Tag Archives: nerdgirl

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.

Z is for Zuko: #AtoZchallenge

Oh, my sweet baby Zuko.

I knew from the moment I chose the theme of Fictional Favorites that it would be bookended by characters from Avatar: The Last Airbender. This post covers a huge character arc, so if you’ve yet to see the show and want to remain unspoiled, move along. Don’t worry; you can come back and read this once you’ve watched all three seasons.

*****SPOILERS for Avatar: The Last Airbender*****

As the series opens, 16 year old Prince Zuko is on a quest to find the missing Avatar. The completion of this task is the only thing that will allow him to reclaim his birthright, win back the respect of his father, and restore his honor.

Zuko’s drive to find the Avatar defines his every moment, as does his anger. It comes as a surprise to find that he had a decent childhood.
His mother was warm and loving.


Then,  his father Ozai claimed the throne and title of Fire Lord.


Yup; he can also bend lighting.

Zuko’s mother was sent away. The boy was left to the company of his gifted but manipulative sister Azula and the growing disregard and disappointment of his father. When Zuko was 13, he begged to be allowed to attend a military strategy meeting. Speaking out against a plan to sacrifice troops in a diversionary maneuver, he was called out for insubordination by his father. Ozai demanded Zuko reclaim his honor by participating in an Agni Kai, a firebending duel, then stepped up to fight the boy himself. Zuko would not lift a hand against his father, and asked forgiveness. It was denied.
He was scarred, banished, and set upon a fool’s errand to regain his honour.  This is all Zuko has left, and he clings to it.

Despite his father’s disdain, Zuko is a formidable firebender.
He’s also skilled with dual blades.

His very nature is at war with itself: he longs for the acceptance of his war-like father, but finds appeal in the more reasoned, kinder approach of his Uncle Iroh. For a time, it looks as if Zuko might find  peace without fulfilling his quest. Then his sister returns with promises of Ozai’s praise, of a place at his side.


FYI: she bends lightning, too.

Zuko betrays his uncle and they return to the Fire Nation: Iroh in chains, Zuko certain that his honor will be restored at last.  He’s a prince once more.

He remains conflicted. He’s angry, he’s moody, he’s given to the dramatic.
At last, he realizes why he’s so desperately unhappy.



His honor was always his to reclaim for himself: his choice, his path.

Armed with newfound resolve, he confronts his father.

“Zuko: For so long, all I wanted was for you to love me, to accept me. I thought it was my honor I wanted, but really, I was just trying to please you. You, my father, who banished me just for talking out of turn. My father, who challenged me, a thirteen-year-old boy, to an Agni Kai. How could you possibly justify a duel with a child?

Ozai:  It was to teach you respect!

Zuko: It was cruel! And it was wrong.”

He announces his intention to join the Avatar, to bring peace to the Four Nations. He heads to the prison to free his uncle, but Iroh has broken himself out of jail and is long gone. Zuko follows the Gaang, though he struggles with how to approach them. Straightforward seems best.
Naturally, the team is pretty wary, sending him packing.
When he steps up to protect them during an attack (of an assassin he had previously hired, no less), they tentatively agree to give him a chance. Appa is totally cool with this.
He finds his place in Team Avatar gradually. Zuko teaches Aang firebending, though it requires a quick field trip.


He fights alongside Sokka on a mission to rescue Sokka’s father.

They form a comfortable friendship.


On the eve of battle, he is reunited with Uncle Iroh – the man who has been more of a father to him than Ozai ever was. The man he betrayed. The man who loves him and is deeply proud of him.


As the members of the Gaang disperse to their separate fights, Zuko meets Azula in a spectacular Agni Kai. Seriously, the entire scene is stunning, from visuals to choreography to score.
When the war is won, newly crowned Fire Lord Zuko is free to make good his promise of rebuilding a kinder world.
“I promised my uncle that I would restore the honor of the Fire Nation, and I will. The road ahead of us is challenging. A hundred years of fighting has left the world scarred and divided, but with the Avatar’s help, we can get it back on the right path and begin a new era of love and peace. “


#Zuko 2016!

I know I ran long with this, and even so failed to touch on particular character beats, dialogue, and moments that make Zuko such a well-realized, memorable character. Flameo, hotman. Flameo.

And so ends the A to Z Challenge for 2016. Thanks for stopping by, for commenting, for liking, for being the awesome people that you are.

Y is for Yvaine: #AtoZchallenge

Neil Gaiman’s novel (or in its first incarnation, story with pictures) Stardust is, at its heart, a Victorian fairy story. Ordinary village boy is hopelessly in love with beautiful village girl. Boy pledges to fulfill a quest to win girl’s heart, and ventures into an unknown realm to do so. The quest: retrieve a fallen star. The unknown realm: the world beyond the Wall. Faerieland.

When a star falls onto earth, there is light and heat and then cold, pitted rock.  When one lands in Faerie…

“And there was a voice, a high clear, female voice, which said “Ow”, and then, very quietly, it said “Fuck”, and then it said “Ow”, once more.”

And there you have Yvaine. She who once graced the night sky, dancing with radiance, has been slammed to earth. Leg broken. Completely alone. When all but pounced upon by our cheerful young village lad, she’s not in the best of moods.
“You’re the star,” said Tristran, comprehension dawning. “And you’re a clodpoll,” said the girl, bitterly, “and a ninny, a numbskull, a lackwit and a coxcomb!”

When Tristran explains the nature of his quest – return Yvaine to his village crush – she is understandably cross.

“I just want you to know,’ said the girl, coldly, ‘that whoever you are and whatever you intend with me, I shall give you no aid of any kind, nor shall I assist you, and I shall do whatever is in my power to frustrate your plans and devices.’ And then she added, with feeling, ‘Idiot.”

He has no desire to bind Yvaine forever, merely to prove that he was able to retrieve the star and so win the affection of his village girl. In fact, he intends to help the star return to her home when his task is complete.

“That doesn’t happen,” she explained. “Stars fall. They don’t go back up again.” “You could be the first,” he told her.”


Of course the heart of a star holds powerful magic, and there are many who would stop at nothing to claim it. Other forces come into play. Princes and sorceresses seek the fallen star. There is trouble, as in any true quest, at every turn. Tristran finds courage and heroism. Yvaine finds (continued) tenacity and deep, unexpected love.


For his part, Tristran is equally smitten.

“He wondered how it could have taken him so long to realize how much he cared for her, and he told her so, and she called him an idiot, and he declared that it was the finest thing that ever a man has been called.”

When villains are vanquished and affections are sorted, Yvaine has her happy-ever-after with Tristran. They adventure for a while, then settle down to rule his rightful realm. But she is a star, and will shine for time untold. When her love sleeps, forever and at last, she remains: a star bound to earth.

“They say that each night, when the duties of state permit, she climbs, on foot, and limps, alone, to the highest peak of the palace, where she stands for hour after hour, seeming not to notice the cold peak winds. She says nothing at all, but simply stares upward into the dark sky and watches, with sad eyes, the slow dance of the infinite stars.”



postscript: While I fully adore the original novel, I really liked the 2007 movie adaptation; just planting that flag.



X is for X-Wing: #AtoZchallenge

Hello. I am the X-Wing fighter.

There have been many variations on my basic model, but one thing is clear: I am THE fighter of the Rebellion and the Resistance. I am sleek. I am strong. I am ready to bring the pain with my s-foils, my maneuverability, my adjustable weapons array.
I have been paired with the finest pilots.


Wedge Antilles.


Luke Skywalker.


*grrroowwwrr* I mean, Poe Dameron.

I am down with the astromechs.

I can not promise I won’t fall to enemy fire, but I will do my best.

I am as beautiful in flight as I am deadly. Rebellion, Resistance, whatever comes next…


*pew pew pew*

… I am there for you.

W is for Wendy Watson: #AtoZchallenge

Wendy Watson*: aspiring painter. Daughter of a Cuban mother and a father who disappeared under mysterious and unexplained circumstances. Best friend/roomie to  young, photogenic  Lacey Thornfield, controversial spoken word artist. Newly minted employee at the Jolly Fats Wehawkin Temp Agency, but in reality the latest assistant to the Middleman, a hero who defends the world against “threats infra-, extra-, and juxtaterrestrial”.

Her unflappable nature and ability to adapt to the unusual and unexpected make her an ideal sidekick.

Though her new job demands a great deal of her energy and her time, she still makes time for her friends.


Hi, Noser! #stumptheband


Seriously, this friendship will make your heart happy.

For Art Crawl.


She finds a true friend, mentor, and father figure in the titular (straight-laced squeaky-clean and still kickass) Middleman.

If you’ve not seen the show, do seek it out. There are only 12 episodes, and they’re a great deal of fun. Wendy is but one of an excellent ensemble. There’s tight and smart dialogue, rapid fire pop culture references, and a whole lot of charm.



It’s ridiculously quotable, and offers vampire puppets, flying fish, an alien boy band, and an alternate dimension storyline (spoiler: there are goatees aplenty).

And, not for nothing, Natalie Morales rocks the Emma Peel look.

*the 2008 TV version; I’ve yet to read the original graphic novels upon which the show was based.

V is for Samuel Vimes: #AtoZchallenge

There is no more fascinating, deep, and complex character in my Fictional Favorites theme than that of Samuel Vimes, and there is no way I am going to be able to do him justice within the bounds of this challenge*. Of all the characters in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, this is the one who is the closest representative of the author himself. He’s rough, cranky, even-handed, fierce, grounded. He has no patience for fools and even less for bullies. No matter his social standing, he’s a copper. He’s the law. Conflict is crime. It really is that simple.

Sam Vimes was born into abject poverty, but his mother did her best to give him the best she could offer. Their stoop was scrubbed clean, and his clothes were threadbare but meticulously mended. He was sent to school. He was expected to be more.

“Vimes had never mastered ambition. It was something that happened to other people.”

He joined the City Watch at age sixteen.  There was a free uniform and the chance to make some money, but it came under the auspices of corrupt politicians, war, and the shaping of a city that didn’t care for its poor and forgotten. Vimes battles alcoholism, crippling cynicism, and the Beast, a barely contained soul-deep rage.

“These were dangerous thoughts, he knew. They were the kind that crept up on a Watchman when the chase was over and it was just you and him, facing one another in that breathless little pinch between the crime and the punishment.”

But there is the oath he swore. There is the law. There is his understanding of human nature with all of its darkness, but there is an unshakable belief in justice and in a love for his city. For those who serve under him. For the badge, the symbol that keeps the Beast at bay.

“Only crimes could take place in darkness. Punishment had to be done in the light. That was the job of a good Watchman, Carrot always said. To light a candle in the dark.”

He has a reflexive dislike of the upper class (after all, he’s a descendent of Ol’ Stoneface Vimes, who killed the last king of Ankh-Morpork), which makes things awkward when he falls in love with/marries the supremely amazing Lady Sybil Ramkin. There are trappings and expectations which he very grudgingly adopts.

“He hated being thought of as one of those people that wore stupid ornamental armour. It was gilt by association.”

He deals with violence, cruelty, sexism, stupidity, war, and prejudice.

“That’s blasphemy,” said the vampire.

He gasped as Vimes shot him a glance like sunlight. “That’s what people say when the voiceless speak.”

He navigates his own past, mentors his younger self. He battles an ancient darkness, in no small part because he is expected to be there to read his infant son a bedtime story. He’s brutal and kind. He’s broken and astonishingly steadfast. He’s the conflict within us all, and he’s the assurance that what is just, what is right, what is good will win out.

“He wanted to go home. He wanted it so much that he trembled at the thought. But if the price of that was selling good men to the night, if the price was filling those graves, if the price was not fighting with every trick he knew…then it was too high.”

He’s also wry, funny, unexpectedly charming, and no little bit sexy. Vimes is a great gift from a deft and accomplished storyteller. Thank you, Terry Pratchett. Thank you for  Sam Vimes. I’m honored to know you both.


How do they rise?


*keep it concise? There are four solid pages of quotes alone.