Thursday, December 15, 2016

Wolfing out and Going Rogue

In which our Diva is having a very eventful costuming week

For several years I've been saying I should join Costumers With a Cause, in which a number of my friends were already active, and this past spring I finally did. Pretty much as it says on the tin, it's a volunteer organization of costumers/cosplayers who come out to interact with kids at charity and community events. Whether I'm Supergirl, Rey, or Merida, there's always at least one wide-eyed little one excited to meet their favorite, and the chance to make that happen and make it special for them is a feeling like no other.

Yesterday's adventure was a little different. Last week, one of our organizers posted a call for "monsters" for a little boy to "arrest" as part of his day as a Chicago police officer, organized by the Make-a-Wish Foundation. We've partnered with them for past wishes, but this was my first chance to be involved, and I eagerly volunteered to come out in a werewolf mask I picked up at a con a few years ago but had yet to use. As the planning continued, it became clear that what 3-year-old David meant by "monsters" was the "savage" animals in his favorite movie, Zootopia. For those who haven't seen it, it's about a rabbit who becomes a police officer in a city of "evolved" animals, where a rash of citizens reverting to their "savage" instinctive behaviors turns out to be a political plot to sow fear and mistrust between prey and predators. Pretty complicated stuff for Disney animation!

With that in mind, my wolfy alter ego joined several other "monsters" in getting rounded up by the newly sworn-in Officer David. That was a lot of fun, and he loved it, though I'm pretty sure the chance to drive the Chicago Police bomb squad's remote-control robot was the real highlight of a day filled with real-life police coolness, including tours of various vehicles and meeting K9 officers and police horses. Our furry butts may have stolen the spotlight for a little while, but they really made the day happen!

In the course of planning, legendary voice actor Maurice LaMarche, who voiced the Godfather-like Mr. Big character in Zootopia, got wind of the project, and recorded a special message for David. Check out his reaction:

It was an amazing day, and quite a diversion in a week that has been -- unsurprisingly if you know me -- All About Star Wars.

It all kicked off last Saturday evening, when I was invited to appear as Rey at the Blue Box Cafe's Star Wars night. That also happened to be the night of our first real snow of the season, so it was lucky for me they're very close to home. Attendance was light, but enough brave souls came out to have a good time and a lively discussion on Live at the Blue Box. You can find them on your favorite podcast app, or watch the whole livestream on YouTube:

Anybody who knows me knows I can talk for days, so I was right at home. :-) Hopefully they'll have me back sometime!

Then on Monday night I got back into Rey mode to try my hand at another new experience: Live modeling for artists, through Mistress Bones Portrait Playhouse. They host "Drink 'n' Draw" events at three different locations with a monthly theme, and this month is, of course, Star Wars. I met some great people, got a taste of holding an extended pose to bring into performing Unvarnished (though brandishing a lightsaber for 20 minutes is nothing like spending hours in a tub of water!), and looky looky what one of the artists gave me! <3 p="">

They have one more Star Wars event scheduled, next Wednesday (December 21) at Emporium Arcade Bar in Chicago.

These nights are FREE (with a suggested donation), and some supplies are provided. So bring your drawing hand and give it a try. I'll certainly be back for future themes - stay tuned!

And finally, tonight's the night! Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hits the screens, and I'll be on hand, this time as Mara Jade, at the Hollywood Palms Cinema in Naperville, alongside some very talented friends from the Chicagoland costuming community as well as the jaw-dropping talents of the 501st and Rebel Legion. There may still be some tickets available for tonight's screenings, but the lobby event is FREE from 6-9:30 pm. So come out, say hi, and get photos with a whole array of Star Wars characters from throughout the history of that galaxy far, far away.

The Rogues Strike Back at Hollywook Palms Cinema

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Light at the End of the World

In which our Diva is officially an audiobook narrator

I am over the moon about being able to announce that my very first foray into audiobook narration, The Light at the End of the World by J.A. Cummings, is now available on

I learned an enormous amount in this process, not least of which was that while I would love to narrate again, I think I'll leave the producing to the audio specialists. It took much, much longer than I hoped or expected to get this baby up to Audible's strict quality standards, and I'm eternally grateful to the very, very patient author who also happens to be one of my oldest and dearest friends.

I love this book and these characters, and the challenge of finding the right voice for each of them is one I won't soon forget. I'm pretty proud of the work I did, and I hope you like it too.

If you're not already an Audible member, you can download The Light at the End of the World for FREE with a 30-day trial membership.

The Apocalypse was not supposed to rest on Jessica Norgren's shoulders. When the struggling law clerk finds herself pregnant with no possible human father, she learns more than she ever wanted to know about angels and demons. With her best friend, Tsung Li, to help her navigate this tough new terrain, she finds herself mixed up with Watchers, archangels, succubi, athletes and Buddhist monks in a confusing melange of hope and fear.

A visit from the Archangel Michael reveals that the Apocalypse involves more than just the Anti-Christ and the coming of the End Times. It also involves the Demons' Messiah, sent to bring demons back to a state of grace; a pretender to the throne of Hell, destined to replace the Devil; and a squad of shadow demons, assassins sent by Lucifer himself.

Is well-known hockey player Rick Buchanan the Anti-Christ? Is it his son, Alexander? Could one of them be the Demons' Messiah? And what about "the One" that Alexander's mother, the succubus Rachel, has been talking about?

Everybody has a part to play in the drama of the end of the world, but not everybody wants to fill the roles they've been assigned. How far will Jessica go to avoid her destiny? What is her destiny, anyway?

She doesn't have long to learn. Lucifer is coming, and she's running out of time.

Go! Download! Listen! :-)

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Godspeed Challenger

In which our Diva remembers

Thirty years ago today, about ten minutes into chemistry class, the phone rang.

Before that moment, I don't think any of us had really noticed that there was a phone in the science room. We all stared, bewildered, as our teacher walked over, picked it up, listened silently for a moment, and put it back down. Then, still without a word, he pulled out the TV cart and turned it on.

I don't remember hearing a word spoken for at least an hour that didn't come from that TV. There might have been an announcement over the PA at some point, but if so I didn't really register it.

It took several minutes to grasp what we were seeing, that somewhere in that enormous plume across the sky -- too big, all wrong -- were the atoms of what had been seven brave, excited people.

He never said, but I can't imagine Mr. Underwood didn't apply for the seat Christa McAuliffe sat in that day. The man who hosted the Science Club at his own house, playing an old 45 of "They're Coming to Take Me Away" at the beginning and end of each meeting, presiding over discussions of when we would next take the Van de Graaff generator over to the elementary school to raise little kids' hair or how one might build a working lightsaber. The one who nominated me for both my Society of Women Engineers awards, even as I was realizing my career path led through all the stories I had to tell.

But I knew that plume was all wrong, too big, because I had watched so many of them rise into the sky before. Most of us in that class were born the year Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. None of us remembered a time when the countdown and the ignition and the rising column of smoke weren't events to look forward to on TV, to hope they fell on teacher in-service days during the school year, to tape when VCRs became a thing. The "send a civilian to space" idea happened because the public was losing interest, a fact that was utterly baffling to me when I read about it.

When I was a little girl (big enough to know that "pirate" and "Jedi" weren't actual options, but before I figured out they came under the heading of "actor"), I wanted to be a ballerina or an astronaut. Preferably both. By 1986, three years into a twelve-inch growth spurt that threw my center of gravity so far off I didn't find it until I was about 25, "ballerina" was pretty firmly off the table. But "astronaut" was still very much in the mix, alongside a few other options that had cropped up over the years. I was even considering applying to the Air Force Academy the following summer, for the sole reason that it was how you got to be an astronaut. (Well, one way. But Annapolis was two time zones away while Colorado Springs was at the foot of a mountain I could see from atop the swingset in my back yard. Besides, I was an Air Force brat, and "Navy wings are made of lead." *g*)

When this anniversary comes around, there's a lot of talk about how the loss of Challenger and her crew changed NASA -- made it more cautious, made people start questioning even more whether we should be doing all this in the first place. It wasn't the first accident, but it was the first I remember seeing with my own eyes. The first to to happen when space travel had become so seemingly routine that we were sending a social-studies teacher up there.

That caution was, and is, all to the good. As much as we might yearn to stand on Mars tomorrow, we need to be careful.

These people should be celebrating this anniversary with their families. They should be telling their children, nieces and nephews, grandchildren what the Earth looked like from orbit on that January morning.

They are immortal, but they should be home. Our pioneers should not be martyrs, not if we can avoid it.

But we still need our pioneers.