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!



The Reader’s Best of Chicago 2016 – RUNNER UP!



So the Chicago Reader has an annual issue where Chicagoans all over can vote (free!) on The Best of Chicago in categories like food, entertainment, sports, and more. It’s an awesome way to bring attention to the awesome things about Chicago, as proclaimed by Windy City citizens themselves.

Apparently, my novel On The Isle of Sound and Wonder was voted the runner up for Best New Novel by a Chicagoan.



First of all – WHAT.

Second of all – EXCUSE ME.

Third of all – I literally would not have known that this happened except my lovely friend Ami posted it on my wall. THANK YOU for the alert, Ami!




I am amazed and really excited about this. Thank you, mysterious benefactors voters. My love for you is ETERNAL.

Thank you!


“Countess Bathory” is a Startling, Intimate Tragedy

On the invitation of playwright, performer, and erstwhile genius Jared McDaris, the Fella and I found ourselves attending a Friday night performance of the new Elizabethan tragedy, “Countess Bathory.” Written in iambic pentameter, styled after Shakespeare’s finest twisted looking-glass stage stories of human ambition, revulsion, and misfortune, “Bathory” is staged in the very intimate space of the Right Brain Project (4001 N. Ravenswood, off the Irving Park Brown Line stop). With only a few set cutouts to represent the stone parapets and walls of various castles, and a red-stained bathtub in the corner, this is clearly a production about the characters, not about their location or even their time period.

Erzsébet Báthory was a Hungarian countess who lived from 1560 to 1614, most famous for her alleged track record of torture, kidnapping, and homicide. According to a number of contemporary accounts and witnesses, Báthory tortured and killed over six hundred young women between the years of 1590 and 1610. She was arrested, tried, and – perhaps most surprisingly – merely condemned to house arrest for the rest of her life. Her legend has slithered through folk histories and fiction for centuries since then, especially the horrific legend of her bathing in the blood of young virgins to keep herself young and beautiful.

PERFECT for a Shakespearean-styled tragedy!

McDaris and a hearty, intrepid crew of actors and designers have created a dizzying fictionalized glimpse into the real history of Báthory and the horrible atrocities she may have committed behind the mask of her nobility and prestige. Costumes by Delena Bradley are exquisite and textured – from the vampirically gorgeous gowns of Báthory herself to the rags her victims wear, Bradley’s details and theme create a clearer vision of the story for an audience who may not be intimately familiar with 16th-century Hungary. The audience collectively gave an audible gasp and murmur of appreciation when the Countess (Mary-Kate Arnold) made her grand entrance for Act II in a stunning red dress that would be right at home on a New York Fashion Week runway.

McDaris’ script is not only exquisitely paced and structured, but it is incredibly intelligent as well. I had moments where I distinctly noted sly nods to lines from various plays in Shakespeare’s own canon, but all was done in tribute, not in parody. It is pleasantly comfortable to follow and listen to if you have an ear for Shakespeare, and McDaris provides impressive speech for his actors – although there is a scene centered on an archaic term for genitalia that may be lost on modern audiences, it is ripe with the Elizabethan style and spirit.

Arnold is an exquisite ball of elemental energy as the bizarre and deeply disturbed Báthory. She is fire, then ice, then something in between, all without even the slightest hint of struggle for her as a performer – Arnold clearly has skill at playing this spectrum of madness. She is equally lovely as she is insane, however, and wears the deranged Báthory’s wildness like a little girl wears her finest fairy-tale princess dress.

Elliott Sowards plays Báthory’s husband Nadasdy with a carefully controlled fire which sometimes rages out of control – Sarah Jean Tilford is scene-stealing as the ratlike, always-in-motion Petr Zadovsky – Aiyanna Wade is pleasant enough in her first scene as demure servant Kate, but provides an astonishing amount of gravitas and stillness throughout the rest of the play, a shudder-worthy character arc that brought to mind the Reek storyline in Game of Thrones. Even throughout Báthory’s wildest outbursts, Wade’s sad, hollowed-out gaze is impressively haunting.

The rest of the cast is wonderful to watch as well, and the space is suitably close quarters for a magnifying glass to be held up to this strange history. Although McDaris takes some liberties with the actual history, it hardly matters – the story is riveting and the words are well-crafted.

On top of these impressive performances and accomplishments, “Countess Bathory” is free to the public (ages 18+ of course). McDaris and his cast and crew are more than deserving of pay for their art – so they have a tip jar which you can contribute to after the show. “Countess Bathory” runs Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7:30 PM until June 25 at the Right Brain Project (4001 N Ravenswood, 4th floor).

Do yourself a favor and see this before it closes – it’s quite honestly a phenomenal evening of theatre.



“Fight Quest” is an Otherworld-ly, Excellent Adventure

Maybe it’s just me, but a good bit of stage combat does wonders for my appreciation of a show. I also happen to love a slight element of unpredictability – the need to ad lib within a story thanks to an unexpected twist or element. I furthermore enjoy fantasy, adventure, and the passionate work of Otherworld Theatre here in Chicago. Add in a witty Game Master and the occasional roll of a 4-sided die, and I’m sold.

Although I must say it is my LEAST favorite die.

Otherworld’s “Fight Quest” is an adventurous, funny, delightfully self-aware show where the audience helps choose the outcome of the story. The Game Master (Bennett Bottero, who is also the “Fight Quest” playwright) introduces the concept in pretty straightforward terms: he has created four ‘avatars’ and will choose an audience member to be the player for this game. The player then chooses an avatar (the Rogue, the Monk, the Ranger and her Wolf, or the Barbarian), and the GM narrates the story – tailoring each chose and twist in the road specifically for that chosen avatar. Along the way, there are mini-games, puzzles to solve, and gambles to make, all unfolded by the player’s choices on how to guide the avatar.

It is innovative, exciting, fun theatre, full of game/fantasy/pop culture references. The cast does a magnificent job of treading the fine line between ad-libbing to riff on whatever reference was made and keeping the intense integrity of a hero on a fantasy quest facing down their cruelest foes. Grace Gimpel‘s Rogue is smirky and saucy, quick with her daggers and unafraid to spin and leap from the Public House’s stage to the ground floor without even looking. The Ranger (Moira Begale, also the director of the piece) is stern and aloof as any elf should be – and wields a broadsword in harmony with her Wolf companion’s vicious flying kicks. The two of them have a few really cool assist moves that had the audience stomping and roaring for more. Kai Young as the Wolf is seriously one of the best parts of the show – committed, impressively athletic, and also the fight choreographer. The two avatars chosen the night I attended were the Monk (played to stoic yet charismatic perfection by Brendan Stallings) and the Barbarian (the impressive and astonishing Justin Verstraete).

Of the avatars, the Monk was the only one to this point who had not ‘debuted’ before an audience, so the player chosen from the audience eagerly selected the Monk to start the evening off. Even when the player’s choices caused hilarious script modifications, Stallings kept his composure as the Monk, and performed admirable feats of quarterstaff and acrobatics. His fight against the Barbarian is particularly well-choreographed and performed.


The debut of the Monk!

The Monk’s turn in the story (a game module Bottero’s GM calls “The Bandits of Hollow Hill”) was so speedy that at the end, the performers decided to do another round. A brief intermission later, a new player from the audience was chosen, and a new champion – the Barbarian.

Part of the introduction to the game is having the audience player decide on their avatar, then choose the avatar’s name and where they’re from, or what title they hold. When the new audience player selected the Barbarian, it was decided (perhaps a little too quickly for the player himself to realize the joke he was making) that this Barbarian would be known as Randall the Savage. Instantly and seamlessly, Verstraete launched into a full Macho Man impersonation which threw the audience into uproarious laughter that did not die down perhaps for the entirety of his run of the story. “Mmmm-mmm!”s and “Yeeeeah”s punctuated every narration the GM provided, and the physicality and gestures were as natural to Verstraete as what I imagined his ‘regular’ performance track to be like. It wasn’t only impressive – it was hilarious, and not a single person in the room (wrestling fans and non-fans alike) was immune to the comedic brilliance.

I guess you could say Verstraete rolled a natural 20 that night.


Randall “The Macho Man” Savage


Anyone who has ever played D&D or read a Choose Your Own Adventure book will understand the formula, and will enjoy this production to its fullest, but the entertainment is real for anyone who sees “Fight Quest.” Because it is different every time, I strongly encourage you to see it – and see it twice if you can. Each avatar is worth watching as the champion, and audience decisions are always a recipe for hilariousness. I praise Bottero’s genius scripting and theatrical model for a unique experience that will not easily be forgotten – and nor would I want to forget it. The lights and sound design do a good job transporting us to various locations in the story with no set pieces (the Public House Theatre is small enough that the fighters need all the space they can get for movement and safety). Perhaps most notably, Stefanie Sajib Johnsen’s costuming is exquisite. Each piece is beautifully made and each avatar is perfectly suited up for battle – the Ranger in elven greens, the Rogue in poisonous purple, the Monk in exotic orange, and the Barbarian in brutal brown with blue face paint. These are not home-cobbled cosplays, they are well-made and well-executed and do the rest of the work transforming the space into a real-life fight in a tabletop roleplaying game.

Otherworld productions are consistently smart, ambitious, and fun to attend. Do yourself a favor, and seek out “Fight Quest.”


Fight Quest will run Sundays April 24th – May 22nd @ 7:00pm at the Public House Theater (3914 N. Clark St. Chicago, IL 60613). Tickets are available online and at the door for $10.

Otherworld Theatre website





Cosplay Eye Spy: C2E2 2016 Edition

Round 1:

  • DC > Harley Quinn
    • Suicide Squad redesign
    • Batman: The Animated Series
    • Steampunk
    • Pin-up/rockabilly
    • Other
  • DC > Poison Ivy 
  • DC > Joker 
  • Marvel > Deadpool
    • As himself
    • As someone/something else
  • Nintendo > Ash/Pokemon Trainer
  • Disney > Frozen > Elsa/Anna
  • Star Wars > Han Solo
  • Star Wars > Princess Leia
  • Game of Thrones > Daenerys Targaryen

Round 2:

  • Ubisoft > Assassin’s Creed > Altair/Ezio/Evie/Jacob/etc.
  • Anime > Attack on Titan > anyone
  • Anime > Sailor Moon > any of the sailor scouts
  • Star Wars > full Mandalorian armor
  • Star Wars > full Stormtrooper armor
  • Marvel > Guardians of the Galaxy > Groot
  • Mad Max: Fury Road > Furiosa

Round 3:

  • Crossover > Star Wars x Disney
  • Tumblr > Marvel > Hawkeye Initiative
  • Tumblr > Tolkien > Party Dad Thranduil
  • Marvel > Jessica Jones
  • Marvel > Daredevil/Matt Murdoch
  • Mad Max: Fury Road > War Boys (with props and/or vehicles)
  • Game of Thrones > Jon Snow

Print it out and play along!