Life Update: A Huge New Chapter!

Well, friends, it’s been a while since I posted here, and I do apologize for that. If you’re following me on any other social media platforms you’ll know the gist of what’s been going on, and if not, I hope this will catch you up on the deets.

On November 4th, 2017, Drew and I packed up a UHaul van with all of our earthly belongings and hitched his old car Betty to a tow dolly on the back, and we left Chicago. Drew had lived there seven years, and I had been there eleven years, but it was high time for a brand new adventure. So off we went, and two days later we arrived in Orlando, Florida. We moved into our new place, began to buy new furniture (we had none with us) and started to settle in to a brand new city where neither of us had ever lived before.

Drew is working at his old job still – they’re letting him work remotely from a different office of the company. I have been working on some audiobooks for award-winning author Candace J. Thomas and also been preparing for upcoming opportunities here. We’re both auditioning and chasing dreams, and treading water till the next thing happens.

As far as creative pursuits go, Drew and I have spent the last seven or eight months taking a break from Disney Odyssey. We intend to get back to it soon, since we have so many still in the bank from the last round of viewings. But we’ve been very busy with Warda, our real creative brainchild.

Warda is a little bit Game of Thrones, a little bit Downton Abbey, with a dash of Agatha Christie thrown in. It’s luxurious and glamourous on the surface with heartfelt conflict and sociopolitical commentary underneath. It’s been a THRILLING experience to share it with the world for the first time – in May we started doing live streams of a roleplaying game set in the world of Warda (using the FATE system rules) on the One Shot Podcast Network’s channel on Twitch. We stopped doing those live streams in October right before we moved (for obvious reason) BUT the second big thing that came out of this venture is the podcast! You can check it all out here or here, or on your chosen podcasting platform. Even if you don’t know anything about tabletop RPGs, it’s a fantastic story, with great performances by all of our players and Drew as our primary GM (I drop in occasionally myself). Give it a try!

Despite the fact that we moved at the beginning of the month, I made sure to participate in this year’s National Novel Writing Month. This year’s theme and challenge I gave myself were unique: I wrote down short titles or phrases relating to Warda, one prompt for each day of November, and a few extra just in case. I challenged myself to respond to a new, randomly selected prompt every day, writing at LEAST the minimum of 1667 words (the projected daily minimum to ‘win’ NaNoWriMo). I told myself that I could write as much as I wanted, but I needed to have the minimum on each day’s prompt. This was an awesome plan! I gave myself weird and delightful and interesting prompts and I had FUN writing on each of them as the days trucked along. However, sometime in the middle of the month I found myself picking up each day with the previous day’s prompt, wanting to write more and ‘finish’ the scene, only to have the current day’s prompt yet to write. And sometimes I didn’t get to the current day’s prompt. But I didn’t count this against myself, since I was having fun and not censoring myself. I have several prompt yet to do, despite the month ending tonight (and despite the fact that I’ve passed 50k words!) so I intend to keep writing a bit every day and building those muscles up again to where they once were. I have, as you may know, been having some issues with ‘writer’s block’ and ‘impostor syndrome’ and other such hurdles, and I’m determined to shake it all off – FOR GOOD – and press on in my writing experiences and career. I’m looking forward to meeting some Orlando area writers soon – there appear to be several community groups I can join up with to meet fellow writers, take workshops, and support/be supported. I’ve never had a writing group or community before, not really, so I’m not sure what it will be like, but I’m happy to try it all out and meet some new friends!

The other magical thing that happened recently is small, talkative, and extremely cuddly. Yes, that’s right – we got a cat! Well, the cat got us. Found us. Whatever. On October 1st (with only a month left before we were supposed to move) we found a cat in Chicago. We took her inside for the night, then took her and had her microchip scanned the next day. We spent the next fourteen days frantically reaching out to the owners through the microchip company, but despite multiple voicemails and emails, they never contacted us or the chip company again. After ten days in Illinois, that’s animal abandonment, so we unexpectedly (but very, very happily) welcomed Queen Felicia to the family.

 

She hated the truck ride down to Florida but once we got here she was fine. She has filled our days with love, strange chirps, purrs, and nuzzles, and we love her more than we ever thought possible. She found us, and we’re so, so glad she did.

We are both missing our friends back in Chicago, but we’re eager for this new chapter to really settle into a rhythm. So many opportunities await, so many possibilities. We’re happy we made it here safely and we’re happy to get a chance at things we’ve always dreamed of.

Here’s to big leaps, and big dreams ahead!

~Aly

 

Happy 20th Anniversary, Harry Potter!

I always wanted to be a Gryffindor, but the truth was always there under the surface, and it was much more simple. I love people too much, and I care about everyone’s feelings.
It’s actually been Hufflepuff all the way.
 
I got the first three Harry Potter books the day that “The Prisoner of Azkaban” came out – September 8, 1999, apparently. I tore through them in a short amount of time, and my world was changed. It led me to internet forums and early chat rooms for fans, it led me to create my own fan fiction, it led me to create my own fiction unrelated.”Hedwig” was part of my first email address. It brought me new friends when I moved to a new place. It brought me a sense of belonging that stuck with me until I was ready to ‘graduate Hogwarts’ and move out into the big wide world on my own two feet, and create new worlds for other people to delve into.
 
I often think about JK Rowling, on a plane or seated in an outdoor cafe, writing with cheap half-empty ballpoint pens, scrawling on napkins when she ran out of paper, and writing just to write – even when she was on welfare. She didn’t write to get herself out of welfare, but that’s exactly what happened. She wrote because she loved her story and her characters and was driven to get it done. And she’s not perfect… And the series isn’t perfect, but it’s arguably damn good. So good that it’s common household vocabulary now, and it’s the “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra” of a whole new generation. Harry and Voldemort in the Forest. Hogwarts, when the walls fell.
What’s your Patronus?
What’s your wand made of?
Which House are you in?
Everybody knows their own answers to these questions. And we always will.
Twenty years later, many of us are grown and some are even raising their own kids on the world Rowling built. It’ll keep on keepin’ on.
I’m hoping to finally make it to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios this fall, and taste my first butterbeer and find my wand waiting for me, and probably cry, and my Hufflepuff husband will be there with me, and we’ll probably have a lot of feelings about it all.
Something something about Hogwarts always being there to welcome us home, something something.
Cheers, everyone.

Disney Odyssey #38 – Flying Whales Are Neither Pines Nor Roman: Discuss

For this installation of the Disney Odyssey we turned to a couple of real experts: Maureen Smith and Daniel Johanson of Chicago’s own Scapi Mag! Two trained opera lovers and performers, Daniel and Maureen have made it their mission to seek out and promote independent artists, companies, collectives, and projects of all kinds in the city of Chicago, whether it’s theatre, poetry, music, opera, or beyond. As I have never seen this movie and don’t know a whole lot about which classical hits are included, I thought it would be neat to get an inside perspective from these two phenomenal music nerds on what pieces are included, why they’re unusual, and how well the animations play along (or don’t). 

 

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The Film: Fantasia 2000  (2000)

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“The Lesson of the Hunter and his Stepchildren” – a new folktale for The Blackwood

My good friend Eli Kurtz has spent this month of May running a Kickstarter for his brand new setting for Savage Worlds, a wuxia/folktale inspired world called The Blackwood. He has spent the last several years building this world and preparing to bring it to the public, and his Kickstarter is fully funded at this time, but with PLENTIFUL stretch goals yet to be reached in the last home stretch here (including more fiction from yours truly). Eli asked me to write a folktale for the game book, and so I chose a few interesting threads from various world folklore traditions to weave together into a new glimpse into the dangerous world of The Blackwood.

If you’re so inclined, please CLICK HERE to check out their Kickstarter and contribute if you can!

I give you “The Lesson of the Hunter and his Stepchildren.” (Extra points if you can name some of the influences on this story!)


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