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Swords, Flash, and Glamour

Many of y’all know I’m a performer at the New York Renaissance Faire. In addition to directing, singing, dancing, and acting as part of the Robin Hood scenario, I’m also a stage combatant.


*photo credit: Richard Jones*

Straight up: it’s beyond cool. Tiny Kelly grew up on fantasy novels, stories where swords were wielded in the name of justice/moving the plot along. Tiny Kelly dreamt* of learning to swing steel, all the while realizing that chances of actually learning to do so were very, VERY slim**. Then Ren Faire came into my life, and I met people who were exceedingly adept in stage combat, and I lucked into the chance to actually live my childhood dreams. The full story is rather more nuanced than that, but we’ll save that for another day.

Fast forward to now, my fifteenth (non-consecutive) year of performing. In addition to performing, I’m now a director and head of our Fighters Guild. I work with incredibly gifted and driven Fight Choreographers and Captains. Their hard work, along with that of our combatants, makes what we do look easy.

It’s not. It’s a slog. It’s frustrating. This is a stunt show. This is physical storytelling. Safety is paramount, but there are injuries. Story is supremely important, but there are blocks. Our stages are swathes of lawn or sand, without shelter or shade. Rain or shine, we are there, doing our damnedest. We put in extra rehearsal weekends: 8+ hours of full fight days. We show up among the earliest to the costume shop to change, grab weapons, run fights. We are the last to leave after a full performance day: weapons have to be transported back from the grounds, and then sanded, oiled, stowed away.


But damn if our folks don’t make it look amazing, even on those hot and humid and soul-sapping days. Damn if they don’t inspire others to want to be a part of it. And exhausting though it may be, I am honored beyond all measure that I get to be a part of it myself.

Tiny Kelly would expect no less.

*literally: I had recurring dreams of entering a sword dancer’s circle (ta, Jennifer Roberson!), and of riding my magical white horse while brandishing a gorgeous blade (credit: Mercedes Lackey)

**tiny Wisconsin town, followed by tiny Connecticut town, offered zero opportunity



Ren Faire rehearsals make for long days. I was on site at the extra-early hour of 8am (aborted ukulele lesson; I used the time to practice my own music and stretch) and didn’t leave until 6pm*. Spent the day in fight choreography, blocking, running scenes, running fights. Because my role is active, and because I need to be mindful of footwear, my pre-‘fully costumed attire’ is as practical as I can make it: workout leggings, boots, long tank top.

I mention all of this because, well…

Stopped at the store on my way home**.  A cashier commented on my ensemble. “Love the boots. Cool look!” And then… and then… “Ugly wallet, though. Totally ruins the entire look.”

First of all, it’s my Loungefly R2D2 wallet.


Look at that prettiness! LOOK!

Secondly, what?

“It’s so nerdy.”

I smiled, but only because I wasn’t sure what else to do. It’s my default. I am not a badass. “You know why I’m dressed this way? Because I just spent ten hours at the Renaissance Faire. I swing swords and pretend to be part of the Robin Hood Band.” Pause. “There is nothing about me that is not nerdy.”

“Oh,” the cashier said after a moment. “I thought you were a biker.”

And nothing against bikers, because I’m certain you’re lovely/imposing/whatever it is that makes you feel amazing, but really? I’m perfectly happy to be with my tribe of improvisational beasts, of singers, of dancers, of acrobats, of archers, of crafters and poets and Shakespearean scholars and swordsmen.

Yeah, we’re nerdy. And we make it look damned good.


*hours for performance days are even longer. super glamorous, y’all!
**my actors work hard; they deserve cookies, and I most certainly wasn’t going to have time to bake tonight.

Sleep brings no joy…

Yes, I get it, Emily Bronte. Sleep should bring respite, offer the chance to recharge. It’s haven. It’s a refuge.

Unless you’re me.

In what might come as a surprise to absolutely no one, I’m not the most confident and self assured person. I carry considerable worry, concern, and fear that at any given moment I’m letting a whole lot of people down. Fortunately, my sub-conscious is there for me. It rakes in all of the angst and self-doubt and packages it neatly into gut-wrenching, exhausting Stress Dreams. So far, these dreams have slotted themselves into three very tidy categories.

1. Packing/clutter. These dreams involve packing up and moving from a hotel room, a dorm room, an apartment, a house. Whatever I manage to pack is continually dwarfed by what still remains to be sorted. This dream is defined by frustration and a whole lot of tears.

2. Unattainable destination. These dreams find me on a journey that will never be finished. There may be epic derailment (“so sorry, have to go fight a manticore”) or something more mundane (“This ticket is only good for a Sunday that lands on an even number. You’re going to have to wait.”). I may be sent on a path that finds the stones eroding beneath my feet, where I fall into fathomless waters to literally find myself out of my depth*. This dream is defined by deeming myself to be less important than everyone else, and to the destruction of foundations.

3. Claustrophobic entryways. These dreams deny me entry into places of security/creativity/comfort due to tiny portals, points of entry though which I would have to squeeze and squirm and hold my breath. Just typing this sentence made me uneasy. This dream is generally defined by inability to move, make a decision, or breathe without hyperventilating.

There are variations on a theme. Sometimes the unattainable destination involves getting to a rehearsal or performance on time/with matching boots. Claustrophobic scenarios might place pets in peril**. Clutter might find my dearest love disgusted with my inability to Get Things Done, and deciding to leave me***. Haven’t even touched on the zombie invasion theme.  I’m down with the idea that dreams are a way to sift through the crap your mind accumulates on any given day. I own that I’m sensitive, that I shoulder more worry than I ought.

But then again, every so often, there’s a night where I make lifelong friends with a unicorn. Where I hang out and watch Downton Abbey with my mom, holding my breath because I don’t dare to mention that she can’t be here, but so grateful that she is. Where Ewan McGregor asks me out, but even in Dreamland I can’t accept because my real life sweetie is just that great. A night where I’ve kicked off the blankets and am cold and hovering on the edge of wakefulness. And then, my brain gives me Poe Dameron (real life: pulling up the sheet over my shoulders) curled up around me and  BB-8 (real life: my one-eyed kitty Esme) snuggled up in the crook of my knees

Sleep may bring you respite or joy,challenge or gift. Make of it what you will.


*honestly, brain. you could try a bit harder.
**this went horrifically dark
***took me days (in the waking world) to realize we were good, that he wasn’t going anywhere



Q is for Queen of Attolia: #AtoZchallenge

I’m not normally precious about spoilers for books that are several years old, but the rules are a bit different for the Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief series*. The character work is so rich, the plot so deliberately mapped, the intrigue so delightfully interwoven that I want first time readers to enjoy it to the fullest.

So, fair warning:                     *****SPOILERS AHEAD*****

Irene was once but a princess of her patriarchal land. When her brother died (read: was assassinated), her hand was given to the son of a Baron. Thrust into a position of potential power and considerable danger, she hid behind a facade of shy disingenuousness, all the while observing. Learning. Honing a keen mind. When her father was killed, she made her move: she married her betrothed, poisoned him with a quickness, and took the name of Attolia, Queen of her country.


looking for source to credit

“She was the stone-faced queen, then and ever after. She had needed the mask to rule, and she had been glad to have it.”

She inherited a conflict with Sounis, an uneasy peace with Eddis, and tenuous negations with the ambitious, acquisitive Mede Empire. This was thrown onto the shoulders of a teenage girl who never expected to be in a position of rule, who was never trained to this sort of negotiation, but who cared deeply about her country and her people.

“She thought of the hardness and the coldness she had cultivated over those years and wondered if they were the mask she wore or if the mask had become her self. If the longing inside her for kindness, for warmth, for compassion, was the last seed of hope for her, she didn’t know how to nurture it or if it could live.”

Attolia was willing to give over the things that might diminish her power, her capacity to protect. She denied compassion. Pretended she did not care, could not love. Her actions were subtle and often cruel.

“I inherited this country when I was only a child, Nahuseresh. I have held it. I have fought down rebellious barons. I’ve fought Sounis to keep the land on this side of the mountains. I have killed men and watched them hang. I’ve seen them tortured to keep this country safe and mine. How did you think I did this if I was a fool with cow eyes for any handsome man with gold in his purse?”

Her shields were strong, but not without weakness.

“He looked at her and tilted his head very slightly in wonder. He had forgotten, as he always forgot, how beautiful she was. Her hair was held away from her face by the ruby and gold headband that crossed her dark brows. Her skin was flawless and so fair as to be translucent. She dressed as always in an imitation of Hephestia, but it was far easier to imagine the impersonal cruelty of the Great Goddess than to see cruelty in the face in the Queen of Attolia. Looking at her, Eugenides smiled. Attolia saw his smile, without any hint of self-effacement or flattery or opportunism, a smile wholly unlike that of any member of her court, and she hit him across the face with her hand.”

Only the most deft of liars could see through this, and, beyond all reason, love her the more for it.
“Damn him, damn him, damn him.”



If you’ve read and enjoyed the series, you know. If not, give them a go. They hold up to compulsive re-reading (she said, speaking from experience/having to tape the bindings of her paperbacks together) and some serious character swooning. #Costis2016
The Thief
The Queen of Attolia
The King of Attolia
A Conspiracy of Kings

*note: the titular Queen’s Thief, Gen (Eugenides) was the very reason I wanted to explore Fictional Favorites in this April challenge. Alas, I couldn’t keep my love for him to a reasonable, concise blog entry. Hopefully you’ll find out for yourself if/when you read the books.

P is for Poe Dameron: #AtoZchallenge

I spoke a bit yesterday about my disenchantment with the Star Wars franchise following the prequels, so I need not revisit that discussion. I will say that my enthusiasm for Episode VII: The Force Awakens was cautious. I only needed it not to be terrible. The logo appeared, the fanfare sounded, the crawl set the scene…

And then there was a desert planet, an adorable droid, a weary and wise older man… and this guy.

The most daring pilot in the Resistance. Poe Dameron.

Resistance is in his blood. He’s the son of A-Wing pilot Shara Bey and Rebellion soldier Kes Dameron.
In a way, he’s the heir to Han Solo’s rakish, don’t-tell-me-the-odds sensibility.
When he’s captured by Kylo Ren and is forced to his knees, there’s a moment of silence. Then, Poe lifts his gaze.

“Do I talk first or you talk first? I talk first?”

Cocksure bravado, as is this.
He maintains that assurance and strength through abduction and torture. When he’s liberated by an unlikely ally, he’s quick to assess the situation and sees through the false righteousness with a quickness.
“Poe: Why are you helping me? 
Stormtrooper: Because it’s the right thing to do. 
Poe: You need a pilot. 
Stormtrooper: I need a pilot.
Poe: *grin*  “weregonnadothis


One of the first things he does (after calmly liberating a Tie Fighter) is give a name to his new ally, a person who has only known himself as a number. Anyone who’s read fairy tales, or anything, knows that names have power. This is a gift.

“Poe: What’s your name?
Stormtrooper: FN-2187.
Poe: F – What?
Stormtrooper: That’s the only name they ever gave me. 

Poe: Well, I ain’t using it. FN, huh? Finn, I’m gonna call you Finn, is that alright?
Stormtrooper: Finn, yeah. Finn, I like that. I like that.

Poe: I’m Poe, Poe Dameron. 
Finn: Good to meet you, Poe. 
Poe: Good to meet you too, Finn. “

Their camaraderie is easy and warm, born of necessity but defined by personal integrity.


Poe also shares a deep and affectionate bond with his (super adorable) astromech BB-8.

He’s a fine leader and seriously talented pilot.

He’s trusted by his team, he’s trusted by the General (aka Princess). He rocks a jacket that suits all of the sexiest people.





Newly Minted Hero




And he’s portrayed by an actor who clearly delights in the chance to be a part of this world, to be a hero for a new generation, and who refuses to be anything less than his amazing self.


What color is your light saber?

There’s a wealth of new material cropping up around Poe Dameron, both in comic books and novels. I relish every opportunity to learn more about him, and look forward to seeing how he shapes the next two Star Wars movies.



O is for Obi-Wan: #AtoZchallenge

Today’s fictional favorite is rather specific. Yes, I am here to talk about Obi-Wan Kenobi, but not the Old Ben we first see in Episode IV, fond of him as I am.



Aww. That smile.

Padawan Obi-Wan is earnest and adorable, but he’s not quite up to standard when it comes to the character I want to discuss.



Aww. That smile.

Let’s talk young, bearded Obi-Wan. I’m not the biggest fan of the prequels, but Ewan McGregor’s portrayal of Kenobi is leaps-and-bounds the best thing about them.


Can you, as youth culture would ask, even?

It’s as if he ignored the tepid direction and decided to give the character what interest and depth he could, balanced with a wry sensibility.

Ta for that, by the bye.


Remember ‘fun’?

That excellence is expanded upon in the Clone Wars animated series*. Brilliantly voiced by James Arnold Taylor, we’re afforded a richer opportunity to see Obi Wan as warrior, diplomat, and mentor.


sidebar: Thank you, Clone Wars, for writing such a fantastic Anakin.


He’s damn near fearless, and able to work around the bit that isn’t, which makes him an outstanding general. He’s a good friend. He’s a fine Jedi. He has loved, deeply, even if he wasn’t able to act upon it.


That is some sweet blade work. #thatswhatshesaid

He effortlessly balances self-possession, strength, and humour.


Aww. That smile.

Lastly, and entirely superficially, the beard completes the red-gold framing that hightlights those piercing blue eyes.


Badass and beautiful.


Bearded Obi-Wan = Best Obi-Wan. That is all.

*on the off chance you’re not familiar, this takes place between Ep. II: Attack of the Clones and Ep. III: Revenge of the Sith.



N is for Naga: #AtoZchallenge

I realize this is two days in a row for the Avatar-verse, but it boasts some truly fine animal companions. Avatar Aang had his sky bison. Aang’s successor, Korra, has a polar bear dog. That’s right, a freakin’ polar bear dog.


Pictured: Korra, Naga in in THE LEGEND OF KORRA on Nickelodeon. Photo: Nickelodeon. ©2012 Viacom, International, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Raised by Korra from puppyhood, she’s more than companion: Naga is a dear friend.

She’s a sweet girl, and free with her affection.


She gives good greeting.nagahappygreet


Naga makes friends easily.


Pabu: *boop*


She’s a patient playmate.

She worries over her friend…

… and is quick to defend her.

She appreciates a good belly rub.

Whether Korra’s been away six hours or six months, Naga will always give her an enthusiastic welcome home.

It’s what best friends do.