Every year on March 25, the anniversary of the Downfall of Sauron, the Tolkien Society hosts Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme selected by the Tolkien Society is Travel and Adventure. The primary goal is to promote the reading of the works of J.R R. Tolkien! To celebrate, Pages Unbound will be hosting two weeks of Tolkien-related […]
Double-booking the bard is apparently just becoming A Thing.
The day after I was playing a Shostakovitch concert in a thunderstorm, it was off to the premiere of Honor Among Thieves.
I didn’t really mind this, because I was considering it my little reward for working hard on getting the small stack of music to sound like something–vaguely musical.
Was I still tired?
Yes. Most definitely.
And we’ve crossed a threshold in my orchestral musician career, because on my “day off,” a fun outing when I could relax and wear whatever I wanted–
My brain fried at the prospect and I wore almost all black anyway
I kept feeling like I was forgetting something because I didn’t have the familiar weight of the violin case tugging on my spine.
Such is the life of a musician, I guess.
Something you should know about this screening is that it was a special fundraiser showing for my home Renaissance festival.
So whatever you expect from a premiere screening of the new D&D movie with a pack of nerds rising from their hermit crab hideaways en force–
I showed up in my black NaNoWriMo T-shirt and found my way to the right place inside by falling into line behind a gent in a kilt and a lady with elf ears.
We’re going to take a moment here to appreciate kilt lad and faerie girlfriend on their date. Bookmarkedone is wishing them every happiness in their relationship.
I haven’t been to a movie theater in…an uncomfortably long time due to Ye Olde Plague, making this night extra special.
It also meant when they said we were meeting in “the backlot” for raffle/pre-movie partying…bookmarkedone did not realize this was a specific room in the building and assumed a bunch of pirate hat and nerd-shirt wearing moviegoers would mass in the parking lot, and if someone got hit by a car, woop, casualties happen sometimes, we’ll miss you buddy–
This probably says more about me than it should.
(we pause for an extra moment of gratitude to Kilt Boyfriend and Faerie Girlfriend for inadvertently rescuing bookmarkedone from wandering lonely as a little cloud and finding an early death on someone’s bumper)
The next thing you should know about this adventure is that it was packed. Not only do We Nerds appreciate the film, but this Renaissance faire has some very attached patrons and crew.
A few snapshots for your imagination:
The packed Backlot room, bar on one side, glass windows on the other, table laden with raffle prizes down the middle,
colorful deck chairs outside
feathered pirate hats peeking above said deck chairs
minifigs, blown-glass dragon, squishmallow, jewelry, dice, books, and many other raffle-hoard treasures
little treasure-boxes at every theater seat with a dragon hatchling mini figurine, D20 die, and other goodies
the disbelieving bookmarked “what?” at actually winning a raffle prize
the disgustingly delicious smell of movie food everywhere
Small Friend coming in prepared with a blanket and stuffie (young sir. Young sir, you are my hero).
bookmarkedone pulling on black hoodie early on in the movie because theater air conditioning is fueled by the Ice From Mount Everest and further disappearing into surroundings
the jingly-jingling of coin belts
the slightly frazzled faire organizer
a faire vendor who leads a double life as a middle-grade teacher heading proudly to his seat because he is a D&D person to the core
theater staff whisking by with trays of food held high above their heads in one hand, entirely unencumbered by crowds, awing the not usually awed bookmarkedone
Full confession? I’m not the most well-versed in the world of D&D. There are probably lots of little references in the movie that went flying past my head. I wasn’t one of those people vibrating with excitement and buying tickets eons in advance. I knew the movie was coming out, watched the trailers. That ws about it.
But a night with the renfaire crew?
That was not to be missed.
Something you should know about Renfaire People is that we like to clap. We like to clap. When raffle winners are announced, we clap. When appropriate, we huzzah. When there is an especially good scene/at end of film, we clap. When announcer says “yes, thank you, please do clap when I hand someone their raffle prize because it does wonders for my ego,” we clap with extra delight. When we become distracted by our environment and announcer says, “What, no applause for this prize?” when it is bookmarkedone’s turn, we clap louder and send bookmarkedone scurrying happily back to her seat.
When movie character smashes sexist man’s face in…well, bookmarkedone is doing tiny happy claps alone, but we applaud a later important scene, so…okay.
It’s one of the things I really like about the experience at faire, the way everyone has to be involved for it to feel right, the way it’s so much more welcoming when you’re the one standing in front of them chatting and clapping instead of facing a cold, silent crowd.
Besides. It keeps the crowd interested if they’re looking for a place to applaud. Entertains them.
The rest of the evening? Amid costumes and familiar faces and quietly going “nooo!” because bookmarkedone may have finally been caught in the festival’s photo montage?
I won’t try to write an actual movie review. Like I said, I don’t think I’m the person for that job. I was already having too much fun to be perfectly critical, and besides, the thing is visually gorgeous.
Like yes, I know that isn’t a sparkly soap bubble tumbling down the street, but it looks magnificent.
The level and scale of the sets, the fabrics of the costumes (I am endlessly delighted that everyone has their own personal style and flair), the illuminated manuscript credits, the reanimated corpses–
…okay, maybe not that last one.
If I had to describe the movie, I’d say it’s found family…if everyone in the found family is the five-year-old in need of a juice box providing noisy commentary from the backseat. Snarky, funny, not the most mature ones on the car ride.
It should not come as a surprise here that bookmarkedone is firmly on Team Dragon, not Team Heroes, and is very concerned whenever Dragon is slightly inconvenienced.
It’s Tragic Backstory, the movie. And if this seems like a snide writerly thing to say, also understand that it makes every character unique, and everyone has a stake in the game.
It might break down on a more critical viewing, but the writer in me was delightfully shocked at how clever some of the threads were woven together.
And it might not.
At any rate, as is usual in any movie that has a musical instrument, let us have a moment of silence for the tragic experiences of the bard’s lute.
(sounds of bookmarkedone confusion because you started so well, made sure it was safe, had a reinforced gig bag/case thing, and then you got it in water I will find you I will shake you I will peel your eyelids back and–)
Um. Yes. Anyway.
A friend and I were chatting afterward about which characters were relatable–in an ensemble cast (one of bookmarkedone’s favorite tropes, if you’re keeping track), you’ll love them all, but there’s usually one that you pick out as your favorite. Someone like you, someone nothing like you, someone you admire.
So this time around, we have:
Small Girl (we love)
I-hate-people Forest Girl
I Do Not Understand This Reference/Paragon of Virtue Paladin
Hugh Grant (as Hugh Grant)
They’re all different, with their own virtues and vices and fashion styles and motivations. Barbarian Lady is tough, Forest Girl is the only braincell among them. Usually it’s easy for me to pick a favorite, but this time–
I told my friend I related to all of them, because at one point or another in life, I’ve felt and acted the way they do–although perhaps with less bloodshed. The wizard’s lack of confidence is all too familiar in the form of stage fright. The barbarian lady is tough, yes, but she’s soft on the inside and wants pretty cottagecore things. As for the others–well, you can draw your own conclusions.
It’s a fascinating thing to consider, and probably means the characters are written and acted very well–no one in the crew is really a “side character.” They all get love, all get their day in the sun.
Can I say more without spoiling a movie most of you have not yet seen?
We’ll stop here then, and if you go to see it, remember to add this to the list of Renfaire Culture Movies, and that the dragon is always right.
Technically yesterday, since it’s after midnight now, but we are still awake because post-concert-adrenaline rush/it’s been established that bookmarkedone’s sleep schedule is trash.
The first concert I played with this group, years ago, when it had another conductor and another name, was Shostakovitch 10.
I’m not squished in the back of the violins anymore. Due to unforeseen absences of…a lot of violinists, bookmarkedone was perched precariously close to the front.
Okay, fine. Due to absences and the fact that I can actually play more than a few notes.
It’s a habit of mine (and a lot of other musicians) not to give myself credit. I hear all the shades of flat and sharp, all the crooked notes, the half-broken phrases. Mistakes are made.
Lucky for me, I now have a conductor who is an unfairly lovely human being. She doesn’t want us to put enough pressure on our own shoulders to crush Atlas. To do our best, yes, certainly. But not to fear failing a thing so much that you cannot love it.
It’s–a tricky thing, performing. If I think about people listening, staring, disliking–it’s hard to find the next note. But if I’m there with my crew, the orchestra, all of us breathing in time, making mistakes and carrying on anyway, out to sea on a tide of sound–that’s different. That’s good. Maybe not easy, but–it can be thrilling.
I’m trying to remember that. Smell the roses. Live in the moment. Stop worrying about who cares.
Tonight was a good night.
The rest of the concert?
It started to rain.
We’re indoors, before you worry. No wedding party running for a canopy and being rightfully bowled down by a cellist fleeing instrument-damaging moisture. And since we weren’t (to my knowledge) recording any of it, we didn’t have to worry about white noise. If anything, it just added to the ambiance.
Shostakovitch’s music is–intense, if you haven’t heard it. It’s not exactly a walk in the park. It can be great fun to play, but don’t underestimate the energy demanded.
So a thunderstorm rolling in and lightning flashing faintly outside the windows?
You know, until the giant flash that blinded all of us, made the concertmaster almost jump out of his skin, and then crash thunder so loud both stand partner and I flinched–during the flute solo.
Full credit to the winds and brass. They didn’t stop playing. They didn’t even hesitate.
And when our cue came, neither did the rest of us. Storm would go on–we had a job to do.
Conductor continues to use glowstick for baton to fight ambient lighting. Green tonight. Still raining when I left, but not the white sheets of blowing water during the middle of the concert. Just a steady drizzling.
I turned my face to it, spread my arms in the dark.
We’ll return to your regularly scheduled bookish bloggery shortly. In the meantime, please excuse me. I have to go convince myself not to write a brand-new short story for a deadline in twenty-five hours.
We’re going to talk about the bookmarked alias. Why I have it, why I use it, and what it’s like.
This may not go the way you expect.
I don’t have a name.
Not precisely true. I don’t use my legal name online if there is any possible way I can avoid it, with about the same aversion as a muddy cat thrashing around, trying to escape a bath.
There are actually a lot of reasons for this.
Really like my privacy!
Didn’t want all my early readers to be friends/family
My narrative voice is an acquired taste
Freedom to experiment
Dodging the disapproval for my genre (believe it or not)
Professional ≠ personal
Majority of people can’t pronounce my legal name/try to call me some other similar name/can’t remember it (??), so let’s just take it easy on them already
Awkward conversations in the orchestra
Did You Write About Me (NO. Stop asking)
I’m going to try to avoid making this a history lesson, but for the sake of clarity, we are going to have to page back Long Ages Uncounted to me hitting “publish” on the first blog pages for this to make any sense.
The moment I chose bookmarkedone.
Okay, not quite. I wanted to call it “bookmarked,” as a play on words (do I mark the book when I put a piece of paper in it, or do the books I’ve read leave a mark on me), but what would you know, that was either already taken or a pay-only domain name, so here we are.
I didn’t use my name because I didn’t tell anyone what I was doing. Because I might do it all wrong, burn it down, and start over.
Because I wanted to prove to myself, when it came to this writing thing, that I was good.
How did I intend to go about that? Well, step one, start posting. And that first summer, I wrote a lot.
OG bookmarkedone would be horrified if she saw how much time I’ve taken off recently. A hiatus to finish a college degree? What were you thinking?
But nobody who knew me knew about the blog. No family. No friends. No orchestra mates or writing buddies.
Because they knew me. And I didn’t want them to be nice just because they liked me and didn’t want to hurt my feelings.
I wanted the truth.
So I also didn’t include a lot of demographic information. Age, sex, experience, nationality, nope, none of it, not going to happen.
I have softened on some of this over time. I’ve referred to myself as “girl” in posts, but you can forget about any physical description as long as internet creeps rule this town.
But that didn’t give me a name.
So over time, I just started referring to myself as bookmarked or bookmarkedone.
And since then, that’s just–been me. My blog, Goodreads, Twitter–bookmarkedone. Always the same.
I didn’t really think about it at the beginning. Like I said, part of this is cultural. I grew up going to Renaissance festivals, and now that I work there–guys, we do not do names the normal way. I know some people by three names (character name, real name, former character name or nickname), some by none at all.
Gaming culture? Same thing. It’s amazing the things you’ll unquestioningly accept as a name because that’s what someone goes by.
I went to an LTUE conference the year it was online and because almost everyone had their Discord accounts for gaming–behold. Bookmarkedone had no trouble at all fitting in with the SF/F nerds.
And it actually worked out well that I got “bookmarkedone” instead of just bookmarked. There’s been at least one occasion I’ve filled out an online form that has the audacity to demand a first and last name.
Bookmarked first name, One last name. Done.
All of this just felt natural. Right.
The alias gave me freedom.
I could write what I wanted and I didn’t have to worry about the reputation.
Don’t misunderstand. I’m not a particularly rude or vindictive person, even if I do have a concerning fondness for fictional characters with knives. Actually, it’s the opposite.
Let me put it this way. I have a really hard time with solicited reviews. Because I know that author, typically that indie or small-pub author (NYT bestsellers are not breaking my door down to reach my tiny following), is going to be reading what I write.
I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I am brutal when it comes to demanding writing of quality from anyone, including myself.
So the idea that I can cheerfully slam incredibly successful authors who are writing subpar fiction, make fun of James Riley, and gush over Cornelia Funke without them hating me on sight should I be at one of their book signings–yeah, that’s pretty attractive.
As for everyone else, you don’t need to know. My music buddies already regard me with some mixture of fear and awe for studying English, and my readers?
Something I’ve noticed, both with creatives who like their privacy and fictional characters. Even though they teach us to be specific, in CNF writing especially, be specific, there’s a charm to mystery. To wondering about the things you don’t know, imagining what could be.
If they love you, they’ll imagine you beautiful.
There is a dark side to the alias.
When I started blogging in July of 2019, I was largely ungoogleable. And proudly so. I didn’t care for social media, stopped liking my photo taken in my early teens, and ducked out of the frame a lot when friends were taking pictures/making videos.
This is no longer the case.
When I was thinking about making this post, I was half mocking myself for how seriously I take my alias. I realize there are a lot of precautions I take that probably are just ridiculous. You’re all very lovely readers, and except for an enormous wave of spam comments I got at one point, I really haven’t had any reason to be as cagey as I am.
So I did a google.
Couple of things.
First, apparently if you search “bookmarkedone,” the top results are this lovely blog and my unhinged Twitter account, where I’m slowly gaining the reputation of a bard who has had unusual dealings with fairies.
Second, if I google my legal name–
Look, I don’t know how this happened and who sold my information (college, I am looking at you), but it’s there. Some of it’s wrong, but a lot of it isn’t. With a few educated guesses?
Guys, this freaks me out.
This! This is exactly why I get really anxious when people are saying where they’re from in online convention chats! Don’t do that! This is not good internet safety! No!
So–yeah. I spent some time deleting old accounts and clinging a little tighter to the alias. Don’t think it’s going anywhere anytime soon.
And I think it’s important to talk about this because I’ve run into people who really don’t like aliases. It’s always the same argument, more or less–why are you trying to disguise your identity if you don’t have something to hide?
I think I’ve pretty clearly explained my opinions, but I’ll say one thing more.
Everyone has something to hide because everyone has something to protect. Your privacy, your family, sometimes your physical safety. Look, I get it. Some people see the internet as a realm with no consequences, because with a different name, they can’t as easily be held responsible for their actions. I’ve had someone in my personal life express the same opinions.
With all respect, for creatives like me, that mindset is naïve. I wouldn’t be able to do this if I had to use my legal name. I don’t think I’d have felt safe enough to even start.
There are downsides, of course. Besides the headache of keeping specific details vague, there are things I can’t talk about. There are events I want to attend that are more exclusive and would give you a pretty good hint who I am if I blogged about being there. I can’t rush over and post excitedly about getting published under my legal name. Even if being an author is the original dream, and you, my readers, are the people I’d most want to tell about it.
You’re also the ones most likely to fist over the cash and buy a hardcover novel written by the little weirdo you’ve been reading online for months or years, but that’s beside the point.
There are a few people on the internet who know me by my first name. Mostly authors, all lovely people who have kept it to themselves. Like I said, as much trouble as I could get into, my corner of the world has been quite peaceful.
I still hope to publish under my legal name one day. And when that time comes–
I don’t know. I’ve thought about caving in and confessing who’s behind the chaos. I’ve thought about closing the blog and moving forward, calling it finished. About continuing, leaving the two identities permanently detached.
An alias is a tool. When a tool does not serve its purpose, we discard it. The moment it’s restraining instead of useful, that it gets in the way of what I want to do, I have to reevaluate, see which path I want to take.
I know my way of doing things isn’t for everybody. I’m not giving advice. I’m just telling stories.
So what do you think? Still hate aliases? Willing to make an exception for me, because I seem very well-behaved even with the fascination for murder faeries? I’d love to hear your adventures with aliases, if you have them.
My last con experience in October was, frankly, bizarre.
It was the last run of that particular convention, ever. And on a Friday afternoon, the place was empty.
This time, I could see the line spilling out the door and down the sidewalk. A wizard girl in mossy green was hiking from somewhere with friends at least a block away.
It was going to be packed.
How packed I wouldn’t know until I got into the main floor of the con itself, but I got a clue. Both the October con and this one were held in the same expo center. But where the little con had been set up, with vendors and gaming tables and a few cheerful cosplayers?
That was the entryway. This big room, and all they had in it was ticket-takers, security, and black partition curtains.
This was going to be big.
It was. There was the main floor, a second hall with the celebrities/special guests, an upstairs for panels, and a quieter hall with fewer booths where cosplayers were camped near the concessions, overlooked by a half-floor balcony.
And add to all that, the main convention floor had so many people in it, in the narrower aisles, we had to wait for each other to pass and sometimes just stand there, stock still, shoulder-to-shoulder, until traffic started to move again.
Don’t worry, the crowds didn’t get to me too badly.
It’s been a while since I’ve been around that many people at once, but everyone was pretty polite, even if we were squished a little closer than was comfortable.
And when a woman pushing a stroller needed to get through an aisle, the crowd parted for her, as was only right.
Still, it’s something to keep in mind.
I’m aware that my renfaire/adventure posts have persuaded people that these events are awesome (they are) and that they should attend one (good for you). But if you’re using this as your guide to ComicCons–you should know there are things I leave out.
Take renfaire for example. The people who do it, we do it because we’re a little crazy, and we love it. But it’s a long day outside in all types of weather–hot, cold, dust blowing in your face. ComicCon’s like that too. It’s terrific, really terrific, but if you’re heading in for your first time, there are a few things you need to be aware of. Population being only one of them.
I had a great experience at this one, but there were still a few moments I was like “Wow, the security here is kind of garbage, isn’t it?” And “yeah…wish this person wasn’t saying that…glad I didn’t bring a little kid over here.”
It happens. Pop a lot of people together, you’re bound to find some you wouldn’t hang out with normally. And some events are more family-friendly than others.
That said, I’ve never had anything really bad Go Down, so mostly I have slightly awkward and funny stories.
Case in point?
So night before the con, I was scrolling through the event’s webpage, picking out panels I wanted to go to, trying to gather information, take note of the guests, all that stuff, and I stumbled across this:
Clearly the “health & safety” concerns are understandable, in these Days of the Plague, but this happens so often that they made a rule for it?
Then writer brain kicked in, trying to think of a situation in which that would be plausible (and wholesome), and suddenly I’m imagining a Good Dad panelist going down a line, kissing the foreheads of all his little fans.
Well. That would be okay. In non-plague times.
Unfortunately, I told a friend about this clause and we proceeded to make jokes about it for the entire day.
Me pretending to kiss a stuffed cat plushie through a mask? Unacceptable. Receive hard stare. Cute couples sharing a kiss in the middle of the chaos that was the main floor (I mean, it was near Valentine’s)? Much raising of eyebrows and trying very hard not to laugh audibly.
So I know a lot of going to cons like this is sitting in on panels, meeting professionals in creative industries, and general nerdery.
It didn’t go quite like that.
As luck would have it, I picked out a panel with podcasters. I don’t recall the exact name now, but I assumed it would be crime/horror/etc. Fiction with knives. Exactly my sort of thing.
You’ve probably guessed by now I hadn’t listened to the podcast. I was in a hurry.
Turns out it wasn’t fiction. True Crime. Distinctly not my thing. No offense to anyone who likes it, of course, but not my cup of tea.
But that turned out not to matter, because the podcast boys never showed up.
No. There were a handful of us in a smaller, much stuffier room, waiting until a staff member came in, slightly wide-eyed, and explained that he had no idea where the panelists were or why they weren’t here.
There was some speculation that they had become involved in their own true crime.
He was nice enough. Ran a podcast himself, apparently. He chatted with the audience for a little while, but since fifteen, twenty minutes in, the panelists still showed no sign of actually coming, I slipped out.
There was another panel with a voice actor, but unfortunately, sitting on the back row as lurking bookworms tend to do, I couldn’t hear a word even with the amplification of the sound system.
Flaw in planning. The “Main Stage,” the one they used for the really important guests, was really the second half of that entry room, separated from the ticket-taking and security sweeps only by a curtain–meaning that in that uncarpeted, largely unfurnished space full of chatting, eating, walking, photo-taking and sword-wielding nerds, we could hear all the blurry chatter and almost none of the important stuff.
It’s a shame. He seemed like a cool panelist. He made everyone with a question tell him their name and favorite dessert, so they could be involved in the moment too. I thought it was a really nice idea, but when the first girl said her name and favorite sweet, he cheerfully replied, “That is incorrect!”
Maybe it was a little mean, but it charmed me. It can be really nerve-wracking to talk to your heroes, and the irony of it, the silliness (how could you possibly be wrong about facts only you know?), just made it feel like we could all relax and laugh a little, like we were already friends.
Hm? The sword fighting?
Well, before you worry too much about the security, nobody had sharpened blades. It was while I was sitting on that back row in the panel that I noticed three or four boys over against the wall, attacking each other like true best friends with their newly-bought treasures from one of the booths downstairs. Nothing that had a real blade on it, but experience warned me solid metal could hurt. They were swinging for the neck. One boy had nunchaku.
This is a weapon that I do not like to see in the hands of anyone not particularly experienced, because like a whip, it is all too easy to whack oneself in the eye and miss the intended target entirely.
Needless to say, I was poised between deep concern for their welfare and continued longevity and shouting “FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT!”
So since I didn’t spend a lot of time on panels or guests, this was more of a wanderabout. Honestly, I think that’s the best part of a con (unless, I don’t know, you’re going to meet Aragorn, son of Arathorn, and Arwen in the flesh). So much of the experience is just the energy you get from everyone there, so much passion and excitement, shyness and nerves, love for their characters and sense of fun in the same room.
There are no rules for cosplay. Your costume can be as elaborate or laid-back as you like. But whatever you choose, some people will treat you as if you are the character you’re playing.
SpiderDad (DadSpider? I don’t know his official title. Wears sweatpants and a coat. We like him.)
a petite lady Captain America (she was amazing)
various anime characters who I do not know, but am informed the shows from which they derive involve murder and must therefore be of quality,
Bee from Bee and Puppycat (fangirl screams)
Hogwarts robes and hogwarts robes
Professors McGonagall, Umbridge, and He Who Must Not be Named
Joker (a really good one. I almost asked for a photo, but…Joker…)
the character with the white mask from Black Bullet (I had to look this one up. Don’t be disappointed in me. Know nothing about the show but can definitely appreciate the aesthetic of the mask)
Belle from Beauty and the Beast
Esmeralda from The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Disney Version)
Funny story about Captains America and Carter here.
I’d spotted Captain Carter and had accordingly perked up, delighted to see her even if I haven’t watched Marvel’s What If…? yet. Peggy Carter is amazing, and no, I will not be listening to any arguments to the contrary.
It so happened that Captain Carter sat in the row in front of me during the panel, so I had the perfect vantage point to appreciate the detail she’d put into her costume. The uniform, the famous shield, the curled hair and lipstick (Peggy would approve. A lady must look her best while kicking villains down the stairs).
And who should stroll by, flanked by two dudefriends, but Captain America, in an equally detailed cosplay.
Here is where I discovered I had the perfect vantage point. I noticed both Captains before they noticed each other.
Behind me, one of Captain America’s friends said, “Oh, it’s Captain Carter.”
They scuttled away.
And this is when Captain Carter told the friend sitting next to her that her first instinct had been to hide behind the shield…which would have made her even more a target for Friendly Small Talk between Fellow Cosplayers.
She might not have used those exact words.
So whether the two had an instant rivalry or were just too shy, I don’t know, but I had the perfect seat to watch them studiously avoid each other.
And it’s kind of hilarious to say that Captain America ran away because he was too shy to meet Captain Carter…even if that wasn’t quite the case.
Other fun moments from the con?
The rest of it is a bit of a blur. So I’ll give you snapshots. My favorite moments.
Early on, I walked past a table with one of those animal fursuit heads sitting on it. Not the suit, just the head. And a slightly sweaty person manning the booth, who had apparently been wearing it.
Impossible to tell otherwise, as those sort of costumes completely hide the wearer’s face and identity.
He looked up. We made eye contact. Felt peculiarly like I was seeing that which I was not meant to see. I looked away.
Squishmallows. Squishmallows as far as the eye can see. One unicorn Hello Kitty easily the size of me if I squished down into a huddle sat high on a shelf looking down over us all. She was the True Queen of the Con.
There were two Pikachus (pikachu? pikachi? is there a grammatical plural for this creature?) in matching costume. The yellow was more of a brown. Heads bent, hoods deep, they shuffled down the aisles like eerie monks. I did not ask them questions.
There was a booth vendor/author who made jewelry based on his books. He had a dark complexion and green eyes, a shade of green I have never previously encountered. The effect was startling. I came to the conclusion this man might possibly be a wizard, and his eyes spoke of arcane knowledge I was perhaps not prepared to know.
Friend informed me later that seeing as we were at ComicCon and bloodred, orange, black, and various other shades of eyes tend to be very popular, it was not only possible but likely that he was wearing colored contacts for the fun of it.
I still refuse to rule out the possibility that he holds certain secrets of the universe.
Some of the booths brought their own music. So you’d be walking along, minding your own business, and then woop, this alley has a beat.
Waiting to go into a booth (crowds, revisited), and my friend chokes on a laugh and tells me to look.
On my right is a young man wearing cat ears. He is glaring. Hard.
On my left is another young man wearing cat ears. He is having fun. He is dancing in place. He is vibing. He feels the beat.
I am confused. I believe that the two cat-eared guardians are security for that set of booths (yeah, uniforms are not really a ComicCon thing), and Right Guard is glaring at Left Guard for goofing off on the job.
Friend had a better look at the situation and explained that this was not the case. Apparently they were both having a good time and were taking turns, like a conversation, vibing to EDM, a little dance party of two.
The booth is crowded. A mother and daughter are picking out jewelry. Another young woman and I are standing behind them, waiting our turn. She knows what she wants. I am just looking. She asks politely and reaches in for a pair of ceramic mushroom earrings. The situation is so ludicrous, all of us so close together, the quest so worthy, that I become silly.
“Yes! Go for the mushrooms!” I say.
I am not certain my encouragement is appreciated.
There was a booth with lots of manga and several swords set out on a table. These were not ordinary swords. They were The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movie replica swords.
Many extroverts got permission to lift and hold those swords that day. Mostly guys. Mostly guys larger and (one would expect) stronger than bookmarkedone.
I waited my turn. I had to ask a couple of times before the vendor heard me over the din of the con if I might hold Glamdring, if you please? No, not Théoden of Rohan’s sword, beautiful though it might be. Today we were looking for Gandalf’s.
I got to hold Glamdring.
I got to hold Glamdring.
It was a good day.
Especially so because the vendor had joked that (because of the cramped/awkward position of the booth) everyone pointed the blades at him. And discussed the weight as many were surprised upon trying to lift it.
Did not point the blade at him (courtesy of this style important in renfaire culture). Nor did tip of blade dip when placed in bookmarkedone’s hands.
I am particularly proud of this point considering the way the vendor was holding the sword, expecting its weight to be too much, as had happened with various other visitors.
Not so. I know my swords, good sir. This was a matter of pride.
How did it feel?
Well, it was heavy. I mean, the thing is almost four feet long and the blade is solid steel. The grip is a smooth, rich, blue leather. I’d been wearing gloves for the sake of cosplay, so the flat of the blade was cool against my skin when I returned it.
But gripping it in my hands?
It felt right. It felt good.
There was a vendor whose organizational skills almost frighten me. I wasn’t even working at the con and I was embarrassed for the lack of organization all the other booths displayed in comparison with his.
He was selling, along with flags and pins and necklaces, a variety of rings. The rings were tied down to his booth so they could be displayed but would not sprout legs.
Two people bought rings while I was standing near his booth. He asked which ring, then asked to see the hand. Both times, he was able to guess within one size what was needed only by looking at the buyer’s hand. No measurements. No questions. A brief glance and a dive behind the counter for the box of carefully categorized treasures.
This man is the Ringmaster. He may have learned a small piece of the author’s arcane secrets.
There was a rock booth near the back of the convention floor. I spent far too long and far too much of my paycheck at this booth.
She had carved dragon heads. Tiny fairies. Star shapes, crescent moons, skulls of various sizes, stone hearts (yes, I finally bought a stone heart after blundering in the rock shop and saying “No, I don’t need a heart,” to the amusement of at least three very helpful clerks).
I never knew that I needed to see a tiny Hello Kitty charm carved out of a piece of solid black crystal, but I did, I very much did.
There was a lucky cat carved out of solid rose quartz. I didn’t buy it, but it was very nice to feel its weight resting cool and heavy and smooth in the palm of my hand.
Shiny pebbles. Very important. If you do not yet understand the value of having small, polished rocks in your possession to clink together in your pockets or hands, I suggest you find your way to a shop with cubbies and jars and tubs full of them, appreciate their charm, and possibly welcome yourself to the wholesome side of goblincore.
The experience was made even better by two women hunting through the rocks at the same time I was, who knew far more about them than I did. Me, I like it, it shiny, it comes home with me. I know a few of their names.
They came asking for specifics. Poking through the dishes for just the right one. Coming for moss agate and claiming kambaba jasper instead because they were carved into the shape of tiny green mushrooms and they have spots!
One of the pair was having a hard time choosing her mushroom (she had perhaps four laid out in her palm at one point) and was asking the opinion of the second woman (whom, as far as I know, she had never met before this moment but was now getting along with as if they were the best of friends).
There was some conversation about, “Do I need them all? Do I need that? Just mushrooms of different sizes?”
One of said spotted mushrooms may also have made its way home with me.
Long-stemmed red roses. Where did they come from? No one knows. They are beautiful. They are plentiful. They are silently mysterious.
Went wild fangirl mode and chased a cosplayer through three blocks of booths for the chance to ask for a photo. Success, but now must live with the knowledge that I probably unnerved a few visitors who saw Carmen Sandiego enter Hunting Mode.
I got my photo.
Even though I had a friend with me for part of the con (buddies are great), I also had some time to myself.
I wandered. I didn’t have a panel to get to, I didn’t have anything in particular I hadn’t already seen. I stumbled into booths I’d somehow missed before.
If you leave the main floor the way you came in, you come to a quieter hall. Two flights of stairs lead down to it, very dramatic, with a balcony above.
I stood on the balcony, doing nothing, just watching the people go by below. So many people, so many colors, so many stories unfolding before my eyes. I leaned against the rail. I took off my gloves, risking dropping them all the way down to the floor.
It’s a busy place, the con. All that energy bottled up, like an orange soda with a good shake. But to be still, to absorb, that is something special also.
It’s funny, in all that, the things you see. The things you don’t. I was wearing bright red, so I was easy to spot. I didn’t see my friend walking below me until the aforementioned cat plushie was plopped upon friend’s head.
There was a plastic tree in the middle of that hall I looked down into. I don’t know why I remember that. I don’t know why I shouldn’t.
I mentioned this balcony to a friend later and some comments were made about my needing Carmen Sandiego’s grappling hook and kite wings.
I got perhaps too quiet considering this. Using one would have granted a very swift and easy way to circumnavigate crowds. Using either would probably have resulted in my expulsion from the con.
It might have been worth it.
And then I had a concert.
I thought a lot about performance over that weekend. What it means, what I want it to mean. How to make it something good, rather than a lot of stress in scratchy clothes under stage lights.
And depending on how you look at it, cosplay is a sort of performance, too. You play in orchestra, you go to a con, you’re never alone. But there’s that same edge, that kick of adrenaline. You want it to be good, but no matter what materials you have or how professional your final costume is, that doesn’t matter. What matters is that you’re playing the game, you’re part of it, part of something much larger, together. Strangers, and friends.
I’m sure I could get a lot more poetic about all this. Maybe sometime I will.
When I was planning this con trip, there was a possibility that I’d be going straight from the con to rehearsal…again.
Lucky me, it didn’t happen. I got the whole day to myself…and then promptly had three rehearsals and a concert the same week.
Hint: this is why we skipped a Tuesday in the posting schedule. Because bookmarkedone was tired.
Valentine’s concert. So the Romeo and Juliet overture. Full house at our tiny venue, which is always nice. It’s a good group I’m with now. Can’t think of anywhere else that the conductor uses a purple glowstick as a baton. And we’re not opposed to messing with the audience a little either…we had unannounced tango dancers emerge from the back of the audience this time in a way that was…quite satisfying.
Because having said nothing about it, we the orchestra were grinning because the audience (for a few seconds at least) had to wonder, “Is this planned, or are these just other people in the audience who decided to hop up and dance in the middle of the concert?”
ComicCon posts are always ginormous when I make them because there’s so much to see and do, and so many stories I want to tell that it’s hard to pack things in and choose what to leave out.
It’s a huge pain to edit. And I tend to procrastinate because of it.
So…I’m making the late-night decision to split this post into two parts!
Part I is going to about the cosplay, and Part II will be about all the other fun stories of the con. Because it’s already been like two weeks and I would like to publish this thing someday.
(cue bookmarkedone crashing out on her desk because that tea mug wasn’t the bottomless one. Whoops).
The last time I did a cosplay was before the Plague. And it was probably the laziest cosplay–cloak, boots, wizard hat, no specific character–because it’s one day you can wear a cloak and no one will look at you funny.
Arguably you can wear a cloak every other day of the calendar year as well, but we’re not here to discuss cloaks.
We’re here to talk about cosplaying my childhood hero.
Ah, yes. La Femme Rouge. The legendary thief. Once a protector of the world’s cultural treasures–until she found out that stealing is way more fun and pays the bills better.
Well. Netflix tells it differently.
I’ve learned over the course of the cons I’ve been to that there are certain characters I can cosplay and certain characters I really can’t.
Personality is what matters. Cosplay is a little like acting–for all intents and purposes, you are the character when you put on the costume.
So playing, say, an outgoing, chipper, friendly, extroverted character? Doesn’t work out too well. Especially when I forget what I’m doing and fall into my natural expression of caution in big crowds–which is much more like a cat in Hunting Mode than a smile.
The juxtaposition can be a little scary.
So I try to pick characters I think I can pull off, not just those that I like. Characters who glare? Excellent. Characters with part of face hidden by costume? Even better. Characters who do both and have the Murder Walk and possibly a weapon?
So Carmen. Sly thief with classy style. Hat pulled low. Worth a shot, right?
Besides. She’s iconic. Even if I fail to really fit the character, one glimpse of red is enough to make people wonder could that be–?
And although personality is more important than physical appearance most of the time (wigs and makeup brushes are amazing), I don’t look entirely unlike Carmen.
It’s not a “dead ringer,” as they say.
On a scale from Carmen Sandiego to Forest Nymph, I usually fall closer to Confused Changeling in Sweaters.
But for ComicCon, where a T-shirt with a logo or a pajama onezie will do, it’s close enough.
I tried to make my hair do the thing like hers. You know. The thing.
An attempt was made.
Otherwise, it was really easy to put together. Red trench coat I was lucky enough to nab on a thrift run, black top and black jeans (what are the odds of an orchestral musician having those, right?), the knee boots, and the crowning glory–the red fedora.
I stood in front of the mirror, scrutinizing the effect.
I plopped the hat on my head.
Nothing. I still looked like me.
And that’s not the point of cosplay. Not for me, anyway. I want to disappear into the character, be someone else for the day. See what it feels like to be them.
I may have made a face at the mirror.
And then a little voice in the back of my head told me, instinctively, to reach up and tilt the hat down and slightly to the left.
It’s funny. I’d forgotten how obsessed I was with Carmen as a kid until doing that. But that one little gesture, the hat tilt, it brought it all rushing back to me.
We move on as we grow older, get interested in other things. The fandoms we loved when we were younger we fold up and place in a dresser drawer, next to the scarves and lost puzzle pieces, buttons and games we invented on a summer’s day. As time passes, we reach for different stories, we crave things that speak to the emotion of that moment, the things we most need to hear.
Memories gather dust. Colors fade. They haven’t lost their value, and yet–
The tilt of a hat.
There are still probably photos somewhere of me doing that. Holidays, whatever occasion we had to be Dressed Up, if I was wearing a hat (and I usually was), I’d do the signature Carmen pose. Hat tilted slightly to the left, chin down, hand on the brim, so all you see is that smile.
Drove people crazy. You want to see your kid’s face in photos, not a hat squashed down over the eyes. Can’t tell you how many times I was told to put my hand down and smile for the camera.
For the record, I think the Carmen pose probably resulted in a lot of way better photos than the mugshots of these later days. My first uni ID photo was a crime.
It’s such a little thing, but that was all it took for me to remember–oh yes, this is how this feels. There she is.
That’s not to say it was all that easy. I was still–a little nervous, I guess? I mean, I wasn’t wearing a neon wig and carrying a sword three times my size, but it’s still a little weird until you’re around other people in cosplay (this from someone who has been wandering through grocery stores in a floor-length black dress looking forlornly for post-concert ice cream).
But walking into the main floor of the convention center–it went away.
That was my stage, between a Ghostbusters van and Captain America’s motorcycle. The game had begun, and I was there to play.
I stood taller. Straightened my shoulders. Started to walk differently. With a little of Carmen’s confidence.
There was a downside to this. I was wearing black gloves and a black mask, so there was a little wondering if vendors might actually be uncomfortable with me browsing their wares and leaving no fingerprints.
Everyone was lovely to me, in case you were worried. The only comment to that effect was someone guessing my character and saying he “had to be suspicious of a woman in a red coat.”
This was actually the most fun I’ve ever had doing cosplay. Just because of the reception, how excited people were to see me.
They don’t have ticket trolls at ComicCon like they do at Renaissance festivals, but you’ve still got to be a cool person to work there. I got someone who was trying to guess every character who walked through her line.
Not going to lie–I was kind of zoning out at that particular moment (did I mention I’d been in rehearsals for Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet overture that week? Also it was packed. Nothing like the last con where my buddy and I were unexpectedly the only VIP guests). But the delight on her face when she asked if I was Carmen–yeah, that brought me back to the moment pretty quick.
And that’s how it went for the rest of the day.
A few of my favorite interactions?
My Renaissance festival friends at the booth
As soon as I saw the familiar purple banners, I was like, “I gotta.” So I wove my way through the crowd and tried to catch The Boss’ attention to say hi. Got distracted by a fairy mushroom princess girl because her outfit was a work of art and–that’s when one of the ladies at the booth actually scared me.
Well, sorry, I’m sure she’s lovely, but having someone yell “YOU!”
…it’s a little unnerving.
But then she launched into an explanation of how she’d been looking for Carmen Sandiego for years, and now that she’d found me, had to get a photo for proof.
So…yeah. There’s now a photo of me and her and Mushroom Princess and I don’t have a copy of it (smashes keyboard because I’m sure it was really cool).
This actually happened a couple of times…
Tall beardy dudes wander by, see me, and say something along the lines of “Found you,” sometimes in slightly angry voices (as one does when you finally find the missing left sock in your backpack of all places) while I go into Frantic Mouse Caught under Kitchen Lights Mode because I do not know this person, and then realize oh, I’m Carmen. Right.
Tip the hat, take the photo, and we’re all grinning like idiots because it’s ComicCon.
My Renaissance festival friends not at the booth
What are the odds that renfaire people are also ComicCon people?
…yeah, we’re all a bunch of nerds.
I spotted a couple of friends strolling together and waved. One noticed. The other walked past me like he had no idea who I was or that I was even there.
Maybe I wouldn’t have thought as much about this if I hadn’t seen one of the mercenary steel fighters (one I’ve actually crossed practice swords with) later at the festival booth. Same pair before are standing a little behind him, probably also trying to say hi.
I wave. Get a squint-eyed stare.
Was it the hat? The coat? The lack of violin? It’s true that it’s been a while since we’ve seen each other, winter being the off-season for most faires, but really?
In their defense, I didn’t stick around. As I explained to friends, the goal was not to say hi so much as to leave a lingering impression of having seen someone unknowable and to allow that sensation to grow into an overwhelming sense of dread.
I believe that’s called having fun at your friends’ expense.
I should mention that the faire organizer had no problems recognizing me when I’d come by the first time. He didn’t even say my name or ask to be sure. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “I have a check for you.”
No greeting. No hello. Just that.
Well. Okay, then. Won’t say no to that.
Theme Song Guy
At one point the crowd was so thick I had to stop walking for people to move and a guy near me started singing “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego.”
This…has never quite happened to me before. Usually I’m the one doing spontaneous music behind people. So I didn’t really know what to do except laugh and hide under my hat. Sort of like when people start singing “Happy Birthday” to you and you don’t know what to do or who to look at? Still fun, though.
He tried to make a quick escape after that only to discover the crowd had shifted and he was also stuck.
And then–this was my favorite part of the whole interaction–he got shy. Asked if he could maybe have a photo.
Dude. You sang me my theme song. Of course you’re getting a photo.
He probably wins coolest interaction of the day.
This feels cheesy…
One guy got awkward after saying the “Found you!” line.
“I guess you’ve been hearing that all day.”
He said it like he’d been annoying me by his excitement.
Not so. Not so at all, and I told him as much.
While I was saying this, another guy popped up behind him and said, “Where in the world are you?”
This was one of the questions that had thrown me off the first time it was asked, but by now, I’d gotten comfortable answering, “Here–for the moment.”
“Well, no wonder nobody can find her, she’s in (the…smallish city where the con was being held).”
The first guy shook his head and said, “And there’s the other one.” The second cheesy joke I’d been getting all day.
“I don’t get tired of it,” I said. I mean, why would I? Sure, it’s the same joke every time, but it’s always told in a different voice. It’s always another person I get to see be excited with me.
I think he got the idea.
Various Hat Tips (tipping? tippéd?)
Because it was so crowded, I was shoulder-to-shoulder with other people for most of the day. And although it was noisy, well…
You know how if someone says your name when you’re chatting and not paying attention and you whip your head around because you hear it?
Several times I heard people elbowing their friends and saying “There’s Carmen Sandiego.”
And since they weren’t talking to me, I’d tip the hat down, smile, and go on my sneaky way.
One time this happened when someone was sitting on the floor as I was walking by.
Quick note here if you’re not familiar with how cons work–yeah, this is totally normal. Not in the vendor area, but in quieter spots, because there’s a lot of colors and noise in there, and sometimes you just need to chill.
Sure, there are chairs, but there are also open spaces where you can sit cross-legged in a circle like campers without a campfire, or walls you can put your back to and stare into space like a sad beggar haunted by the return from war–or a sweaty cosplayer waiting for a friend bringing pretzels and water from the concession stand like an angel of mercy.
I saw a girl hiding behind a pillar eating her lunch in between working a booth. We made eye contact. I moved along.
Because there were so many people, though, one of the cosplayers sitting at the wall was–yeah, pretty much at my elbow, and the hatbrim tends to catch echoes, so when they said “It’s Carmen Sandiego” to a friend…Hi. Hello. Yes, it is.
Anyway, that moment was when I realized the hat tip gesture was perfect because it was just close enough to the half-curtsey dip that I do at renfaire to feel comfortably familiar and just normal enough to not make people really confused why the tall child is curtseying (this is a problem. I’m aware).
I…don’t actually know how many people took photos with me. A few, anyway, besides the amazing Mushroom Girl.
I’m normally a little camera-shy (hmm zero photos of me on the blog, what are the odds), but I didn’t mind. Partly because it’s ComicCon and it’s just what you do, and partly because if my own renfaire buddies walk right past me as Carmen, well, what’s the harm?
And with one black-gloved hand on the hat brim and a mask covering the lower half of my face, there’s actually even less of my face visible than my bookmarkedone profile picture.
(which, now that I’ve had time to think of it, means my readers and Twitter friends are probably the people most likely to see one of those errant photos and know exactly who that is…uh…use this power wisely, okay?).
I really love the hat pose, though. One girl asked for a photo and we squished together next to a booth. I’m not sure what she did, but her friend taking the photo shook her head and said, “Look at you two with your model poses.”
The camera shy bookworm would like to say thank you, miss.
Most of the parking is across the street from the convention center (if you’re lucky). So I was across the street and up the hill, hiking to a car, when from the front of the con, I hear someone yelling. It’s a girl sitting out front with her friends, waving and screaming, “I’ve been looking for you!”
Normally this would require crossing the street to see what the problem was, if there was a missing wallet, long lost friend, mysterious curse, etc., etc.
Not for Carmen.
I waved to acknowledge attention recieved–
and kind of dove into the car.
…yeah, some of those sneaky thief things just come naturally.
I can’t express how much fun this was.
It was like being a celebrity. People were genuinely excited to see me. And while that’s pretty different from being the bookworm in the Strider corner of the library who’s so quiet you walk in and out without ever realizing they’re there–I could get used to this.
Too bad. Today we’re talking about flowers. Because it’s the middle of January. Perfect timing. Clearly.
Today I found out about the red spider lily.
They’re poisonous. Eaten or touched. Relatively immune to pests and disease. They’re funky, they’re gorgeous, and more importantly, they symbolize final farewells.
It’s a death flower.
It’s called the “corpse flower,” but also the “red magic lily.” Something so spectacularly strange–if you received one only once in your life as a gift, how could you ever forget?
Marigolds. I’ve known them since I was a little girl. The round, puffy flowers, the hollow stems, bright oranges and yellows. They’re as cottagecore as mushrooms and every bit as comforting.
They symbolize creative passion and happiness. A good flower for musicians, I think. They’re known for keeping away insect pests, but less well known, they’re also said to repel fairies, much like iron does.
Still don’t know why.
It’s only fair to include a flower fairies like in our bouquet, then.
I read ages ago in researching a story (which still remains unfinished on a thumbdrive) that while fairies love sweet foods, best of all is saffron. It’s a spice, though you may know it as a color, and it’s made from the saffron crocus.
I remember searching the grass, waiting for the first crocus to open in spring. Tulips and daffodils push their green shoots up first, but crocuses are the first to bloom, purple and white and yellow.
Red spider lily is the flower of death. Spring crocus is youth and rebirth. It suits the ageless fair folk, in a way.
Calendula was another I discovered for a story. I wanted a yellow flower, and there it was, cheerfully greeting me. There’s a character associated with it. So often when I think of it, I find myself smiling, remembering him sitting on the grass, spade and overturned earth and little pots of springy, happy flowers.
Calendula is edible. And good for just about everything, so they say. I’m not even going to list things because there are too many. Ancient healing flower.
I can’t find a clear meaning for calendula. In India, it’s a wedding flower. Sometimes it’s a happy thing, this flower, sometimes it’s a thing of grief. Sometimes it’s as sunny as a marigold. Sometimes it means sympathy.
For me, it’s a friend.
I read somewhere that no one asks boys what flowers they like nearly enough. I imagine that’s a fair statement to make. The answer that time when I was reading was sunflowers, so now I think of that when I think of them, too.
That same character with the calendula, I started wondering if sunflowers were what he liked best too. But he seems to have a whole garden of flowers in my mind–calendula, sunflowers, daisies. All the bright, cheerful ones.
Asters are for faithfulness. Star-flowers. So simple, but almost as if they know something we do not.
Same flower, a few days apart. Pink hyacinth. Filled the whole garrett room with its perfume. I had two that year, one blue, one pink. One is planted in the cold, damp earth outside, waiting for spring. The other is still in my window. I drew back the curtain to find its little green shoot poking out of last year’s dead leaves.
Sometimes a flower is a perfect gift.
I am waiting too. Waiting to see what color the one in my window will be. It has been so long I am not sure which is which. I think it might be the pink.
One cannot think of a bouquet without roses, whatever Kvothe of The Kingkiller Chronicle might say. And these are special, because they were mine.
Eleven roses for my violin recital. The baby’s breath dried nicely and is now sprouting from the top of my baby Groot planter.
It’s a special thing, to have a bouquet when you perform. Very special. A cellist I know had a sunflower for hers. But the roses suit me.
It was quite a night, roses in one arm, violin case in the other. I hope the next one like it is better still.
I don’t have to tell you what roses mean. We’re readers, we know. The romantic imagery has been stamped into our minds until it has become as common as dandelions and just as unwanted.
I still love them.
Either way, I’ve tricked you into learning some new flowers. Perhaps you’ll fill your writing with them. Perhaps I’ve brought you some color on a cold winter day.
Today was supposed to be a book review day.
My last review got six likes. That’s all.
I’ve come to a conclusion.
If no one’s paying attention, I’m done trying too hard. Spending too much time thinking about what people might like, scuttling for public approval. From now on, I write what I like.
Hi. I’ve been neglecting you. A post a month is not really the update schedule I want to have.
Let’s just say invisible imps have been playing havoc in the writing garrett, okay?
And let me tell you what I’ve been up to.
I’m probably the most disappointed that I didn’t get to post weekly updates for how things were going. No, I said, “I’m doing NaNo,” and then promptly evaporated into fog before your eyes.
The part you didn’t bear witness to is that I did write 50,000 words in a month.
(cue bookmarkedone chucking the stale confetti everywhere)
And I have a couple of drafted posts in the wings waiting to gush about the adventure. But before that–
I can’t tell you anything.
I know, I know, I know! It’s ridiculous! But–
My NaNo project is on its way…somewhere.
I wasn’t completely satisfied with what I wrote during November (first draft! What are the odds?). And while I hit the 50,000, I didn’t write everything I wanted to. I was still thinking about my characters.
Very dangerous. Don’t do this. If you let your characters stay awake in your skull, they’re going to kick their way out even if you want to work on other things.
And that’s exactly what happened. Maybe two weeks of lying awake at night thinking about my inky little friends, and I was back at it, reshaping the story.
Not a novel this time. Short story. Okay, longish short story. It’s fantasy. Cut me a little slack.
And–it worked. I think. Maybe. Hard to say. Anne Mazer’s trick of “stick a knife in the middle and see if it comes out clean” for finishing novels/short stories/etc. works, I suppose, but if you’re sleep deprived so you can’t speak properly because How Do You English Anymore–it’s kind of hard to tell.
I don’t have any idea what’s going to happen. I wrote it, I polished it, I sent it out.
Now I wait.
Probably three months, I wait.
(cue bookmarkedone faceplanting into a pillow because after that long, NaNo will be five months over, no one will care and actually, I might not remember what story I sent out)
So…yeah. You might get a pile of “I drafted a novel” posts in a few months. Entirely out of season.
Promise me you’ll love them then?
But wait! Why can’t you hear about it now? Who cares that it’s in process?
Ah, yes. Intelligent readers.
Blind judging. Yes, I know I blog under an alias, but even so my stuff is–distinctive.
I think. I hope?
And hey! New York Times bestselling authors have bumbled into my corner of the world before, it’s not impossible that friends in the writing world would put two and two together and boom! Bookmarkedone’s clearly dazzling short story is chucked in the bin because anonymity is toast.
Not going to happen today.
On the other hand…
I’ve got a story out. Maybe this will be the one. Maybe this time. Maybe.
That brings us to the end of December. But that’s not all, oh no.
For some reason beyond logical comprehension, I decided to write a flash fiction piece in 24 hours, miss the deadline by about seventeen minutes (because time zones. Why, time zones? Why?), have the publishers kindly consider my story anyway, and promptly chuck it in the bin, giving me the first rejection of 2023 and possibly the fastest rejection received to date!
On the same day my NaNo-Frankensteined-into-a-short-story project had to be in.
Don’t you love the end-of-quarter holiday season smashed into one?
Right. So frankly, I’m exhausted.
But that’s okay. Because I’m snuggled up in a big hoodie in the garrett, finishing a blog post before three in the morning. Clear night so I could do some stargazing on New Year’s. Had a bonfire. Finally got my grubby claws on a copy of A Tolkien Miscellany, at an antique shop, of all places. I think my copy of The Fellowship came from a different antique shop…not the weirdest place I’ve scavenged books.
Life is…crazier than I’d thought it’d be right now. Just when I thought things would slow down, violin, composing the musical, work, writing, and my own personal brand of chaos have whisked me away.
It’s not so bad. Most of the time. Except when it keeps me from writing. You know writers–pounding out that new story is the only thing we want to do–until we actually have time to do it.
Well, here’s to having the time and the brilliance. It’s a new year, after all.
Fairies, bards, bags of buttons, mushroom hats and turkey legs–
She’s back from the Renaissance faire, with pocketfuls of trinkets and stories to share!
Yes, this has taken me almost a month to publish. NaNoWriMo22 has been stealing all my braincells and I had a few internet crashes that deleted parts of the drafted post from WordPress.
(devastated bookmarkedone noises)
And the usual struggle with my cryptid-stole-the-trail-camera blurry photo quality.
Or, y’know, we could just say good things come to those that wait and that this is such a brilliant post it required that much time and attention.
Let’s go with that.
A brief explanation of Renaissance festival recaps for the uninitiated:
bookmarkedone, among other unexpected odd jobs, works at Renaissance festivals. It is as fun as it sounds.
She’s a bard. Violin. Celtic, fiddle, classical, and anything else the situation calls for. It calls for a lot you wouldn’t expect.
Yes, she could just stay on the classical stage and be a “good violinist…” but it’s so much more fun to run away to the realm of folk musicians for a day and be ridiculously OP.
There will be no photos of said bard in character/costume because of modern technology restrictions at work (and because of the blurry “the cryptid realized it was on camera” quality of every picture I take. To the dandelion puff with six-foot scepter who got a good photo of us together…I’m a smidge jealous).
Because there are scandalously few renfaire blogs/almost nobody who writes about what it’s like to actually work at these events, you’re about to read the perspective from the inside…which is very different from being a casual patron.
…we do these recaps every year, so I don’t really remember what else I’m supposed to say here. If stuff doesn’t make sense, hey! Go read the recaps from the last couple of seasons. We skewer pumpkins and cheer for bloodshed. Great fun.
Having apologized to our regular readers for the delay, we now return to recounting the adventure.
By the time I got there on Saturday, there was already a line.
Not a line. There was a chain of people from the ticket booth through the little cut in the trees leading to the parking field, into the field itself and down a couple rows of cars.
It was long. Like a city block long. And I was getting there shortly after 10:00 a.m. The faire didn’t even open until ten.
I didn’t have time to stop and stare because I was in a hurry to get inside, but as I was hiking across the field, I did gawk.
I can remember the days when Dragonfest was a handful of tents in a parking lot. This was–a lot. I don’t have an official tally because no one bothered to tell me, but I’ve never seen this many people there.
And of course every one of them was going to hate me a little bit for slipping past without a ticket.
Normally I gloat about this (to my friends. Not to strangers. I’m not that rude). Violin gets me in places as I please. Concert halls. Renaissance faires. Museum fundraisers. No lines.
But that day…
They had these little wood stakes with cord at about waist height to keep people in the line, and after I was finally close enough to actually see the frazzled clerks in the ticket booth–
I realized I was on the wrong side of the line.
I’d hiked the whole way, chin up, consciously not looking to see if people were giving me the “doesn’t that girl know she has to wait in line like everyone else” looks, only to realize the entrance was on the left of the wall of people and I was on the right.
So I did the only sensible thing there was to do.
I ducked under the rope and stole into the faire I work at.
In front of about a hundred people.
So because I was only too aware everyone was watching me (it’s not like they had anything better to do; grass doesn’t grow fast in October and there was no paint to dry)
and I didn’t want everyone either
to hate me for apparently stealing my admission or
to go “well, she got away with it,” and follow me like a horde of too many petulant ducks–
I found someone taking tickets and waited until he had a breath so it was clear I wasn’t the miscreant everyone absolutely thought I was.
I know what you’re thinking at this point. “Why is she spending this long talking about the line?”
Because the character you’re about to meet pretty much made my faire experience this year, and I’m not skipping him.
Besides. It was an impressive line.
So there’s sort of a tradition among some ticket-takers at faires.
It’s the tradition of The Troll.
You’re here for the experience, right? Ordinary people don’t go to renfaires. Or if they do, they’re not ordinary by the time they leave. You’re here to have some fun. And we who work at the faire are going to give it to you–so why not make something boring (here’s your wristband, here’s your change, next), well, let’s say unexpectedly amusing.
Where do you meet trolls in fairytales, kiddos? Trying to cross a bridge. Gotta pay your toll. So if you meet “a troll” at the gates to renfaire?
I knew a lady once who said she’d make kids swordfight with her (they were blunt practice swords, not real blades, I repeat, we are not handing children real steel) before they could go through the gate. Sometimes it’s just banter, they’ll tease you a little, chat about your costumes, tell jokes, be a little mean, pretend they won’t let you in until you answer a question or a riddle–if you’re in the mood for it, gate trolls can be great fun.
You never know if there’s going to be one or not.
Up I walk, violin case on my back, to this gentleman in a hat with Dragonfest buttons,
and as politely as possible, I say, “I just want to let you know, I’m not sneaking in. I work here.”
Important note. They don’t brief the crew on who’s cast and who isn’t. Most of us don’t know each other before we meet there, on the grounds, that day. Oh, we fall together naturally enough, look after each other like family, but this clerk has no way of knowing I am what I say…and come to think of it, I have zilch way to prove it.
He looks at me, back at the ticket-counting he’s doing, then at me again.
And this is when I find out he’s The Troll.
“Do I believe that?” he says.
I stop. I think he’s serious. I’m just about to worry, when he says, “You know, I think I do.”
That’s it. Troll likes you, in you go.
I’m laughing by now, and I promise to come back to play him a tune later as my proof of employment. And since he’s a lovely person, he agreed to tell me a story, as a trade.
I love renfaire.
Argh. I put off writing this post for so long.
Because I have to decide what stories not to include or write such a huge post I can’t even muster the strength to proofread and finish it.
So much stuff happened.
You know I’m a writer, so I’ve honed my skills, paying attention to everything, remembering the details until I get a chance to write them down. But everything happened so much at Dragonfest that I started to feel like I was on a carousel, whirling around and around, the faces of people I met blurring together until I was left sitting on a porch swing clutching a pink rock and wondering where I’d gotten it.
The answer, by the way, is that a fabulous mushroom hat girl gave it to me. She asked if I’d like a token and offered me the rock or my choice from a bag of buttons. She wasn’t crew; she was just someone who wanted to share and be part of the fun. I played her a jig in trade, and she danced so the charms on her hat clinked together in the very best way.
And nearly stepped on her phone before a friend yoinked it almost out from under her heel and narrowly averted disaster, but that’s not the point.
She was actually one of two people I met like that at the faire. The other was a younger girl, probably the MG book author’s dream audience. She’d made what she called “spells,” and told us all about them–potion for strength, fairy dust–I can’t recall the others now, but she had a name and a gift for each.
Guys. Guys, this girl gave me fairy dust.
She was very serious about the whole thing, and so I reacted with proper respect. After she gave me the tiny bottle, she said, with utmost solemnity, that she’d only offered to give me fairy dust because I was very talented.
So, anyway, that girl is kind of my hero, and I’m keeping the fairy dust because it’s the coolest and I love it and yes, none of you stand a chance against me anymore.
You don’t say “Are we there yet?” at the faire. Munching your turkey leg, sticky and dusty and sweaty, pockets full of treasure, you say “When is the joust?”
It’s not like I have a watch. I don’t need one. When it’s time for the joust, the grounds empty to fill the stands, sit on the grass, perch on hay bales, crowd around too close to the tilting field and get cheerfully told off for entering “the blood zone.”
But there’s also that weird between-time while everyone is settling into seats and waiting for the knights to emerge on the field.
And that, friends, is exactly when I make my mischief.
A word of warning–there’s probably a very simple reason why I get on well with the gate trolls.
I played “Drunken Sailor” by the drink booth. Twice. The wandmaker got “Hedwig’s Theme.” Deadpool cosplayers (traditionally) get the theme from the Titanic (don’t…don’t ask). Most of the song choice thought process for me is, “Hey, wouldn’t it be funny if…”
There’s a tradition, with the joust.
Ever heard of a sweet little film called A Knight’s Tale?
(first of all, if you want to understand renfaire culture, go watch A Knight’s Tale, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail. When you’re utterly confused, come back. That’s right).
Okay, so in Knight’s Tale, the soundtrack is primarily Queen songs. And the opening is “We Will Rock You.”
I mean, it wasn’t so much needing to learn it as being scandalized that it wasn’t in my repertoire. It had to be done.
So when I happened to cross paths with the new court jester…
Great guy, by the way. Jigged for me. Orange and blue motley that most definitely did not get its dye from the Renaissance era and We Do Not Care.
I stopped him in the King’s Tent.
“Might I petition you for some mischief?” I asked.
Guys. This man was so excited he couldn’t speak properly. When he finally got the words out he said, “That is literally my job.”
I told him what I wanted. All he had to do was start the rhythm. Stomp-stomp, clap. The crowd knows it. The crowd always knows it. I’d do the rest.
We split in different directions. He went left. I went right. The crowd heard us coming.
You remember that troll I told you about earlier (henceforth he will only be referred to as “the Troll” because I never caught his name. His official title is bard because he’s quite a good storyteller, but I think you can see how that would be confusing)?
His hands appeared above the heads of the crowd, clapping. Somehow, he and I wound up walking in step through the crowd, clapping, playing, confusing everyone.
There were patrons on both sides of the tilting field, and by the time the knights entered, they’d only just caught wind of what was happening, and half the patrons were utterly lost, but the jester, the Troll, and I? We amused ourselves, if no one else. The Troll was quite pleased with having music follow him around (the sort of “I could get used to this” satisfaction).
I don’t have the words to tell you how I was grinning.
After officially adding “rabble-rousing” to my resume…
I’m pretty sure I played for my steel fighting friends’ rivals.
Maybe it’s not as bad as it sounds. I knew there was a split a few months ago (I think I was graduating at the time, so I’m not really clear what happened), but it wasn’t until Dragonfest that I learned they’d formed their own fighting group.
Drama? Eh. Not really.
You’ve got to remember, renfaire players are family. We look out for each other.
And I’ve never been one to care about the drama of who stepped on whose toes anyway. The boys can work out their squabbles without me being involved.
So when one of the former members said I could play for their fight, if I wanted…I wanted.
A crisp fall day, watching men in full steel armor slam each other over the head with swords and axes while “Thunderstruck” is going in the background–what more could one ask for?
This. One could ask for this.
What you are looking at is the keyring designed by one of the young ladies on the crew. And the story she told me is that each fighter has a specific design (there was an adorable cat asking for carnage sticker…unfortunately the fabulous lady fighter that one was based off of wasn’t at Dragonfest so we didn’t get to meet). The one I picked out belonged to the axe fighter–I think he’s called the Woodcutter. Story goes the designer presented this adorable cat to him and he said no.
Don’t like it. Too cute for me.
Lucky thing, the designer said yes, it’s cute, and yes, we’re using it, because people like cute things and they’ll buy it.
Yes, we do, and yes, I did.
I told her the dangerous kitty would be joining my Plague Doctor Dragon on my violin case (from the year Dragonfest had to be cancelled. Dragon in a top hat. It’s great. None of my orchestra mates have ever noticed it), so now the dragon key ring has a friend.
She was understandably delighted by the idea.
I joked later that if the two rival steel fighting groups wanted to fight over who got the fiddler, I wouldn’t mind.
Because if they never book the same events, then I get to go to twice as many renfaires with my friends. Behold my devious brilliance!
(I did say you wouldn’t stand a chance now that I have fairy dust)
In retrospect…one of the lieutenants from the original group did get in touch out of the blue this week…
(sounds of bookmarkedone hoping she hasn’t been too devious for her own good)
Anyway, more stories!
I’m running out of space in this post for everything that happened.
I went back to the line and strolled along it for a while, trying to give the people waiting something entertaining and wound up appearing at the same time that King Henry arrived to greet his guests and tell them the joust had been delayed so they wouldn’t miss it…so it looked a bit like I was a king’s bard.
There was a little man in a Hogwarts T-shirt, crown, and cape, so I played “Hedwig’s Theme” for him. There was a little Gandalf with his dad who looked understandably put out on hearing it (no Gandalf likes being mistaken for Dumbledore). So the Shire Theme followed, and I think they were both mollified.
I made fun of my friends (still waiting in line, ha, ha), full knowing that none of the other people in the line knew that I’d brought them and would probably be thinking I was just very comfortable striking up conversations with perfect strangers.
Met a couple of mushroom hat girls later who told me they’d stood in line for at least an hour.
I felt really bad about this for a while–it was nobody’s fault, of course, and the ticket trolls were doing their absolute best to get everyone through as fast as possible–but I heard we got nasty review about it online.
(cue bookmarkedone being slightly crushed)
I felt better after hearing about the lines at DragonCon. Someone told me the “line was part of the experience,” a way to meet other patrons, slow down, anticipate what’s to come. I hope that’s true and most of the patrons felt that way. The Troll and I agreed to come back and play the line together the second day (spoiler: I didn’t make it because I was physically exhausted and almost fell asleep in a hard kitchen chair. I’m sure if we had done it together, the line would have been an attraction in itself).
But enough about downsides.
I saw Lady Jillian of the Famously Amazing Hair Clasps (my bestowed title for her, not her official one) and bought more hair sticks because they’re pretty and make me feel like a little wizard,
The rock booth lady (whose name I do not know), but who happily sold me a chunk of carnelian and chided me for not playing closer to her booth (we’d been next-door neighbors at the last faire when I was with my mercenary buddies). I played Paganini 20 for her and chatted with her daughter, who is already an accomplished jewelry-maker herself. I poked through their rings (wire wrapped. All handmade. Gorgeous), and asked her if they were arranged by size.
She bit back a sigh. They were, at the beginning of the day–
I was already nodding, commiserating. After a hundred hands passing over the shiny baubles, any organization was quite undone.
And I saw Lady Kiki again, of the famous earrings (and 2Cellos fan). There was also a booth with little terrariums with wire trees (the wind was blasting the tents down, so the little globes didn’t stand a chance. Two were shattered, at least). The proprietor told me she has a video of last year’s performance in her phone.
This was…a somewhat odd announcement? I get a lot of comments working at faires, and you learn to roll with the weirdness of our lives and professions, but is there an appropriate response to a stranger saying she has a recording of your playing?
She was actually very nice and said she shows it to people when she’s persuading them to come to Dragonfest (you should come! see this cool fiddler? don’t you want to listen to her in person?). So that’s flattering. And considering the number of photos/videos people have taken of me performing with (or without) my permission…honestly I probably shouldn’t spend the time thinking about it.
There were also a few new vendors this year, so since I’ve been attending or performing at the faire every year since it started but one–
I had ample opportunity to spread my arms wide and say “Welcome to Dragonfest!” like that scene from the first How to Train Your Dragon film.
It’s every bit as satisfying as it seems.
And of course, one must visit the fairies.
I mean, what are you even doing if you don’t pay a visit to the Fae Court?
Or in my case, an empty tent with one slightly forlorn gentleman guarding it because the fairies were out making mischief and drinking tea.
We had a nice chat, anyway. He told me the fairies had flown, and I nodded a little to myself and said, “Yes. They tend to do that where I live, too.”
That’s not to say I didn’t see them. They were scattered across the faire, charming everyone with bubble wands.
Life always can use a bubble wand.
I’m sure I’m leaving out so many stories. The gymnast tumblers who were so good at their art. The kind lady who offered to let me stash my violin case with her instead of under a tree and made sure I would do so again on the second day so it wouldn’t sprout legs or get tampered with. Thistlegreen playing “John Ryan’s Polka” with me first thing in the morning on his pennywhistle. Listening to the Troll tell stories on the little stage at the end of the day, all of us cozy and tired out. Said Troll inviting me to have a stage set, even though I hadn’t been scheduled for one (I declined…but that’s not to say I wasn’ t very much touched at the offer). Losing the Tree of Life pendant I bought at my very first gig with the mercenary fighters (a little heartbroken, but I’m half hoping someone else picked it up and has a faerie treasure now. It’s what I get for running to greet my fighter friends and leaving it on a cord it could so easily slip off of). Trolling the Larp and HEMA fighters with song selections. Everything. Everything, everything, that I can’t put into words, all the sounds and smells and sights and friends that you simply have to be there to understand.
It’s all done for another year. Everyone’s packed up and gone home, cozying in for the winter season. Won’t see one another again until spring.
So we’re left with the frost on the windows and the trinkets and the memories.
And the plots. And the plans. And the practicing of repertoire for next faire. And the maps.
Because, you know, the world is full of faires. And what sort of people are we if we don’t daydream about seeing the very best of them?
Is it okay to say that I don’t know where to begin?
There comes a time when my chaos becomes too much for even me.
Let’s just set the scene, then. It’s a beautiful, sunny Friday afternoon, the glass reflecting off the curving front of the expo center, and the Ghostbusters van parked on the sidewalk. Caleb Widowgast and bookmarkedone are on their way to comic con.
What’s this? The bookmarked has given you a real name and broken the code of aliases?
Wrong again! It’s an alias upon an alias! You find your bookish blogger in the company of a Critical Role cosplayer.
(cue the maniacal laughter)
Normally I would have left this out entirely, just let you think I was conning solo, but it’s important to the story.
Because in cased you aren’t familiar with that particular D&D wizard, you should know that he has a cat. Accordingly, the cosplayer has a cat.
And accordingly, I have a small plush tabby cat multiple times through the day when my con buddy needed both hands to do something.
Somewhat awkward. Just holding a stuffie under one arm like that’s normal. Petting it like Michael Sheen pretending to be Blofeld the Bond villain with his very fake white cat.
Nerd cons, everyone.
You’re probably wondering at this point if bookmarkedone was in cosplay attire.
I was not. Planned on it, but things fell apart at the last minute. Sometimes that happens. I was pretty disappointed, since I originally planned this trip sheerly for the opportunity to show off my personal costume design and enjoy all the fun that comes with being your favorite character for a day.
But I was still determined to go and have my adventures. And maybe I dressed–a little more the way I wanted to, since I was salty about not going in costume? Fashion’s a funny thing. I remember reading some story–I can’t remember where now–about a tailor being magical because he can make a beggar look like a king and how that simple act of putting on a costume can make you not just look like something or believe it, but be what you pretend to be.
In a way, it’s true. You move differently when you’re in different dress. It can make you confident, it can make you comfortable, it can make you hate tulle skirt linings with an undying passion. There’s a power to what you wear.
If anybody can remember the book, please save me from wondering. I’m pretty sure it’s either Rothfuss or that strange dragon series that I read two volumes of like five years ago with a type of creature called a Roffle.
All that soliloquizing to say that on that particular Friday, I Did Not Care. I wasn’t trying to blend in or look normal or pretend to be human or any of those things. It was comic con. There would be far weirder people. So I wore what I wanted. Tall boots. Cool pants. Red crystal earrings.
It felt good.
Widowgast gave me a once-over and said I still looked like I was playing a character.
I said, “I am. I’m being myself.”
As we were walking up to the expo center, Widowgast said again how probable it was that somebody was going to try to guess my character.
I just said I honestly hoped it happened, because if there was a character out there that much like me, it was probably something I’d want to read.
Anyway, in we went to the con.
And this is the point that I should mention I was wearing an orange sweater.
I didn’t think it was a big deal. Halloween, autumn, pumpkins, spooky season.
Until we realized that the con’s logo and almost everything else about it was bright orange.
Widowgast told me I was cosplaying the con itself.
Happy accident. I was more than cool with that.
(except that the con closes permanently after three days, never to be seen again…perhaps better not to carry the idea that far).
Anyway. That’s more than long enough talking about clothes and colors.
You want to hear about the con.
So because this was the final run of this particular con, there wasn’t a lot to see.
Understatement: it was really, really small.
And because Widowgast and I were there on the first day…we almost had the place to ourselves.
Coming from cons where you have to inch your way through hallways because there’s always that one spot that jams up and is shoulder-to-shoulder packed with people and good manners are mildly scandalized because dear, dear–you really can’t avoid brushing shoulders with someone–
It was different. And at times a little creepy. Like, it wasn’t abandoned; the expo center room wasn’t big enough for that, but it was strange.
Probably would have been weirder if I’d actually been in cosplay. You want a crowd of fellow friendly weirdos when you’re doing something like that.
On the other hand–we also felt a little like VIPs. Entire con practically to ourselves. Sweet.
Of course, I think some of the vendors missed the memo that there were actually people who were going to be there on Friday–they weren’t well organized. More than a few were still setting up shop at one o’clock when it opened officially at ten in the morning, and several booths were vacant.
That said, everyone was super, super nice. Vendors, cosplayers, staff, someone doing security (awesome colored contacts for heterochromia. Please do not ask me what the character was because I have no idea), even ordinary gamers and visitors like your incognito blogger.
For the record…you do not know the crisis that went on in my mind when Widowgast and I were getting name badges at the door. I’m pretty sure the lovely clerk would have put down any name I gave her…but even not being in cosplay…giving my real name felt super weird. Official: I’ve been blogging under the bookmarkedone persona too long.
There was a life-size statue of a Ghostbusters monster right as we came in (to my Tolkien-fan eyes it looked like a slobbery Warg), and after I took a picture of Widowgast standing by it, a random friendly cosplayer in a cow-print outfit offered to take a picture of both of us.
I declined (much happier behind the camera), but I thought it was really sweet, since we wouldn’t have had a good way to take a photo together on our own.
The vendors were just as lovely. I’ve been some places where booths are…not so friendly. You get a “are you going to buy anything already” vibe, and honestly, I can’t blame them for that. There’s not a lot of money doing a gig like that, and it can be pretty exhausting.
Not so here. We stopped by one booth with a bunch of necklaces and I started trying to see how many fandoms I could recognize for Widowgast’s entertainment. Because we were the only ones there at the moment, the boothmaster (vendor. I mean vendor) started paying attention too and supplying the ones I couldn’t guess (only two, if you were keeping track. I have very different references for crossbows than The Walking Dead.). I didn’t buy anything from him, but he didn’t seem bothered in the least to have us admire his wares.
And most of the others were the same way. We must have strolled through the floor of the con three or four times, and everyone seemed perfectly cheerful to have us there (VIP energy again? We had our official orange lanyard badges at this point), directing us to what they thought we’d like, laughing as we bantered, complimenting Widowgast’s outfit (I mean, book holsters are pretty awesome, right?), and just being charming.
It could also have something to do with us.
I’ve picked up this habit, working the faires. I always stop in at the booths, but let’s face it, I don’t have the money to buy trinkets from every single one at faire prices (which can be quite steep, especially for a little peasant bard). So I try to tell them how cool everything they’ve made really is (because seriously? Chainmail jewelry? Crowns with squarish crystals that look like a box of stone Crayola met the perfect goblin princess?). It’s probably a habit that really concreted itself for me after I heard people being really rude to vendors at faires, trying to knock prices down by insulting the wares (don’t do this. Don’t make me avenge them). Every artist deserves to feel good about their craft, and well, maybe the spirit of my bardic flattery started rubbing off a little.
I should also explain that I was starting to feel a lot like I was at renfaire.
This is dangerous.
Well, darling, it’s a different version of myself that goes to renfaire than anywhere else. I’m not completely playing a character, but that’s about the closest explanation I’ve got. Mostly it’s just being really relaxed and comfortable with everybody–and getting into a lot of mischief wherever and whenever the opportunity arises.
You’re about to get to the crux of the double-booking problem. Hang on to this.
So because it’s the week before I’m going to Dragonfest, Widowgast and I are goofing around, the vibe is so familiar, and everyone is being so nice and making me feel right at home–
Yeah. I kind of went into renfaire mode.
This means two things.
At the faire, everyone on the crew is family. You can relax and have fun around your family. One might even say you can trust them.
I’m much less careful of what words I actually let escape my mouth.
Do we see how this might be dangerous yet?
So like I said, we’ve started playing this game to see how many fandoms I can recognize, and we wander into this art booth. These can be very simple–a few prints on the wall, a couple of books to flip through.
Widowgast starts chatting with the artist, and I let the two of them do the Human Social Thing, quietly paging through the demo drawings. He’d done an impressive full-color of Yennifer and Geralt from The Witcher (haven’t watched, but “Toss a Coin,” need I say more?). I wait until I have Widowgast’s attention and point it out. I keep flipping through, guessing some, missing others (Moon Knight, Skeletor, some I can’t remember now–there are a lot of fandoms out there), and then I turn the page to a gorgeous Sauron in full armor, Ring intact, wreathed in flames.
And in the fondest, most affectionate and proudest voice you can imagine, I said, “There’s my boy!”
(cue bookmarkedone realizing far too late that was out loud)
I don’t think I actually looked at the vendor after that. I doubled over so my head almost touched the table laughing, said thank-you, and ran away.
I would have scolded Widowgast for not stopping me from saying that, but not even I knew what I was saying until it happened, so…yeah.
Widowgast thought I made the artist’s day.
The truth is, even as small as the con was, I could keep telling stories.
The electronic gamers who looked suspiciously like the electronic gamers from a previous year, settled in the same formation at the back of the room.
The dice merchants who were running a two-for-one sale we didn’t notice so I told them they’d broken Widowgast by saying 5+5=8 (the dream is collapsing, but hey, it’s a good dream).
Listening to Widowgast’s Zemnian (German) accent and overcompensating not to absently start matching it and accidentally going Full Renfaire Voice Mode (I…can’t actually explain what this sounds like. It’s too subtle a change. It’s still my voice, my accent, but also…not. I did the voice switch later for my dad and he said something along the lines of “oh no,” so apparently I wasn’t imagining it).
Widowgast plunking money down to play Plinko since I’d never done it before and bookmarkedone going full analytical mode (which is not how the gamble is meant to be played…but I won Widowgast a poster, so…).
The minifig builder who brought an entire castle populated with tiny crows with knives, a pirate ship, surprisingly realistic trees, pumpkins, and a miniature lake that for a second I thought was actually liquid (yes, we went in while he was still setting up, and yes, he was absolutely lovely gushing about D&D and, as Widowgast informs me, being far too modest about his art).
The perfume blender who had a unique scent crafted for each D&D class (I freaked out a little over the genius of this. Yes, the bard one was amazing. I want to say it had pink grapefruit in it, but I’m honestly a little fuzzy at this point).
Amigurumi squid. In the same booth as the plague doctor masks and the D20 dice keyrings.
The ladies crocheting/knitting while waiting for unwary visitors to stumble into their booths.
The Renaissance-Star Wars cosplayer. Still floored by that one.
Looking Widowgast dead in the eye and saying “Con artist” (you’re cool if you get the joke).
Going thrift shopping afterward and finding a T-shirt that reads “That’s a horrible idea. What time?” I thought it sounded like a MG or YA character, same energy as “let’s go overthrow my evil uncle’s empire” as a pickup line/first date idea. My friends insisted I buy it. Am a little concerned about why exactly they think it’s so perfectly me?
But we don’t have time for all that!
Because this is a two-parter post!
Look, I couldn’t clickbait you with “Don’t double-book the bard” and then not explain myself, could I?
So the little con ran three days. I was originally planning to only go Day 1, Friday, with Widowgast, but I wound up stopping in for a bit on Saturday as well. Glimpsed SpiderGwen from Into the Spider-Verse sitting under the trees outside the expo center (would have asked for a photo, but she swung away to other adventures before I got there). Security had different colored eyes today. Dark red, the color of congealing blood.
But I couldn’t stay long, because I was on my way to a violin gig.
Yes. That does mean that I was in full concert black and heels as I brushed shoulders with Ghostbusters, Storm Troopers and gamers. I had the foresight to wear slacks at least, so it wasn’t like I was going to the grocery store in a floor-length black dress (again. I needed ice cream, what can I say?).
It’s always a little awkward, going in full-black somewhere it’s not expected. I knew it would be okay once I got to the con, since with as many anime and comic characters as I’d be around, who was going to notice a kid in all black?
But I still had to walk about a block and cross the street to get to the con looking like a formal ink smudge with a very orange lanyard in one hand.
I could have been uncomfortable about it. But I was still in almost the same mood as the day before. And in heels. Fun fact: you can’t slouch in heels.
So…I owned it.
Something to remember, everyone out there with Impostor Syndrome. Nobody out there has a clue what they’re doing. So you might as well go out and be comfortable in your own skin, because it’s going to make you the coolest person out there.
I still got some odd looks from a bunch of anime cosplayers crossing the street the same time I was leaving. Which is fair.
The really important event from the second day is going to sound trivial, because it was just an average nerd in a T-shirt. It was, however, a very specific fandom T-shirt, for the character I’d been planning to cosplay before the fandom blew up in my face. And while I didn’t want to get anywhere near the drama (bookmarkedone’s inner critic reminding me this is why we prefer dead author fandoms that have at least a few decades of dust on them instead of things that are new ahhh why did we get in a fandom where the creators are still alive?), it really meant everything to me to see someone just casually being a part of that story, that community, assuring me that everything’s going to be okay and whatever’s going on right now, the fandom’s going to rise from it unscathed, as strong and beautiful and strange as it ever was.
I didn’t say anything about it. We were both standing at the perfume table at the time and I did a double-take when I saw the logo on the T-shirt (probably stared and made him uncomfortable, if we’re honest about it), trying to make sure that was what I thought I was seeing.
And I did think about being all “Oi, is that an [xyz] fandom shirt?” But in the end, I started talking to a vendor and by the time it was over, the perfect stranger I’d been considering chatting with had wandered away.
Moral of the story. If you do something cool, if you’re part of something bigger, if you show your fandom colors and nobody says a word to you, remember that nerds are a quiet bunch and you may have secretly made someone’s day.
It really did catch me a little off guard, even though I think I was looking for something like that since the first day of the con. I was still thinking about it a long while later.
And it’s as much as a reminder for me as for anyone else. I’ve had a plague doctor dragon in a top hat keyring on my violin case for two years now, and no one has ever breathed a word about how awesome it is. Either I worked with a very shy or unobservant orchestra, or I’m wasted on them.
Speaking of which! The Concert!
(I know, I know, finally)
This was actually my first ensemble gig since last May, so–yeah. One of the longest breaks I’ve had in a while.
There was a little moment of “How do we do this again?” But all is well in bookmarkedone’s orchestra world.
Especially considering I think I had a week to prepare for this concert?
I know some people would probably say I shouldn’t tell that part of the story to the non-initiated…so don’t tell them.
It went like this. An old orchestra friend from uni messaged me out of the blue, something like, “How are you? Long time no see. Cool, cool. So are you up for playing a concert on the 15th, or–?”
I’m kidding. There was no chit-chat. He had someone drop out at the last minute and needed another violin. I got the music (had to prompt him for an address for the venue, though), and because I don’t ask a lot of questions…that was about it. This date, this music, concert black, this address. That’s it. I knew it was a fundraiser, but honestly, until I got there, I had no clue what for.
(sounds of bookmarkedone being the perfect spy intensify)
Anyway, you have to remember that I was still in comic con/renfaire mode for this next bit.
The organizer was really clever and put stickynotes with our names on all the chairs so we’d know where to sit–especially important since some people played different parts on different pieces. Two names on a chair mean you move. One means you don’t. So there’s an awkward shuffle of an entire largely introverted and uncomfortable orchestra, heads down, squinting at chair seats, trying to find our places.
Except for me.
I found my place pretty easily, and lucky, lucky me! I didn’t have to move.
And watching everyone else shuffle about, this little voice whispered in my head, it’s literally musical chairs.
It should go to my credit that I didn’t say that one out loud.
But when a young lady directly in front of me bent squinting, saying “Why are there two names on my chair?” having missed the prior explanation…
…well, there was this perfect silence, and I said, dead serious, “You have to share.”
She looked up, and I nodded, “Two people, one chair. Yes.”
And this is why they shouldn’t let me do a concert after comic con, everybody.
I could have been helpful and explained, but no! Snarky mode activate, snarky mode there to stay!
The concert itself went well, although I don’t know that my particular brand of humor was appreciated. It was one of those nice ones where the music is easy, the performers seasoned enough to relax, the pressure low–it felt good not to play for a grade or an audition or anyone’s approval. Just to play. You don’t always get that chance, in the violin world. It’s good to hang on to it when it comes.
And…yeah. That’s this week’s adventures. By the time you hear from me again, I will be one Dragonfest the wiser. My favorite faire of the year, I’m already anticipating the mayhem and mischief.