d have a reason to write fiction again in the future.

What genre do you write?
Lately, mostly speculative fiction. My main book series seems to have landed squarely on post-apocalyptic science fiction. I wouldn’t normally consider myself a sci-fi writer, though…just sort of happened that way. Outside of this one series, I write more contemporary fiction, sometimes with a Christian bent.

Can you tell us a little about your current work in progress? When did you start working on this project?
It’s actually a weird feeling to not say that my current WIP is “Pithea.” But since that one’s done, it’ll be time to move on soon. I’ll be turning my attention soon to “Pursuit of Power.” This novel is about a young man who becomes suspicious about his dad’s accidental death, starts to dig, and ends up drawing a lot of unwanted attention.

Technically I started working on this in 2009. I wrote most of the first draft during NaNoWriMo that year. Then I re-imagined the story world I’d tried to create and rewrote the story in 2014. The very basics of the original were the same—main characters, their main goals, and a general ending—but it’s a completely different story now.

What was your first piece that you can remember writing? What was it about?

The NickersonsAs I mentioned above, the first piece I remember writing was when I was 10. It was a story about a couple adopting a 10-year-old girl, along with that girl’s best friend, because the girl they were adopting insisted. It was 186 words long. I started writing a sequel that was supposed to be a bit of a mystery, and though I didn’t finish it, it was already longer than the first story. I still remember what was supposed to happen in that story. Maybe I should finish it.

What’s the best part about writing?
There are so many things about writing that I love. If I had to choose one thing, it would be the discovery. The sudden light bulb when a brand new idea strikes, when a blockage is broken through, or when things suddenly become fun again.

What’s the worst part about writing?
In contrast to the previous answer, I think the worst part of writing is when things just aren’t working out. New ideas aren’t flowing, you can’t break through the block, and you feel downright un-creative.

What’s the name of your favorite character and why?
Though Missy would be the logical choice, as the MC of my first novel and a character who will feature or at least appear in more of the rest of the series than any one character (I’m pretty sure, at least), she is still a second to my favorite. His name is Remiel Azrael, and he is one of the main characters in “Outcast.”  Of everything I have written, “Outcast” remains my favorite piece, which I’m sure is part of the reason he became my favorite. I wrote it as fanfiction 7 years ago, and for the moment, it still only exists as fanfiction. It will eventually take place in the same world as “Pithea,” and in fact Missy is a big character in it too. But I just really love Remiel.

How much time a day/week do you get to write? When is the best time for you to write (morning or night)?
Ideally, I have 2-3 hours per night after my youngest goes to bed. Sometimes bedtime is later, or I have other things I have to get to first. Weekends are sometimes a chance for extra time, and sometimes we’re so busy I can barely get any time in.

Did you go to college for writing?
No, I didn’t get re-interested in writing fiction until I started writing fanfiction after my oldest son was born.

What bothers you more: speeling errors; punctuation, errors, or errors for grammar?
I’m not sure one is more bothersome to me than another.

What is the best writing advice that anyone has given you?
Don’t worry about perfection. I’ve read so many articles and blog posts by writers who make it seem like a manuscript will never be ready. It will always need another draft. While it’s true it will never be perfect, just maybe it doesn’t have to be. If I hadn’t read this advice from two different sources, I’m not sure if I would be ready to submit my first novel, or if I’d still be reading through it, looking for things to fix. Or maybe I’d be proceeding like I am, but paranoid that it’s too soon.

What advice would you give to another writer?
Take any writing tips, rules, and advice with a grain of salt. Writing is an art, and what works for one person doesn’t always work for others. Reading blogs about writing is a good thing. It’s good to find out what works for others, especially when you’re new to writing, because most likely something will resound within you. But if it doesn’t feel right, and you’d have to force yourself to adhere to someone’s suggestions…just don’t do it. (Not referring to grammar rules and such.)

What are your favorite writing sites or blogs that you turn to for help, tips or encouragement?
I don’t have any sites in particular. I tend to do online searches when I have questions.

Besides writing, what else do you enjoy doing? What are your hobbies?
I don’t actually have a lot of time for hobbies these days. I enjoy reading, but haven’t finished a book in a while. I like to scrapbook, but that’s been on the backburner for a few years. I don’t even play computer games much anymore. I do like game nights with my family once a month and on holidays, playing board games for hours.

What’s the best book you’ve read this year?
As I mentioned, I haven’t finished a book in a while. I’ve started several, and hope to get back to some of them soon. (I’ve set up a challenge on Goodreads to finish 25 books this year…I should probably get started on that soon.)

What’s the best movie you’ve seen this year?
I actually don’t watch all that many movies. And of those I do watch, including ones I watched at home, I’m not sure I can think back and remember them all (using 2015 for the question, rather than the few days of 2016 so far). I’ll go with Jurassic World.

What is your favorite book or series of all time?
The Oath by Frank Peretti is my favorite book of all time, with Thr3e by Ted Dekker coming in a close second.

The Mandie Books series by Lois Gladys Leppard still holds a special place in my heart, as a series I loved as a kid.

Who is your favorite author?
Frank Peretti

What are your plans for the rest of the year in terms of your writing?
I’m currently working on submitting my first novel to publishers, and have spent the last week or so getting a novelette self-published. When these two things have settled down some, I play to turn my full attention to the beginning revision stages of “Pursuit of Power.”

Where else can we find you online?
Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads (though I created that account only a few days ago)
Amazon Author Page, Story Blog

I never do these tag posts like normal people though, so I’m not tagging anyone. But feel free to share your own answers to any of these questions.

A Look Back at 2015

I would have preferred to post this before the end of the year, but the last few weeks have been rough for me. Still, it’s not too late to take a quick look at the writing-related highlights of 2015.

PitheaWith the help of 2 of my sisters, I finished draft 4 of “Pithea,” which was the most intensive revision the book should ever need. We met once a week on Skype to work through any issues, and the book definitely came out stronger on the other end. We even worked on general world questions, especially those related to the fantastical elements in the story world. It was also during these meetings that the book went from a working title (“Adventures in Pithea”) to its official one.

cover1I finished the first draft of a third novel this year, titled “Too Many Irons in the Fire.” It’s not one I expect to go forward with, but it was still a complete novel draft, so it’s an accomplishment to be proud of.

I participated in my 6th year of NaNoWriMo, and won with 100,383 words, passing the 50k word mark on the 12th. I wrote 25k on the first day, but I don’t think I’ll try that again. I went to my first write-ins this year and was even in an article in the local newspaper while attending one of them. It was during NaNo that I finished the aforementioned novel draft, and I also wrote most of a second novel.

I also want to share a few gifts I received for Christmas that are writing-related.

My husband went a little overboard, but it’s hard to complain about the amazing gifts he gave me. The first was a blank journal with the motto I made up last year engraved into the clasp.
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The second gift was a desk clock with pen, and he had my name engraved into the front of it. I teared up when I saw the engraving.
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My mom gave me a t-shirt that my sister had designed. The front has a bunch of characters, towns, and other important words from “Pithea.” It also includes things related to the previously mentioned editing group my sisters and I formed for a year to whip the book into shape. The back of the shirt contains various quotes from that editing group–things one of us said while on Skype, or even during an in-person meeting, that we found particularly funny and decided to make a note of. I cried a little when I opened this present too, especially when I looked at the back.058 062

This final gift is much less emotional than the previous ones, but one that I was really excited to get. My parents-in-law found this deck of cards, which contains all sorts of different writing prompts, in varying detail. It’s called Writer Emergency Pack, and it’s billed as a way to help get unstuck if you’re having trouble with your writing. I’d say it would work for any time you wanted a quick start to a short story or writing practice too though. There are some really thought-provoking cards in there, and while I haven’t sat down and written anything with it yet, when the final work on “Pithea” is done, I’m looking forward to cleansing my palate, if you will, with some writing practice before I move on to my next big project.
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Going forward from here, I have a lot of plans. With the final draft of “Pithea” finished, I’m working on a short synopsis to use for submission. The first draft of the synopsis is done, but I’m asking for opinions from others who’ve read the book, and going to go back over it again myself after a day or two, when I have fresh eyes. Though I have a publishing company in mind to start with, of course I’ll start looking elsewhere to submit the novel too. I don’t plan to look for an agent, and in the end, if I haven’t sold the manuscript by the end of the year, I’ll probably self-publish it.

I also want to finish a quick revision of “The Triangle,” a novelette-length story I wrote several years ago. It’s completely unrelated to the world of “Pithea,” is set in the real world, and is the tale of a man struggling to keep his family together when he feels life is moving too fast and he’s losing control. I have a start on a cover design, so after I finish this revision, I plan to self-publish it. Hopefully that will happen in the next few months.

Then I’ll turn my attention to “Pursuit of Power,” a novel that runs mostly parallel to “Pithea.” I wrote it during NaNo in 2014, but have barely touched it since. It will probably be another long project, which I anticipate taking at least a year to revise. There are a lot of notes for big changes I need to make, along with normal editing that it likely needs.

I have tentative plans to write every day, meaning actual writing. For the last few years, I’ve settled for doing any kind of writing work every day, which 95% of the time means revision. I miss the actual writing, though. I usually feel like I don’t have time to write unrelated, pointless pieces when I need to spend all of my free time revising. However, the truth is, because I dislike revising so much, I don’t spend all my free time revising. Most days that I have time to do any revising, I could easily spend 10-15 minutes writing 250-500 words of writing practice before I start revising.

So my plan is to do just that. I’ll set the goal at 250 words per day and see what that looks like. Most of the time, writing from a prompt or such, it ends where my idea ends anyway, whether that’s 200 words or 750 words. My daily revision goal will still be 20 minutes on top of that. I honestly don’t know how well I’ll keep up with this, and I won’t feel like I’ve failed if it drops off. But it’s a plan for now.

To all of my fellow writers out there–whatever, whenever, and however often you write–what were your highlights for this year? What are your proud or disappointed moments from this year? And what are your plans for the coming year?

Writing Highs

I did something late Friday night that I want to share. The first novel draft I ever finished, “Pithea,” which I mostly wrote during NaNo 2013 has been undergoing revision for almost 2 years now. After I’d had some time alone with it, I started into a process with 2 of my sisters, wherein we’d meet every Tuesday evening on Skype and work through their notes on my revised draft. It’s more than just the writing we’ve been working on; the story is set in a fantasy-type world, and they’ve helped me work out the elements of it. As time has gone on, the story has gotten better, characters have gotten stronger, and the mechanics of the world I’ve built are clearer.

It’s been just over a year since we started these weekly editing sessions, and most of my writing time has been spent reading ahead of them and making more of my own revisions. We’re basically working from a 3rd draft, which I’ve been creating as we go. Hopefully this makes some sort of sense.

Anyway, Friday night, after I’d done my NaNo writing for the day, I sat down to get more revision done, more of “draft 3” ready so that we can work on it this coming Tuesday. And I got through the last 8 pages of the draft, which means that on Tuesday, we’ll probably finish the last pages of the draft too. Which means this revision, the most intensive one it should need, will be done!

Now there are still some things that need worked on. During our revision sessions, we passed over bigger issues that we knew would just slow us down. There were big, world-related questions that came up that we decided weren’t important to solve just yet. We will hopefully have an in-person, all-day meeting in the next month or so to hammer all of these things out. But after that, I’ll be one huge step closer to be ready to publish this thing. It’s actually scary to be so close and still have no idea what I’m doing. But it’s still better than doing nothing.

And in the time since then, other exciting things have happened. I finished the first draft of this year’s NaNoNovel, only halfway through the month. I was in the local newspaper (front page) with other area Wrimos, and the article even included a link to my blog! (See more about that here.) My region’s ML today shared the crocheted octopus she made for me, as a reward for being one of the first in our region to donate and contact her about it. And my NaNo winner’s shirt is on its way!

This weekend was definitely a high for writer-me.

Why I Write

You know how writers sometimes try to come up with an answer to the question, “Why do you write?” I’m not sure if that’s a question that’s actually posed very often by an external source, or if writers simply decide to answer it themselves. Most writers can answer that question, and the answers may sound similar. Because there’s a story inside us that wants to come out, because it’s fun, because we want to experience a world that we otherwise couldn’t.

I haven’t really thought much about this question myself. No one posed the question to me, but during the last month, a particularly stressful time, I’ve had a realization about what my writing means to me.

First and foremost, I would say I write because I want to share my ideas with others. In my head, they’re no good to anyone but me. I get really excited about some things–a character with a great story, a plot twist that I just have to build a plot around, a sweet moment in time that just maybe I can contain and show to people. The best way to share these things with others is to write them down.

When I first started writing more seriously, the reason was to make up stories about characters my friends and I played in an online game. I used some of what happened to us in the game, made up my own stuff, and just had fun with it.

Now I can add a different answer, one that I never would’ve expected to apply to me. I write because it’s a stress relief. I’ll try to be brief in my explanation.

My dad is a blacksmith who demonstrates his craft at historical reenactments like this one:

http://www.mississinewa1812.com/
That is my dad in the picture.

At those shows, he also sells items he makes year-round. Camping equipment, fireplace tools, things like that. I work for my dad, mostly doing the books for his small business. I also go with him to some of these reenactments to sell the product.

Going to reenactments, for us, means being gone from Thursday or Friday (depending on if the show has a kids’ day on Friday or not) until Sunday night, sleeping in a truck camper, waking at 7, and being at the mercy of the weather.

In the fall, we have our heaviest concentration of events. This year, we had shows on 5 weekends in a row. This culminated in our two biggest shows of the year, back-to-back. For these two shows, it’s all hands on deck, because the crowds are huge and one person cannot accommodate the rush of people wanting to buy from us.

The show season is really busy for us, both on the weekends of said shows, and during the week when we’re recovering from one and gearing for the next. I work a lot more (normally I work 1 day every week or two), both on the weekends and during the week, and it’s just a generally stressful time.

During all of this, I’m still homeschooling my kids, and I have to bring them when I work during the week and take care of them while trying to focus on my work. I’m not home as much, so the state of the house suffers (I’m not much of a house cleaner anyway, so it gets really bad during this time), my ability to make supper every night is diminished, and school often suffers too. I don’t get a lot of breaks or “me time” while all of this is going on.

This year, I’ve developed a stronger daily habit for writing work than I ever used to have. However, it’s difficult to stick to it when in a busy time like this, and I definitely slacked on the weekends. Even when I had an hour alone before bed, I was usually too tired to focus on writing. Besides, most of my writing work needs a laptop, or at least space to spread stuff out around me. Neither of those are easy to get in the truck camper (we’re not plugged in, just parked out in a field).

However, during the week, I still usually made sure to do some work in the evening. And during the shows’ open hours, when there was a moment of quiet, I would usually be thinking through questions I had about the story I’m revising, or about the one I’m plotting for this year’s NaNo. It gave me something to focus on that was important to me, amidst the craziness. It was nice.

During some of this busy season, a misunderstanding between my husband and me led me to believe that he didn’t want me to spend nearly as much time working on my writing any more. I took something he said the wrong way and nearly fell to pieces thinking that spending my evenings (usually after kids were in bed) shut away and writing/revising/plotting was a problem for him. Before he could explain what he’d actually meant, I was in tears and blurted out something to the effect of, “What will I do to relieve the stress from all of these shows?”

Those words were as much of a revelation to me as they were to him. Neither of us had ever really realized how much my writing meant to me, beyond just trying to share my stories. I can’t say this has changed my thoughts about my writing, or even my approach. However, I am now even more inclined to make sure I get to some sort of writing work every day that I can.

I also think that perhaps, even without having realized it yet, the therapeutic aspect to writing may have been why I’ve been so much more excited about NaNo this year than usual. Or maybe it’s just because I’m obsessed.

What about you? Why do you write?

Story Cubes Result

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(For a little more explanation on story cubes, read this post. The following is what I wrote based on the cubes above.)

Stephen ran through the streets of the empty town, looking behind him constantly. There could be no natural explanation for the monster he had seen. Not one to believe in the supernatural or extraterrestrial explanation, that left only one explanation—science. He found himself in an alley with no way out but the way he came in. He tried every door he could find, but they were all locked.

Could he risk backtracking? Was the monster even following him? He didn’t know for sure. He hadn’t seen any sign of it since first encountering it.

He decided he didn’t really have a choice and darted back out of the alley. Then he stopped to think. At least he wouldn’t be trapped if the monster came, and he had to figure out where he was going. He had seen an old map of this place once. Obviously he didn’t remember it very well, though, or he wouldn’t have run into a dead end.

“Hello,” he heard behind him and spun around.

I’m dreaming. I’m sure of it now. This is a dream.

In front of him stood a little girl—she looked no older than seven or eight. She had dark hair and a red dress, but what Stephen really noticed were her eyes. They were bright and entirely too innocent. She didn’t fit here in this deserted town where a monster was on the loose.

“Are you lost?” the girl asked in a melodic voice.

Hey, isn’t that my line? Stephen wondered. He said nothing, only continuing to stare at the girl.

“Come with me,” the girl said. “We’ll figure out where you’re going.”

She walked past Stephen and turned down the alley he’d already been trapped in. He hesitated a few seconds, but decided to follow her. Nothing about this made any sense anyway.

The girl walked over to the first door in the building to her right and knocked lightly. It was then that Stephen noticed the girl’s shadow. A streetlight that he hadn’t even seen before cast a shadow on the wall, and he stared at it, paralyzed with fear. His mind told him that he was hallucinating—it was physically impossible for that little girl to make that shape in the light.

He took a few steps backwards and watched in further disbelief as the shadow morphed before his eyes. Then there became two identical shadows—his and a second one just like his that seemed to be cast by the girl. As she rapped harder on the door, Stephen removed his glasses, cleaned them on his shirt, and put them back on. Now the girls’ shadow correctly resembled her own size and shape.

Yes, because it’s perfectly natural that dirty glasses can morph shadows.

“Nothing around here is perfectly natural,” came a deep voice from nearby.

Stephen whirled in all directions looking for the voice, certain that the monster had found him. Down on the ground near the wall, a rat stared at him. Stephen stared back, as if daring the rat to speak again.

“You’re looking in the wrong direction,” the voice said again. Stephen slowly looked up. A bumble bee slowly buzzed by him. He watched it fly out of the alley and around the corner. Forgetting all about the little girl, he followed the bee. When he turned the corner, he had to stifle a scream. There on the street stood a small plane. A door on the plane was open as if it were waiting for him.

Why not? Stephen thought with a shrug. At least this is less freaky than that alley and everything in it.

He climbed through the door and into the plane. Next to one of the seats inside was a cart. On the cart sat a goblet filled with what looked like water.

Stephen picked up the goblet to examine its contents more closely.

“Noooooooooo!” the voice of the little girl cried mournfully from outside. He saw her running toward the airplane door. “Don’t drink it!” she yelled. The door pulled up before she reached it and latched itself.

Stephen didn’t know if he should trust the little girl. There was certainly something disturbing about her. However, he hadn’t had any intention of the drinking the mysterious liquid. He only wanted to smell it.

As soon as he brought it close to his face, though, he found that he was compelled to drink it after all. It was drawing him in…

“Stop!” The little girl was inexplicably next to him. She put her hand on his arm and guided him to put the goblet back on the cart. “This isn’t the way out for you.”

She took him by the hand and led him off the plane. Soon they again stood outside the door she had been knocking on.

“I got it open,” she said, pushing it in to show him. Inside was only darkness. “You have to go through alone. If you want to get out of here, you have to go through. Promise me you will.” She look at him with her bright green eyes, and an image flashed in Stephen’s head. Someone else with green eyes—happy at first, then turning scared and concerned.

“Promise!” the girl screamed, stomping one foot on the ground.

Stephen nodded and the girl looked cheerful again.

“Here, take this.” She handed him a machete. “There might be…stuff in there that’s hard to walk through. You know—bushes, cobwebs, stuff like that. Don’t let them stop you.”

When she was satisfied that he would be okay, she stepped away from the door. He took a step inside and the door started closing behind him. He turned around and watched the girl wave at him as long as he could.

The last thing he heard before the door clicked was, “See you on the other side, Daddy!”

Liebster Award

Liebster

I was nominated for a Liebster award by lovesstorms, who writes stories for Sims 3 and Sims 4 on her blog. She is also my sister (and one of the other two members of the TCSTB). There is a lot of camaraderie in that community, though I am not a part of it myself. My sister, though, decided to include my blog in her list of Sims 3 & 4 stories that she nominated. Normally, accepting this award includes nominating other blogs. However, to quote Cecily Q. Cauliflower, “I’m not going to [nominate] anybody because I’m ornery that way.” (Also because I’m not very jacked into the blogosphere and only read a few myself.) I am, however, going to answer the questions lovesstorms posed to her nominees. They are somewhat oriented toward Sims story writers, so I will only answer those I can.

1. When you write, do you choose the computer or paper/pen?  I use both in different situations. I enjoy the experience of writing with a pencil and paper so much, so I do so now and then. However, it is just so much faster to write on the computer, so the bulk of my writing is done there.

3. What made you want to start writing? A book? Life? A person? Other?  I’ve enjoyed writing since I was a kid. I still have a few stories that I started when I was ten or twelve and never finished (I fully intended to write a series of books both times, but never even finished one). I wrote (and finished) a few short stories in high school. My more recent push came from playing a video game and getting all sorts of ideas for characters and stories from it (not Sims). That was actually over 10 years ago. It took a lot of time and even more work to get to where I am now–writing original fiction in a world I created with characters that I have lived with for 10 years.

4. What’s a country you’ve always wanted to visit?  It might sound cliche, but I’ve always wanted to go to England or Ireland. Or Germany.

5. Outside of the Sims, what’s another favorite game you play? I’ll answer this one, because I do play Sims, as well as other games. I actually prefer Sims 2 most of the time though, but I won’t go into reasons why. I tend to go through waves of what game I’m playing at the time. I haven’t played Sims in a while, but will go back to it someday and probably stick with it for a while then. For now, I’ve been playing Diablo 3 lately, and Civilizations games before that.

6. When you become disinterested in your story/characters, what do you do? This question is difficult for me to answer. I have a lot of ideas for stories in the same world, and a lot of characters to go with those stories. As of right now, including the one I’m revising currently, I have seven novel-length story ideas in mind. And outside of that, a lot more nuggets of ideas that could be grown into full stories. I have dozens of characters who overlap and some who are more solitary. I do sometimes get tired of revising “Pithea.” When that happens, I usually turn to working on “Pursuit of Power,” which is also in revision stage, but I haven’t delved as heavily into it. I’m still in the broad-changes stage of revision, since writing the novel during NaNoWriMo in 2014. And then sometimes, I just want to write and not edit, so I work on a storyline that isn’t even included in the count of 7 novel-length ideas, because it’s too narrow to be its own story, that takes place after “Pithea.”

I have it in my mind that when I get burned out on this world of stories and want to do something else, I will pull out a random prompt or such from one of many sources and just write something unrelated. But I never quite get to that.

7. When you write, do you prefer quiet or noise in the background? I used to prefer all quiet. Then I realized the joy of having something in the background. For a while I played writing-related music (yes, such a thing exists), but then I was introduced to coffitivity.com, and now I always have that up on my laptop or computer when I’m working.

10. Do you keep a notepad & pen/phone/tablet by your bed for those late night ideas? If so, do you actually get up and write them down? I do have a notepad in a drawer next to my bed. It looks like this:  9It’s always there, just in case, but it has turned into more of a dream journal (which is also currently neglected). Lately I’ve taken to bringing another notebook to bed with me, because I’ve been more actively trying to think of some specific things, and want to write them in that other notebook. Basically, I have tons of notebooks, big and small, so ideas tend to get stuck wherever. It’s a messy system.

11. When you write, do you just do a quick glance and post? Or do you take a day or two or more and proofread, move things around, delete, re-write, etc, etc? This last question is probably one I should skip, due to the fact that I’m not currently posting my writing online. However, I did used to write fanfiction and post it online, so I figured I’d answer based on that. I used to like to get a few chapters written into a story before posting the first chapter. Then I’d keep a buffer of 3 chapters, in case I had to make any changes to the actual story based on what I was still writing. I usually read over each chapter after I wrote it, sent it to a friend who was my biggest fan at the time (his words…well, actually he always said he was my “#1 fan.”), made any fixes that either of us found, then read over it one more time before I actually posted it. I usually did very little big changes or rewriting. I have since realized a lot of areas that could have been better, but I’ve had 10 years to get better.


Thanks again to my sister for nominating my blog for this reward. I know I’m keeping myself isolated by not nominating others, but I’ve always been the kind to keep to myself, so it’s in my nature. If anyone’s interested, check out lovesstorms’ blog for her Sims stories.

Toronto Trip Days 3 & 4, Escaping the Room and the Country

This is day 3 of my family’s trip to Canada to attend the farewell concert of Debs and Errol, a geek band from Toronto. For day 1, click here.

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Errol had informed us weeks in advance that while we were in town, we were welcome to attend their church. So Sunday morning, we planned to do exactly that. We woke up with enough time to get ready and go out for breakfast. We made sure to know what time to be back, so we could follow the others to the church. We got back from breakfast with what we thought was enough time, but there was a note on the door saying they had left and containing a simple map to the church. We headed there and found a place to park.

I was expecting a huge, fancy church. I can’t explain exactly why, but it might just be my automatic impression of any church I don’t know. It was a much smaller and more modest church than I’d expected. There were even fewer people in the congregation than our church has, and it’s a small church. When we got there, though, we didn’t see Errol’s family or the Laymans, who we knew were also going to the Elumirs’ house to follow Keren to church. Errol was there, having arrived early, because he was supposed to sing with the worship team that morning. There was some question about how that would work, though, as he had lost his voice by the end of the concert the night before.

Our family found an empty pew and sat down. Not too long later, Keren appeared next to us, saying she was glad we’d found the place. Apparently, when we stopped by the house and found the note, they had still been inside, but were about to leave. Which made us feel a little better, knowing we hadn’t been as late coming back from breakfast as we’d thought.

The service was a nice one. Logan and I both enjoyed the full band they had, and that one of the priests (we assumed it was a priest, but we’re not very knowledgeable about the Anglican church), in his full robes, was playing guitar in that band. When the kids in the congregation left for their own places, both of our kids were awkward and unsure about going. Keren took them both to their respective areas, so they could be with kids their own age.

After church was over, we gathered the kids and made plans to go for pho. I had mentioned that I’d like to do that while we were in town, because it’s something of a D&E universe running theme. Errol rode with us to direct us to the restaurant, while the Laymans drove behind us. Both ‘Manda and Debs joined us at the restaurant. Lena insisted on sitting by both of them, though that’s not how it worked out at first. Partway through the meal, though, as people finished eating, there was some moving of seats. Debs came to sit with Lena for a bit then. Similar to how Lena had been attached to ‘Manda already, she just loved Debs too. And Debs thought Lena was super cute too (more than once there was talk of eating Lena up).

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Hat courtesy of Brian Layman.

After lunch, those of us who had no prior commitments or need for a nap decided to stay in the area and walk around some–see more of the city. The Laymans, Debs, and our family started out toward a park Debs said had a nice view.

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There was a really nice sledding hill at the park, prompting Brian to lay down and have his kids push him down the hill. I don’t think it worked as well as he’d hoped.

After getting back to our vehicles, my family went back to Errol’s house. We relaxed there for a short time before it was time to head out again. We had plans to do an escape room. If you do not know what that is, it’s understandable. It’s basically a real-life adventure game with clues and puzzles to solve, in order to escape a room, within a time limit. I’m not sure how long ago he started doing them, but from the first time Errol talked about doing escape rooms, my husband Logan and I have been really intrigued by the idea. There aren’t many around here; the closest is maybe 3 hours away. So as soon as we started talking about visiting Toronto, where there are apparently dozens of escape rooms, we hoped we’d have a chance to go to one. Our biggest concern was that we have a 4-year-old who couldn’t come, and visiting another country wasn’t the best scenario for finding a babysitter. Fortunately, Keren was willing to watch her, and our 12-year-old who we could have brought, but thought it would be easier on our daughter if her brother was staying with her. In the end, it wouldn’t have mattered, as she was comfortable enough there to stay without any convincing.

Errol and ‘Manda (who has also done her fair share of escape rooms) planned for us to all go to LockQuest. So Keren drove us to the nearest subway station, and we made our way to our destination. LockQuest was above another business (I think a butcher shop), so we went up some narrow stairs and through a door. Inside was another group of room-escapers. We were at least fifteen minutes early. Fortunately, they were done and left as we came in. We were offered seats after hanging our coats on hooks throughout the entry room. We were to be joined by 4 of the 6 Laymans (they planned to drop their younger kids at the Elumirs’ house too) and by Debs, so we were waiting on them. While we waited, the two guys who run LockQuest gave us each small puzzles to solve, the type where you have to move metal pieces around to get a certain piece off, or others like it. We played with those for a while, some of us doing better with them than others. Also, Errol and ‘Manda introduced themselves and told them how many escape rooms they’ve each done. The guys in charge were very impressed.

Debs arrived first, and she was joined by a friend of hers named Dana. Then the Laymans came–all 6 of them. They’d run out of time to drop off the younger kids, so they brought them along. The kids were, I believe, in the 10-13-year-old range, so they weren’t so young that they couldn’t join in. Once everyone was there, it was time to get ready. The guys in charge went through the rules and a general idea of what we were to do and what we could expect. I’ll share the info about the room from the site itself, so I don’t give too much away:

You have one hour. He has all night.

From the moment you entered that apartment, something seemed off.  Now, you and the other book club members are locked inside, left with a sinister promise from your unhinged host that he’ll “be back in an hour.”

Can you sift through the pulp fiction novels, cryptic clues, and articles left behind by last week’s murdered members, to find the front door key and escape?

In Escape the Book Club Killer, you will be locked in a real apartment with up to eleven other players. You and your team must work together to communicate, exchange clues, and discover the secret to opening the front door.

Your challenge is to escape in one hour or less, before the Book Club Killer strikes again.  Pulsing with pulp and packed with puzzling props, Escape the Book Club Killer is a group experience you won’t soon forget!

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Yay, escape room comic!

 

They asked us to go around the room and share a skill we had that would be helpful if we were ever trapped in the apartment of a real serial killer. There were some normal answers and at least one absurd (“I can eat copious amounts of rice!” -Errol). My answer was that I’m so bad in high-stress situations, I’d probably just pass out, and he’d think I was already dead and leave me alone. After several reminders to go to the bathroom before we went in, it was time to start!

I’ll have to avoid details for the escape room, of course, but I will just say that it was insane, intense, a little chaotic, and tons of fun! There were definitely times that I felt I wasn’t really contributing much, and a few areas where I feel like I was a part of solving something. Given the opportunity, I would definitely do another one. As I understand it, not all of the escape rooms are done as well as LockQuest’s, but that makes it all the more awesome that our first experience was with them.

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And yes, we did escape, with maybe 5-6 minutes to spare!

Once we had escaped, we sat down in the entry room again, and talked for a while with the owners. They shared some past stories with us, and some of the characters they use to give hints. They talked about their “Overkeyer” system, which allows someone who has already done the room to bring people who haven’t back. Then the one who’s done the room can sit in the entry room and watch their friends try to solve the room via cameras, for free. If I lived in the area, I would be all over that. We talked for quite a while, which I assume was only possible because we were the last booking of the day. Then we left and got ready to head back to Errol’s house. Aware that it would probably be the last time we’d see the Laymans and Deb, I started to say goodbye to Debs. She said she (along with her friend Dana) was going back to Errol’s with us. So I instead said goodbye to the Laymans. I was then informed that they were all going back to Errol’s house for a birthday party for the Laymans’ eldest. Apparently it had been discussed, possibly even around me, and I had been oblivious.

Back at the house, the smell of chili greeted us the moment we walked into the door. Keren had made supper and kept it warm for us, as she knew we wouldn’t have supper before then. So we all crowded into the kitchen and ate. Then the brownies and ice cream came out, and more than a dozen people were around the table, whether standing or sitting, talking and laughing and just having a great time.

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Yes, it was a lot like this.

Brian had picked up on calling Lena “Leeloo.” They even went back and forth for a while (and more than once) where Lena would say she was a girl, and Brian would ask what he was, and she’d say he was a dad, maybe, or something like that. I suppose I shouldn’t include it, since I can’t remember it very well, but it was so much fun hearing her try to explain why she was Lena and he wasn’t. Lena and Debs sat on the floor in a corner of the kitchen for a while talking. I didn’t hear much of what they talked about, but I know I heard some singing (including Debs singing Errol’s part in the “Happy Emo Fun Sad Song”).

Debs was the first to leave, and Lena didn’t take it very well. They talked a bit more in the foyer before Debs actually left. Logan and I went down to the basement to check out ‘Manda’s apartment. Then we went back to the living room and talked with the Laymans for a bit longer before it was time for them to leave.

We went to bed sad that we had to leave, and yet looking forward to being home (but really, way more of the former, especially since the Laymans were staying another day). We woke up early enough the next morning to catch Errol and ‘Manda before they had to leave for work, and then we packed up our things and headed out. We took a detour over to Niagra Falls on our way home, and pulled in around 11 pm.

It was an exhausting weekend (especially for me, as I spent so much of it being anxious and awkward), but so very much fun. Logan is already planning our next trip to Toronto.

Toronto Trip Day 2, Main Event

This is day 2 of my family’s trip to Canada to attend the farewell concert of Debs and Errol, a geek band from Toronto. For day 1, click here.

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So as I mentioned in my previous post, my family was staying in Errol’s guest room. It was a very generous offer, since we basically invaded their house for two full days. The room wasn’t big, but there was a bed for two, and a mattress on the floor large enough for the kids to sleep on. The door didn’t open all the way, because the mattress blocked it, but we fit comfortably inside.

The first morning there wasn’t the most pleasant it could have been though. Around 6:30 am, I woke up with a terrible headache. It might have been because of the overly warm room, though really, I don’t need a reason to wake up with a headache. It happens often. I knew it would be important to take some medicine, so I sat up. My movement was apparently enough to wake up everyone else in the room. Maybe being in an unfamiliar setting had them all sleeping more lightly than usually. Or maybe it was just the excitement of being where we were.

After I’d taken medicine, I lay back down to sleep and told the kids to do the same. When I woke up again a few hours later, I realized they hadn’t gone back to sleep at all. They’d been awake the whole time and playing on their mattress. Fortunately, they’d been pretty quiet, allowing my husband, Logan, and I to get more sleep.

We all got dressed and went downstairs. No one else was awake, or at least no one else was downstairs yet. It was only a few minutes before the rest of the house came alive. Logan had been talking about the four of us going out for breakfast. We were still discussing where, and looking at nearby restaurants online, when Errol’s wife, Keren, informed us that she was making enough breakfast for everyone, because she wasn’t sure who’d be eating there.

Logan still considered going out, but the more people started filling the kitchen, including ‘Manda from the basement apartment, and the more aromas from breakfast began wafting through the house, he wavered on his decision. In the end, we stayed and had breakfast with the Elumirs. The food was great (my family went nuts over the pancakes) and it was fun just talking with everyone too.

Errol’s sister, Lizette, called at one point, and he put her on speaker phone. The phone was then propped up on a carton in the center of the table and Errol and ‘Manda tried to talk to her amongst the din of breakfast. Lizette is pretty well-known amongst D&E fans as well, having been in Errol’s band-related webcomic in some form numerous times. It was pretty cool to talk to her, even if just a few words.

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This is the form Lizette took in the D&E webcomic. A text message.

After breakfast, Logan and I were asked what we wanted to do that afternoon. If we had made plans or if we had anything specific we’d like to see or do. A few ideas were thrown around—the aquarium, museum, library (apparently Toronto’s library is worth a visit?), science centre. The natives filled us in on how some of these activities were located downtown, providing more difficult driving and parking situations. Keren quickly went to the local library branch, because she said on Saturday mornings they gave out tickets to local attractions. She thought it would be too late, but it was nearby and worth a try. They were indeed out of tickets, but we appreciated her taking the time to check.

We decided to go to the Ontario Science Centre, as it would hopefully provide sufficient entertainment for the range of ages of our kids, and wasn’t downtown. ‘Manda had offered to be our guide for the afternoon, and Keren asked if we minded having their eldest daughter Ekko along. She did have to drive Ekko over to the centre though, as we only had enough room in our car for ‘Manda.

We parked some distance away so we didn’t have to pay for parking, and then walked. Along the way, we saw a business called Lena’s Nails, which we had to point out to my daughter. And speaking of my daughter, she had attached herself to ‘Manda even more by this point, insisting she walk with ‘Manda along the sidewalk as we went.

At the Science Centre, there was so much to see, and many hands-on activities, that we spent longer there than we maybe should have. We were in the kids’ area for much of the time, which fortunately had some things that were interesting enough that the adults weren’t too bored. While we were in that kids’ area, ‘Manda got a text that some other people were on their way to join us.

Let me stop here to introduce the Laymans. They are a family from Ohio who have been fans of D&E for longer than I have. Brian has done webhosting for them for years now. In October, Logan and I went over to Ohio to meet Debs and Errol when they were at a filk festival. The Laymans were there too, so we got to meet them as well. There are six of them—Brian, Denise, and four children. It added to the excitement of the event being able to meet them too. And they had made the trip up to Toronto for the final concert too.

The Laymans had driven in that morning and found out we were at the Science Centre, so they decided to join us. Once we met up with them, we found our group difficult to get moving and keep moving. We moved on to the next room, which was another kids’ area, and after spending some time there, it took several attempts to gather everyone up so we could move on.

The time came when we had to leave, though, and it took some help to calm Lena down. She had such a blast at that place. ‘Manda contacted Keren so she could come pick up Ekko, and then after Ekko was off, we walked back to the car. We stopped for a quick lunch on the way back to the Elumirs’ house. We went by the house and saw a spot right outside was open. Logan wanted to go around the block to park from the right direction though. We joked that someone would probably take it during that time, and sure enough, right when we pulled onto the street, someone was parking there. It was the Laymans! They had come to get their t-shirts—Logan had designed a t-shirt with the D&E banner on the front and “Farewell Concert,” the date, and “We’ll miss you!” on the back, and we’d offered to add anyone else who wanted one into the batch we were ordering.

We had to get ready to leave quickly, as the trip to the venue for the concert was about an hour away, via public transportation. They were unable to buy the required pass for our family nearby, so we couldn’t take the bus to the subway station; we had to walk maybe fifteen minutes. Logan and I were frustrated and a little embarrassed we hadn’t had much chance to get our money changed over yet, so ‘Manda kindly bought our day pass. Then it was time for an first-time experience for my whole family.

We rode on the subway, and while it caused a little anxiety for me, it was not nearly as overwhelming as I had expected. Still, it was a nice new experience. Lena insisted on sitting with ‘Manda and often asked if it was time to get off yet. She wanted to know what was going on the whole time. After the subway, we took a streetcar, which was interesting too.

On the streetcar, we came across two other people who were going to the concert too. They were sitting right in front of Logan and me. ‘Manda knew them, so it’s not like we were stalking other D&E fans or something. After they talked to her some, I introduced myself and Logan, and they did likewise–the Kesslers. I did know who they were, and I whispered to Logan that they do that podcast he knows about (it’s called Geekually Yoked). I didn’t mention that I was pretty sure he was the man behind “Ask Lovecraft,” partly because I wasn’t 100% sure (more like 90%) and partly because I wasn’t sure if Logan knew what that was (and yes, I was right about Leeman Kessler being “Ask Lovecraft”). I haven’t even mentioned that to him still to this day. Maybe he’ll learn about it for the first time upon reading this post. (Hi, honey!)

We had to walk a few more blocks from the streetcar, but then we found our destination: the ROUND venue. We went up a narrow stairway and into the dark room that would hold the concert. It was already crowded. I know both Keren and ‘Manda would have liked to have been there a bit earlier, but everything took longer having out-of-towners to take care of. There were many times over the weekend I felt like we were inconveniencing them. They were very generous with their time, space, food, and forgiveness.

Back on topic, I couldn’t see much when we got there, because my glasses fogged up. I was told that the Laymans had some space reserved in a back corner and that Brian was waving to us. Let me just stop right here to say how awesome it was that they’d saved extra space with us in mind. It really helped a lot that we didn’t have to find a place for all four of us, when it was already pretty crowded, and I was feeling so out-of-sorts by the entire adventure of just getting there.

We dropped off our coats and stuff on the table. Our twelve-year-old son, Brenden, wanted to stay at the table by the entrance with Ekko, who was selling items made out of perler beads. We told him it was fine, as long as he came to the table when the music started. He would have liked to stay there during the whole concert, I know, but we wanted him near us.

I took some time before the concert started to seek out a couple of people who I wanted to introduce myself to. People I knew online but had never met in person. Kari Maaren, who is a musician and would be performing that night as well, I know mostly because of two webcomics she does. West of Bathurst was one she did for seven years, though I didn’t read it until it had ended. She did a Kickstarter campaign last year to fund the printing of the comic in a massive book. I pitched in on that campaign. As this trip was approaching, she mentioned that they were almost done with the book. I mentioned a few times that if it was done when I came, maybe I could get my copy, instead of having it shipped. It wasn’t done, but that’s okay. I met Kari and later told her (probably not for the first time) how I’d read the whole thing in a week or so, how I was excited about the book, and how I was looking forward to the second read-through of the comic, but I was waiting until I had the book in my hands. I kind of gushed a little.

The other main person I sought out to say hi to was Ja-Mez. Those of you who are into the D&E universe at all probably know who that is. For those who don’t, he used to do a podcast with Errol and ‘Manda, and was in charge of livestreaming the concert that night. He was sitting near the front with a computer in front of him, and looked like he was pretty busy. I didn’t want to risk not having a chance later, though, so I stepped over and told him I didn’t want to take much of his time, but that I wanted to introduce myself. Then I left him alone.

Shortly before the concert was going to start, I took a quick trip to the bathroom. While washing my hands, someone said, “Nice shirt! I was going to get one of those, but I didn’t order it in time.” It was Debbie Ohi! I had met her at the filk festival in Ohio, asking her to sign a copy of her Naked! book for me, otherwise I would have probably gone and introduced myself to her that night too. Still, when I got back to the table, I asked Logan if it was weird that I was all excited that I had just been in the bathroom at the same time as Debbie Ohi and Kari Maaren (she’d gone in while I was in there too).

So then the concert started. There were several bands there to play before D&E went on, and it was lots of fun. Kraken Not Stirred did a fun Dr. Seuss-oriented song called “Oh the Places I’ve Been.” Logan really liked “I Don’t Need You (I’ve Got Netflix)” by Rock/Paper/Cynic. Copy Red Leader has a great song in “Crossing the Streams.” We’d seen that one live before, as they were at the filk festival we went to; we also bought their CD at that event. Kari Maaren was next, and we got to be part of her next album! They set up microphones to record the audience and we yelled “CanLit!” at the appropriate times in her song. That was awesome! The last warm-up band was Nerds With Guitars. I’ve heard of them a lot but hadn’t listened to any of their music. I really loved their sound, and Logan and I both thoroughly enjoyed a song of theirs called “Hero.”

There was an intermission as they set up for Debs and Errol. Brenden went back over to join Ekko selling her wares during that time. Logan went to get us some water from the bar. Then the show started.

I had brought my camera, but we forgot the second battery. Taking lots of video tends to drain the battery, so I wasn’t sure how long it would last. The best part of seeing D&E live is that no show is the same. There’s a lot of talking to the audience or to each other that is definitely spontaneous. They have some banter built into some of the songs, but even that doesn’t often come out the same as it’s planned. I have all of the videos on YouTube, so I won’t embed them here individually. I took videos from beginning to end, stopping now and then when I thought it wouldn’t be as worth taking. The original plan was to not record some of the songs that don’t change a lot from one performance to the next, focusing instead on the talking in between and the songs that varied a lot. I wish I could have recorded the whole thing. As I mentioned, the concert was livestreamed, and that video is still available to watch. The audio quality isn’t great, but at least it’s all there (including the opening bands). Here are the relevant links:

Playlist of my videos from the concert

Livestream of the whole concert

D&E on Bandcamp – The studio versions of their songs are all on this site, if anyone wants to check them out.

There are some things I want to specifically mention from the concert. At one point, Errol mentioned Lena, but he said, “What’s that little girl’s name again?”

She didn’t miss a beat, yelling, “Lena!” back. He “Leeloo” a few times, and she kept yelling it back. That interaction can be found here (queued up for convenience): https://youtu.be/oUEvCI7LVWc?t=56s

He did that one or two more times throughout the concert, and by the last time, half the audience was yelling, “Lena!” back at him along with her.

For two of the songs, “Tie After Tie” and “Undead Crawler,” members from some of the other bands went onto the stage to play and in some cases sing with them. “Undead Crawler” is one of my absolute favorites, so it’s worth checking out. Debs totally nailed “Make It So,” a parody of Frozen’s “Let It Go.” Another favorite is the “Happy Emo Fun Sad Song,” which is a live-only song that perfectly illustrates their unique personalities. (Wow, suddenly I’m getting emotional about them being broken up again.)

When they had one song left, Debs took a moment to express her feelings about this final concert, about how many people came out for it, and about how awesome their fans are. There may have been some tears, and not just from Debs. Then they ended on the song that was normally the one they opened with, “Geek Love Song.” It’s definitely a classic.

Of course, the crowd couldn’t let it stop there, as the standing ovation turned into a chant for “one more song!” They obliged with “Double Rainbow/More Than That.” And then it was over.

Afterwards, we wanted to make sure to talk to Debs and give her a hug, not knowing if we’d see her anymore that weekend. Plans for the next day were still a little nebulous. We made our way to the front of the venue, stopping along the way to talk to Alex James of Nerds With Guitars. He was impressed that we’d come as far as we had for the concert, and also said he was really glad people were willing to do that, because Debs and Errol were worth it. (We obviously agree.)

Also while we were on our way to the front, Ja-Mez came to me and apologized for what he felt was an abrupt conversation before the concert when I approached him to introduce myself. I can see how he felt he’d done me a disservice, but I could tell he was busy, so it hadn’t bothered me. Still, he was very kind to try to make amends for what he felt was a bad meet. I then asked him about the podcast, as I didn’t recall ever hearing a reason for why they had stopped, or an explanation on whether or not they planned to pick it back up again someday. If I remember correctly, he said it could still happen, but his schedule was busy, so that was why it was on hiatus.

After that, we became part of the crowd and waited for our turn to talk to Debs. It actually took a long while for us to have a chance, because so many people wanted to meet them, talk to them, get their autographs in the webcomic book they were selling that night, etc. We were sort of in an unstructured line, but it often seemed to shift to our detriment. The only thing about the situation that was really very bad was that Lena got so bored just waiting around. Well, that and I was paranoid that everyone that could help us get back to Errol’s house would leave and we’d have to find our own way.

Fortunately, we got our chance, gave Debs hugs, and said we didn’t know if we’d see her again. She said if there were any plans for the next day, she wanted to be kept in the loop. There had been some talk of doing an escape room the next day, and I was excited that she might be involved in that too.

It was getting late, and someone from the venue informed Logan that we couldn’t be there with Lena anymore. We were ready to leave anyway, so we met up with ‘Manda and a friend of hers who was going back to the house too, and left for the streetcar. ‘Manda was excited that the streetcar was a new one. We stood on the junction between the two segments, which moved under our feet a lot as the car turned. I very nearly fell into the accordion bellows behind me on the first turn.

‘Manda had informed us that if we were quick enough, we could make an earlier bus, but if we weren’t, we’d have to wait a while for the next (20-30 minutes). When we got off the streetcar, we had to go down some stairs to the subway station. Lena isn’t terribly fast on stairs, and we’d gotten behind some other people anyway. I didn’t think to pick her up until we were on the stairs, and by then, it probably would have been too late. The train was at the station when we were going down the stairs, but left before we got there. ‘Manda was worried we’d miss the bus after that, but fortunately the next train was only a few minutes later. When we got off the train, we ran up more than one escalator, with me carrying Lena this time, to make the bus. We ended up having a few minutes to spare, which was nice.

Back at the house, my family had a few snacks, as we hadn’t had a proper supper, and then went to bed. While we were eating, Keren left saying Errol had asked her to come get him at the bus station. He’d missed the bus and didn’t want to wait for the next one. He wasn’t doing too well after the concert. He’d already been sick for over a week, lost his voice by the end of the concert, and was just tired. I don’t blame him. He puts out a lot of energy on a regular basis, but especially while performing.

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Farewell, Debs & Errol!

So the main event of the weekend was over, but we still had a full day in Toronto and lots to do. That will be the subject for another post though. I will just close by saying that Debs and Errol will definitely be missed. They entertained a lot of people, and will continue to do so. If anyone reading this does not know about them, or hasn’t listened to their music before, I strongly suggest you do so. The band may be over, but their music won’t be going anywhere.

Toronto Trip Day 1, Arrival

On March 7, Debs and Errol, a geek band from Toronto, had their farewell concert. Being huge fans, my family decided to take a trip up to Toronto for the weekend, so we could not only attend the concert, but also meet several people from the area that we only knew from the internet. It’s been over two weeks since my family made that trip from Indiana to Toronto. I wanted to write this blog post shortly after we returned home, but I didn’t. With how long it’s been, I realized that it was time to either do it or give it up completely. The entire trip was such an adventure, and I really wanted to get my thoughts out there for anyone who is interested to read. So here goes.

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We left on Friday around noon, with two kids aged 4 and 12. We had a laptop for entertainment for the kids because we knew it was going to be a long drive. Google maps put it at seven hours. The first part of the trip was uneventful as went through Michigan to get to the border. The border crossing was much more exciting. We were told that their policy was to search anyone who had never been to Canada or had not been there in 10 years (my husband, Logan, and I had been there when we were teens, so more than 10 years ago). So they had us pull over, and they searched her car. We were in a parking lot that was covered but not fully enclosed.

We stood in front of the car while they searched it, and did our best to stay warm. The parking garage-type structure created a wind tunnel, and it was cold. I hadn’t grabbed my gloves or scarf when getting out of the car, because I was a little flustered. Fortunately the kids at least were bundled up. Even still, my daughter, the four-year-old, grew colder and colder, and I did my best to keep her warm. We were worried they would unpack most of our tightly packed trunk and we’d have to fix it before we could leave, but they either didn’t pull much out, or fixed it themselves. After they searched the car, they let us get back in to warm up while they performed some other checks on our ID, but said we would probably have to get back out again and maybe even go inside. Fortunately, they quickly said the check had been done, and we were free to go. So we were on our way into Canada.

I’m not much of a traveler overall and haven’t been out of the US since the times I went to Canada as a teen, so this was all an interesting experience. Somehow even though the road was not unusual in itself, just knowing we were in another country made me feel more anxious. I should mention I am a painfully shy introvert who is not good with new experiences in general. I tend to get anxious easily. When Logan and I travel somewhere I’m not very used to, he almost always has to do the bulk of the driving, because I can’t handle it very well. It’s not fair to him, but he knows it’s easier than trying to have me drive, especially in big cities. He had told me before we left that there would be a long stretch once we were in Canada that he would probably ask me to drive for. Once we are in Canada, thinking of this upcoming drive maybe very nervous. He has issues staying awake when he’s driving for a long time, whether he’s tired or not. So I knew it would be important for me to be able to help when he needed it. Somehow though, perhaps because it was another country and he was more interested, he had no trouble staying awake on this drive.

When we first entered Canada we noticed the gas prices. One of the first prices we saw was 102.9. In America of course we’re used to something like $2.33 on the signs. My first reaction to the sign I saw in Canada was to say, “Wait, is that $102 per gallon?” Of course I didn’t really think it would be that high, but I also did not immediately think it’s meant 102 cents. And Logan quickly pointed out to me that it would be by the liter, not by the gallon. I did not do the math to figure out how much gas was in our terms, but if I had, I probably would have forgotten as well that it would be Canadian dollars, not American dollars. Another thing of note on our drive to Toronto were the numerous warning signs along the road, which made us chuckle. Signs warning drivers not to follow too closely, because it will kill you; not to speed, because it will kill you; not to get too tired while you’re driving, because it will kill you. Every one of these warning signs said “Doing this kills. Don’t do this.”

After several hours of driving, we made it to Toronto. Coming into Toronto was a new experience for us as well. We’re from a state without many big cities, and this was bigger than our biggest city. We have both been to Washington DC, Chicago, other larger cities, but not often. We were like small-town hicks out of water. The road we were on was up off of the ground already and still the buildings towered over us on both sides as we drove through downtown Toronto. It was very imposing and a little overwhelming. Logan was driving around unfamiliar turns and turnoffs with people speeding by him.. We both remarked that when he went around curves he felt like he should slow down but if he did, he would be slowing down traffic. It was a unique experience.

The place we were going was in a residential area, so we left downtown behind us. Traffic thinned out and we felt like we could breathe a little. It was not difficult to find out if you’re going to, however we cannot find anywhere to park quickly. We actually went around the block a few times trying to figure out where to park. You see every other parking spot on the street was taken up by a giant pound of snow. We did finally see someone pull out of a spot and went around the block again so we could lineup to take that one. It was down the street a bit from where we were going, but at least we had landed.

Then we walked to the house, and everything got real. We had been invited to stay at the house of one of the members of the band–Errol. Logan and I had met him before, when they were in Ohio last October, but the kids hadn’t. His older daughter answered the door and let us inside. We quickly realized that Debs and Errol were inside practicing. He had mentioned that they’d be practicing for the concert that night, but I didn’t realize it’d be right there in the living room, or that they’d be doing it when we got there. Errol’s daughter Ekko showed us to the room we’d be staying in, and we proceeded to go down the street and start bringing in our stuff. It took us a few trips, and we kept telling the kids to be quiet going by the room where they were practicing. We didn’t want to disturb them.

After we were unloaded, Logan and I were a little uncertain about what we should do. The kids were much less so. Errol had already introduced himself to them, and they stood in the doorway watching the practice. Debs and Errol assured us that we weren’t disturbing them, and said we were welcome to come in and sit or whatever we wanted to do. In fact, Errol and his wife (who came home a little later) assured us that we were welcome to make ourselves at home the whole weekend. So we went in and watched the practice, chatted between songs a bit, and eased into the whole situation. I am always awkward and uncomfortable as a guest in someone’s home, much more so if I’m an overnight guest. I just don’t know etiquette and proper ways to behave and such, from either side, because I am not a very social person. Add to that that these two were basically celebrities to us, and it was a very tense situation for me. I did relax eventually though. Also during that time, ‘Manda, who lives in an apartment in Errol’s basement, came in. She is one I hadn’t met, but knew online and was also a fan of. She does some creative activities with Errol as well, the most notable of which (for me) is the NaNoMusical. I made sure to get off the couch and give her a proper greeting when she came in.

The practice was loads of fun, just being able to be there and be part of it. I even took some video with my Kindle Fire. Our daughter found a toy house in the room and occupied herself with that most of the time. In fact, it was difficult to pull her away from it when it was time to go to bed late into the evening. And speaking of our daughter, one of the best things about the weekend involved her. Her name is Lena, but when Errol first met her, he said her name back as “Leeloo.” She corrected him, but the nickname had stuck. For the rest of the weekend, he’d call her “Leeloo,” and she’d promptly respond “Lena!” The next day, we were all in Errol’s daily webcomic.

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This is Errol’s version of our arrival. It’s actually pretty accurate.

I’m going to stop this post at the end of Friday. It will be far too long if I write about the whole weekend, so I’ll continue in another post. Before I leave, though, I’d like to share 2 of the videos I took of the practice.

The song in this one is one of my favorites (though I realized recently that I have maybe too many that I consider favorites), “BSG.” At the end of the song, Errol decides to hold out the last note for a while, which is not how the song normally knows. I’d say it’s a good look at his personality when he’s not performing, but the truth is, he’s the same in person as he is when he’s performing as he is in his comic as he is anywhere else. It’s still fun though.

This second video shows the point where Errol first realizes I’m taking video. The interesting thing is that he actually seemed self-conscious after that, which is not a trait often seen in him. The song is another of my favorites. Also, he did hit the camera on my Kindle dead on.