To Blog or Not To Blog?

You know, I’ve really agonized about this blog: the title, the layout, the topics, the quality of the writing. But in all honesty, I’m probably one of the world’s worst bloggers. I rarely post, and I don’t know that I’ve exactly pinpointed what this blog is supposed to be about. Is it about me? Faith? Fantasy? My so-called “writing?”  So, the topics are varied, updates sporadic, and the layout/formatting is not ideal.

I think I’ve read hundreds of articles talking about how writers/creative people need to build their “brand” online. Create an online presence and cultivate an online fan-base. This way when you finally convince some muckety-muck with the power to jumpstart your creative career to actually read your work then they will shower you with money and contracts. Really? Can I insert the “not buying it” emoticon? Where the heck is that thing? No really, where is it? I’m just awful at this technological stuff.

As far as I can tell, branding hurts like heck. I’d rather not emblazon my hide (biological or technological) with an iron-hot poker. It’s like that person you know who got that tattoo they thought was friggin’ awesome, but you’re just praying they don’t ask you for your honest opinion. Maybe I’m not ready to set myself in a specific brand. I don’t even have anything awesome for you to read Mr./Ms. Muckety-Muck.

So, what I’ve decided is simply to write. Maybe not every day. Maybe every other day. And I’m not going to edit myself too much. Some pieces will be more polished than others. Some will have cohesive theses, introductions, conclusions…shoot…I may even throw in some cool pictures. But more often you’ll get posts like this where I just let my mind wander and babble on about…whatever. Call it my “territories blog” or my “training wheels.” Ignore it or post a comment as you like. 

I just want to write more. And the hope is that the more I write, the better it will get.  



Zelena’s Revenge: A Fan Theory


A new villain is coming to Once Upon a Time

Poor Henry—the kid just can’t catch a break. Once again all faithful Oncers should be concerned for Henry’s safety. Pan may be out of the picture for now, but there’s a new villain on Once Upon a Time, and she has it out for the truest believer. In fact, I think she’s already made at least one attempt on Henry’s life.

What did poor Henry ever do to her? Nothing, of course. In “NYC Serenade” Zelena, the Wicked Witch, makes it clear that she’s out for revenge against Regina. And as Aurora hints to Philip, if you incur Zelena’s wrath, she doesn’t just go after you—she goes after your children.

Within a day or two of being launched back into the Enchanted Forest by the “reset” curse, Regina was attacked by a flying monkey who wanted to retrieve her blood. Why Zelena needed this blood to exact her revenge upon the queen is unknown. Perhaps she hoped to curse Regina’s son through blood magic. However, Regina and Henry are related through True Love, not blood. Therefore, Zelena’s revenge curse was ineffective, prompting a need to physically enter the world without magic and get the job done.

When we last saw Emma and Henry, they were driving away from Storybrooke into their new lives. Their destination was unknown, but it’s likely that they returned to Emma’s home in Boston. Flash forward one year after the reset curse was cast and Emma and Henry are now living in Manhattan. The reason? A house fire destroyed their home in Boston, so they relocated to New York.  A detail like this cannot be ignored. Recall, the Wicked Witch was something of a pyro, constantly tormenting the Scarecrow with fireballs. For this reason, it is possible the fire was real and not a false memory. Although Emma does not give a specific date, it is likely that the fire occurred a few months after the reset curse was cast.

In fact, my guess is that the fire occurred approximately eight months prior to the events of “NYC Serenade.” Why? Because Emma met Walsh eight months ago at his furniture store in NYC. When your home is destroyed in a fire, one of the few things you can replace is furniture. Was it mere happenstance that Emma found the one guy in the Big Apple who happened to be a flying monkey?

Check out Walsh's scar

Check out Walsh’s scar

Not at all! Look closely and you’ll see Walsh has a linear scar on the left side of his neck. The flying monkey who attacked Regina was grazed by an arrow in the exact same place. Walsh is not a random fairy-tale creature; he’s a monkey on a mission. The fire in Boston was no accident. Who knows what he had planned if Emma continued her relationship with him?

Although Zelena’s first attempt to exact her revenge on Regina proved unsuccessful, I fear she has more wickedness in store for Henry and for Storybrooke.  If she’s smart she’ll realize that she cannot rely on blood magic to exact her revenge. On Once Upon a Time, True Love always trumps magic. And Henry’s mother is well-armed. Both of them.

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Ice Skating, a Misadventure

My friend and I spent a week giggling nervously about the upcoming humiliation awaiting us at the Roanoke Civic Center’s public ice skating rink. Certain we would fall flat on our keisters and earn the derision of gloating passersby, we bravely donned our gloves and scarves. No matter how many bruises we earned, it would be fun to break from the monotony of winter movie marathons.

And we weren’t the only ones who thought so. Pulling into the parking lot, we marveled at how few spaces remained. Flocks of children, parents and older siblings in tow, scurried toward the entrance. I exchanged worried glances with my friend as we eyed the crowd waiting for admission. I’ve seen shorter lines at Disney’s Space Mountain.

I snuck down the stairs to scout the situation on the rink, and what I saw brought joy to my heart. There, gliding on the ice, were hundreds of smiling people, hand in hand and connecting with each other, sans social media. Take that, Facebook.

The rink was filled to capacity, so we didn’t get to skate.  But when this popular program returns in September, I’ll be there.  And I’ll probably tweet a picture of it.

Post appeared as a Cornershot in the Extra Section of The Roanoke Times newspaper on February 10, 2014.

Enchantacon, Part 2: Open Doors

Aside from admission to the convention and the Fairy Tale Ball, my Enchantacon ticket package included only one autograph, but I was fine with that. I’ve always had a funny feeling about the idea of paying to interact with a celebrity. It feels like I’m purchasing a piece of them, and I have a problem with that. I’ve always hoped for a serendipitous meeting as the result of a mutual interest or purpose.  Surely a signed photograph would be far more meaningful if it stemmed from an organic experience rather than a contrived meeting. Not to demean those who do pay for such things, photo-op and autograph sessions are an appropriate and respectful way to obtain those kinds of mementos.

Enchantacon provided ample opportunities for both convention-sanctioned meetings and chance encounters with the actors. It was neat to run into the guests of honor in the most random ways. Whether riding in an elevator with David Anders or Ethan Embry, chatting with Tony Amendola at the water cooler in the fitness center, pointing out the excellent cosplay for Keegan Conor Tracy, or walking back to the main hotel with Gil McKinney after his Q&A, I found myself meeting the cast in just the way I’d always hoped.

For years, I’ve told myself that actors are people, and they deserve to be treated as such. I imagined that if I ever met a famous person I would treat him or her just as I would treat any other person. If we made eye contact, I’d smile, wave, maybe even offer a brief greeting or comment on the weather. If we struck up a conversation, I wouldn’t ask pointed, personal questions or request any favors (such as an autograph or picture).  I wouldn’t want to invade the privacy of a random stranger, nor would I want to encroach upon their time. I believe in treating everyone with kindness and respect, so I planned to extend the same VIP treatment that I give to everyone. But until Enchantacon, I’d never had the occasion to put theory into practice.

Enchantacon Josh Emcee

Photo credit: Emcee Joshua Reid-Davis gearing up for Enchantacon

On Friday, our emcee, Josh, led an Once Upon a Time trivia contest. Through an unlikely series of events, I wound up winning the second round. My prize? Being escorted to the Fairy Tale Ball by the actor of my choice. It took me several minutes to decide between my favorites, and in the end I asked if I could choose Mr. Raphael Sbarge. I could hardly wait for Saturday night to come.

Other blessings were in store. On Saturday, I was provided with an additional, completely unexpected chance to hang out with the actors. The best part was that I got to invite two of my friends, Angela and Marie, and share the experience with them. Not only was I excited to have an extended chat with Mr. Sbarge and Mr. McKinney, I thoroughly enjoyed the way my two Oncer pals’ faces lit up with joy and disbelief as they took seats beside Ms. Tracy. Their blessing was mine as well.

Enchantacon Fairy Tale Ball      The Fairy Tale Ball on Saturday night was everything I’d hoped it would be. I’d never felt so beautiful in my entire life, and Mr. Sbarge was a perfect gentleman. Of course the moment we entered the ballroom, he was immediately surrounded by other Oncers eager for a photo-op and a chat of their own. I spent the rest of the evening mingling with other fans. We danced as girls tend to do when there aren’t enough men around to go around: with wild abandon and a total disregard for looking cool.  Or maybe that was just me.

Sunday’s pace was noticeably slower. Some of the fans decided to skip the final day of the convention, but they shortchanged themselves. David Anders and Ethan Embry led candid Q&As, loaded with unvarnished tales of the highs and lows of being a working actor in Hollywood. At the end of it all, my introverted self took shelter from freezing winds and smiling faces in a soft couch tucked away somewhere hidden. I journaled for an hour at least, silently recording my thoughts and emotions. Several of the actors noticed me in my hidey-spot as they walked on their way out of the hotel.  We said a quick farewell and wished each other safe travels.

Even though I had not purchased one of the more expensive ticket packages, I was surprised at how often I got to interact with the guests of honor over the course of the weekend. Perhaps the small size of the convention had something to do with it. I would guess there were no more than 150 attendees at the peak.  But, as for me, I felt Heaven-blessed. It was as though God had just decided to open up many doors of opportunity to meet.

Better than that, God opened my heart to meeting many wonderful people, actors and fans alike, and sharing a wonderful weekend together.

Stay tuned!  Enchantacon, Part 3: Open Hearts still to come…

Brooke, Angela (Belle), and Zach (Emmet Swan)

Brooke, Angela (Belle), and Zach (Emmet Swan)

Enchantacon, Part 1: Expectations

As I scanned the words on the card my husband had given me for our 10th anniversary, I could hardly believe what I was reading. I was going to Enchantacon. I was going to the Fairy Tale Ball. Reading the expression on my face, my prince leaned over to me and quoted from a favorite movie, “Come on Cinderella! We’ve got to get you ready for the ball!”

For almost two months, that was the focus of almost every free minute of my life. I drafted packing lists, made menus for cheap non-perishable meals, learned how to dance, rehearsed karaoke songs, spent countless hours on Ebay searching for the perfect dress, counted calories, and hit the gym with the dedication of a marathon runner in training. If I was ever going to have a Cinderella moment, this was my chance, and I was going to do everything I could to help the stars align and encourage fate to smile down upon me.

I fantasized almost nonstop about what would happen during the convention. I ran through pretend conversations with people I might possibly meet, fans and actors alike. I dreamed up best and worst case scenarios, meticulously plotting reasonable responses and resolutions. Asked to dance by a VIP? No problem, I’ve practiced my waltz. Hotel reservation lost? I’ve got a short list of people who might let me crash in their room for one night. I’m a classic introvert and very methodical, so this kind of mental preparation is natural, if a bit obsessive. The anxiety of being in a crowded room full of strangers and having nothing to say weighed on me heavily.  What if I was too scared or too shy to experience everything that Enchantacon would offer? This was followed by another fear: What if Enchantacon could never live up to all my fantasies?Enchantacon Florida welcome

A few days before I was scheduled to drive 12 hours down to Florida, Enchantacon announced that half of the actors scheduled for the event had canceled due to production schedules. Met with varying degrees of outrage, that announcement was followed by others—fans who had canceled their trip. I sulked for an hour or two, letting a couple of indignant tweets slip out. (I regretted every word.) I contemplated cancelling as well. There was no way the convention could live up to my expectations now. It was tainted with disappointment.

It was my husband who put things into perspective. “The hotel is going to be beautiful. It’s still going to be fun. You’re going to have a great time.” I decided to press on. In a way, this mini-disaster prepared me to remain flexible, open to whatever was coming. I decided to leave my expectations at home, forgotten on the shelf.

My motto for the weekend to come? I have a map, a full tank of gas, and a healthy sense of adventure. This is going to be great.

My Life in…Writing

There are lots of reasons why people want to write fiction. Unfortunately, the problem with reasons is that they can be refuted logically by friends, colleagues, and especially family members. Those we look to the most for support and encouragement wind up talking us out of the passion we so long to share with the world.

“You want fame and fortune?” they snicker before pointing out, with unreserved condescension, that most writers do not earn much of either. You don’t see very many authors dodging the paparazzi. Chances are, even published authors have the freedom to run to the grocery store in their yoga pants and oversized sweatshirts.  And most authors can’t afford to quit their day jobs. Need proof? Start reading book jackets. You’d be surprised at how many, “So-and-so works as a…” you’ll find.  Sure, maybe J.K. Rowling can afford to dream up her next fictional universe while basking in the sun beside her pool, but most writers to scribble away in the few moments they steal away from our real lives without too much guilt or financial repercussion. Writing is a secret mistress.

“But you don’t understand,” we protest, “It’s something I must do. It’s within me; I can’t stop it.” The need for creative expression is too intense to ignore. Those more poignant confess, “I just want to touch the hearts of my readers, to affect them in a powerful way.” If this describes you, don’t be surprised if a colleague laughs in your face then later posts a cryptic message online, “Want to express yourself and entertain the masses? Get a Twitter account like the rest of us!” Composing a witty remark of 140 characters is certainly less daunting than a novel of 100K words.

But, really, if I’m honest, none of those motives fully encapsulate why I write. I’m so far gone. You see, I’ve lost touch with reality. I believe all my favorite characters exist somewhere out there in the real world, or at least, in history. I mean come on! It’s a great big universe out there. Who’s to say there isn’t a “madman with a box” running around out there, straightening his bow tie?

The fantasy world is so much bigger than the world I know. But somehow, I believe that if mankind can dream it, he can bring it into existence. If I can write a world, a character, a Harry Potter, on the page, then I can somehow bridge the gap between fantasy and reality and bring that character into the real world. Granted, I may never come in actual contact with my creation, but I need them to exist because I love them so very much. I need to believe that they are out there. And until I meet every person on the planet—and beyond—you’ll never convince me that their existence is impossible.

You see, I write because I’m crazy. And you can’t argue with crazy. writing

My Life…in Environmentalism

good stewardsI never intended to become an environmentalist. It doesn’t run in my blood; I wasn’t grandfathered in. I grew up in a small town where the only recycling center was a cluster of rusty green dumpsters off the highway about 30 minutes beyond the city limits. I was well into adulthood before canvas tote bags and green initiatives became fashionable. The greater sum of my understanding of environmentalism came from Saturday morning cartoons like Captain Planet.

Despite my limited background, I always hated waste. As a child, I ignored painful hand cramps and used pencils down to the metallic band which held the eraser in place. In high school, I wore the same clothes every year until they mysteriously disappeared during one of Mom’s “room raids.” When gas prices first started to spike, I walked to work, saving a few gallons each week.

Several years ago, I purchased a few reusable tote bags in an effort to control the exploding population plastic bags, hoarded in the cabinet underneath the kitchen sink. I used my totes everywhere, refusing to accept another plastic bag whether it came from the grocery store, the farmer’s market, the library, or even the local mall. This small change snowballed, leading to other habits such as using natural light during the day and turning off lamps when not in the room. I converted a three-sectioned laundry hamper into a recycling bin for paper, plastic, and metal. I purchased previously owned furniture and upgraded electronics only when necessary. When my husband and I moved into our house, a real fixer-upper, we installed energy efficient windows and appliances, slashing our electricity bill by 30 percent. After our second vehicle became irreparable, we bought a fuel-efficient hybrid.

Environmentalism is a way of life. It’s about using less, buying less, and making things last. We used to be a people that fixed things; we darned socks, mended clothing, and repaired our vacuums and television sets. But now, we toss them out, enjoying our shopper’s high as we bring home the latest, sleekest models—now with touch screens! Going green is about stepping away from that mindset, to a degree, and admitting, “I am content.”

Admittedly, using canvas totes and recycling may not save the rainforest, but it makes a difference. These actions cultivate attitudes of stewardship. It keeps us thinking about our impact on the environment; it reminds us to care about this beautiful planet we have been given. That way, when it’s time weigh in on major environmental issues, such as the regulation of carbon emissions and fracking, we’re bound to make the right decision as good stewards of the earth.

“Because God created the Natural—invented it out of His love and artistry—it demands our reverence.” -C.S. Lewis

Date of original publication: July 30, 2013