Why We Need Heroes

Steve MedallionI’m a geek at heart, I’ll admit it.

I grew up watching Star Trek, Star Wars and the original Battlestar Galactica. I once won a contest for tickets to a science-fiction convention by answering a Star Trek trivia question on a radio show. I have a Next Gen costume that I made despite the fact I possess no sewing skills whatsoever. That’s what fandom love will do for you. 🙂

I graduated to Babylon 5 (which I still say was among the best sci-fi television ever on the air), the X-Files, and Firefly. When ‘television’ became live-streaming and broadband, I was there, watching my shows: Torchwood, Doctor Who, the Stargate series…

What attracted me to these shows was something I am finding scarce among television shows today. It’s the sense of Team. It’s the group of people who somehow, together, supersede their individuality. It’s the notion that this group, be it the Pegasus expedition, or the crew of the Enterprise, or Misfit Toys band of characters on Serenity, are people you want at your side and covering your back. They are better together than they are alone. I miss that in this wave of reality television, gritty cop shows, and post-apocalyptic, Lord-of-the-Flies type shows that are predominant today. I don’t want to see back-stabbing and small-minded pettiness. I get plenty of that in real life.

Peggy's CompactI know why this kind of show is the driving force in television right now. Science fiction television is expensive to make and usually has a fierce, but smaller than national average of viewers. We are a jaded and cynical audience as well. It is easier to believe in the dark universes of fairy tales and vampires than the optimistic universe of Gene Roddenberry. But there is little out there that can make me drop everything and tune in week after week. Little that compels me to weave further stories about these characters or that universe. That makes me fly across the country to meet the actors, that drives me to spend months putting together a costume.

I think it is because science fiction and fantasy lend itself more easily to people spinning off their own stories in their minds. I’ve been writing ‘fanfiction’ in my head for as long as I can remember–I just didn’t know that’s what it was called. In fact, I thought I was strange because I did this, and on more than one occasion, tried cutting it out of my life. Little did I know that I was purposely uprooting my passion and throwing it in the dust heap. Fortunately, the roots of true writers are tenacious and tough, and the little bastard of creativity kept sending out new sprouts.

But I also think it is because science fiction leads itself more to role models I can identify with myself. Strong female characters who can take names and kick ass along with the boys. Strong male characters that are a little bit better than you are. That give you something to look up to, to strive to be. I don’t want a hero who’s perfect–but I don’t want one with feet of clay, either. I don’t fall in love with characters that are like my boss, or my co-worker, or me.  I want something better than that. A higher standard to hold up and live up to. I can deal with heroes that need redemption–as long as you show me that spark worth saving is there.

Peggy Carter's ShoesRight now my current hero is Peggy Carter from the 2011 Captain America movie. She is the embodiment of everything I love in a heroine: she is tough as nails but she never loses sight of her femininity. She plays by the rules, even though she doesn’t agree with them, unless something so important comes up that she willingly breaks them. Actress Haley Atwell, who played Peggy Carter to perfection, is quoted as saying this about her: “I likened her character to that famous Ginger Rogers quote. ‘She can do everything Captain America can do, but backwards and in high heels’. She’s an English soldier through and through, although she always looks fabulous. She might stand there with a machine-gun shooting Nazis, but she’s obviously gone to the loo beforehand and applied a bit of lipstick. She doesn’t need to be rescued. That’s exciting to me – her strength. I think she’s quite stubborn, a slightly frustrated woman who struggles with being a woman in that time. But more importantly she’s a modern woman and she sees something in Captain America that she relates to, and becomes kindred spirits. He treats her very differently to how she’s been treated by lots of men, in this kind of dominated world she lives in. So she’s very much a fighter.” (Wikipedia)

Victory RedI adore Peggy Carter as a character. I loved her relationship with Steve Rogers in Captain America–she liked him before the transformation, but she was a little gobsmacked by the transformation, you could tell. Still she kept her cool and downplayed her attraction until the point at which she saw another woman flirting with him. Just after she catches him being kissed by the aggressive flirt, there’s a scene in which Rogers and Stark showed her the shield they were testing. They ask her what she thinks and she pulls out a gun and shoots point blank at the shield while Steve is holding it. She puts the gun down and says the shield seems to work just fine to her. Simply. Awesome. She is a wonderful character. I was sorry to realize that we probably wouldn’t see any more of her as the series franchise has left WW2 behind and moved into our own time frame now.

Then I heard that Marvel had made a short film with Atwell reprising the role of Peggy Carter as part of the Blu-Ray DVD extras. Well, I don’t have a Blu-Ray, and my ability to see the film was nil, but it got leaked on the internet and thanks to an eagle-eyed friend, I did get to see it. You know what? Peggy is in mourning because she thinks Steve is dead–but she is going on with her life too. She is fighting a system that doesn’t value her because she’s a woman, yet she is not only doing her job but better than everyone else too. This is what women have been doing for decades to make it possible for women like me to work in the profession that I do. And though I know she is a fictional character, wondering “What would Peggy do?” helps me straighten my skirt (when I happen to be wearing one) and lift my chin and get on with my life.

Maybe that makes me the geekiest of geeks. But I’d rather live my life with my fictional heroes to guide me than a dark, colorless existence without them.

Peggy Carter Sun-2_resizedNo, I’m no Hayley Atwell. That’s not the point. The people who celebrate International Walk Like Beckett Day are not trying to look like Stana Katic. They are embracing the power that the character of Kate Beckett gives them. For you, it might be Ivanova from B5, or Brenda Leigh Johnson from The Closer. Maybe it’s John Sheppard from Stargate Atlantis or Mal from Firefly. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that if your heroes give you the strength to make it through the day, if you are a little better at the end of the day because of them–embrace the power they give you. 🙂

 

I do think in small part the reason Peggy Carter resonates with me so much is the amount of time I spent researching WW2 and the Battle of Britain in particular, for my most recent M/M romance, The Boys of Summer. If you’re looking for a hot summer read, then you might want to check it out!

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Coming Soon From Sarah Madison!

I have to snort a bit at the title of this post–it feels as though I should run a movie trailer, doesn’t it? But there are a lot of things going on right now that I’m very excited about!

Next month (32 days by the website’s counter!), I’ll be attending Galacticon 3 for the 35th anniversary of Battlestar Galactica! I’m a BSG fan from way back, and I was delighted to be invited to attend this convention as part of a panel discussion on fanfiction, as well as helping to host a workshop on writing fanfiction (or really, writing sci-fi in general). Imagine my glee when I found out that ComicPalooza was being held at the same time! Or when I discovered that Galaction is a HUGE event! I’ve been to sci-fi conventions before, but never one of this magnitude. I’m thrilled, and just a little nervous too. BSG Scriptwriter Terrance McDonnell is also going to be on the panel, and I’m not sure I won’t be tongue-tied as a result!

What do you think? Should I bring my Peggy Carter costume? I confess, I am looking for an excuse to wear it again.

Peggy Carter ShoesFirst, there are the shoes. C’mon, these are rocking shoes, aren’t they? 🙂 Then there is the time and effort I put into putting the costume together in the first place. I’m still having trouble with the skirt though. The one I got originally was too long, but when I had it hemmed, I didn’t take into account how short the jacket was that went with it, and I ended up with a gap at the waist. I’ve got another skirt now that fits beautifully, but is too dark. I’m not sure I can match the color to the jacket by May 23rd!

But then there are the extras that go with it! A dear friend of mine found the exact shade of red lipstick I’d been searching for: Victory Red by Elizabeth Arden–the favorite shade of women in WW2 and still manufactured today! You should have heard me squeal when I got my surprise package in the mail. Not only did it contain the right lipstick, but my friend went the extra mile,providing me with props as well! Lipstick

I guess it’s pretty obvious I have a interest in WW2 history. The clothing of the period fascinates me as well. I loved the Captain America movie, and I adore Peggy Carter. I think one of the reasons I love her as a character is that she never lost sight of her femininity, and yet she was as tough as nails. Truly a heroine I can look up to and admire. So you can imagine my reaction when, along with the lipstick, I discovered an era-authentic compact by Stratton, which my friend assured me was what all the women used in Britain during the war. But the crowning glory of the package was the antiqued locket that my friend made for me–complete with a picture of Steve Rogers in it!

Locket and CompactI mean, seriously? How cool is that? So you see, I really HAVE to take my Peggy Carter costume with me to Galacticon/ComicPalooza, right? I thought so.

Sadly, I have to confess that I have at least three Star Trek costumes, as well as one Battlestar Galactica one as well. And a Peggy Carter leather jacket, a BSG jacket, a Stargate Atlantis jacket… I think I’m going to need a bigger suitcase…

In other news, I have an interview and excerpt from The Boys of Summer up at Chris T. Kat’s blog, please do drop by, check it out, and leave a comment. As a matter of fact, I have a bunch of interviews lined up, including some giveaways too. I’m going to be on The Armchair Reader, Savvy Author’s website, doing a Q&A on Love Romances Cafe’s site, and doing some other guest blogging in the weeks running up to Galacticon. I’m going to be hosting people here in the upcoming weeks as well! I’m also putting together swag bags for Galacticon, and will be holding a contest soon for swag and a copy of The Boys of Summer. 

I’m planning to upload The Boys of Summer to ARe and Createspace this weekend (barring more formatting issues), so hopefully those of you that have been holding out for a print copy won’t have to wait much longer.

And believe it or not, I am writing. I’m working on two different projects with my good friend Claire Russett–we’re contemplating writing stories together for both of our sci-fi universes. I’m working on other stories as well, but having a hard time settling down to writing a particular one. Oh, I know, how about a poll?

What would you like to see me working on next?

What do you want Sarah Madison to work on next?

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Dreamspinner celebrates Easter with discounts for next 48 hours!

Hey everyone!

Welcome to Dreamspinner Press

Quality M/M Romantic Fiction

From now through Monday, Dreamspinner Press is having a 25% sale on all in-stock items! Now’s your chance to stock up on items for those rainy days in April when the best way to spend the afternoon is lazing on the couch under a blanket with an e-reader in hand and a cup of tea beside you. 🙂

Easter Sale Gay Romance ebooks

In other news, The Boys of Summer is completed and in editing, and the wonderful Reese Dante is designing a cover. I’m so excited about this one, guys! It’s like I keep getting hints of a wonderful birthday present to come! I can’t wait to share it with all of you!
I’m looking at a early May release date for The Boys of Summer, as I will be attending Galacticon 3 and its sister convention, ComicPalooza, May 23-26th in Houston. We’re going to have SUCH a blast! Galacticon is a once-every five year convention celebrating Battlestar Galactica in all its forms, and this year, it is the 35th anniversary of the original series!

Fellow author Anna Butler and editor/metalworker/jewelry maker Jennifer Roberson will be co-hosting a panel discussion with me on fanfic as well as a writing workshop.

Have you seen the guest list for these conventions? (Patrick Stewart! James Edward Olmos! Cary Elwes! Avery Brooks! Peter Davidson! I could go on and on, really, check the links!) The activities planned? OMG, this is going to be HUGE. If you can possibly make it, you should come! We’d love to see you!

 

convention-flierThis means I get to wear my Peggy Carter costume, right?  *VBG*

Claire Russett has a new release today: Networked (of the Argo Series)

Networked_postcard_front_DSPMy good friend Claire Russett has a new release today! Networked is the second in set of stories based on the space station Argo. Claire tells me that when she originally wrote Catalyst, the first in the Argo series, she had no idea she would be writing any more books set in this universe, but that she became intrigued by Chris and Duncan, and decided that she had to tell their story.

Based on this blurb, I can see why!

Blurb:
Networked
An Argo Novel

Major Duncan Harris is a Union soldier serving aboard the space station Argo, leading one of the station’s exploratory teams. He is quiet, reserved, and has sworn off any personal relationships since his last one ended messily. Besides, working closely with various team members makes him uncomfortable.

One of Argo’s engineers, Dr. Christophe Vabre, recently started serving on Duncan’s team. Chris is slowly getting to know Duncan, but Duncan seems determined to keep him at arm’s length, and his mixed messages confuse Chris. When, on one of their missions, they discover a piece of technology that allows people to share their thoughts, Chris never imagines he’ll use it with Duncan—or that the machine will reveal the depth of Duncan’s true emotions.

Duncan is horrified to find himself not only sharing his feelings but forcing Chris to reciprocate his advance. Mortified, he flees Chris’s lab—but before Duncan can discover the truth, an attack on Argo forces the station to evacuate. He and Chris will have to team up one more time if they want to save their home.

MM Good Book Reviews has already given it a 4 Hearts Review!

Networked is now available as an e-book and paperback today from Dreamspinner Press!

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In other news, I just purchased my plane tickets for Galacticon 3 in Houston May 23-26! I’m going to be co-hosting a panel discussion on Fanfiction: It’s All Grown Up, and assisting in a writer’s workshop along with fellow author Anna Butler and chain mailler/editor Jennifer Roberson. I’m so psyched about having this lovely excuse opportunity to attend the 35th anniversary of Battlestar Galactica! Not to mention, ComicPalooza is being held the same weekend in the same convention center! Maybe I’ll have an excuse to bring along my Peggy Carter costume, eh?

As part of the writer’s workshop, Galacticon is holding a open call for short stories in a fanfic contest! You don’t have to attend the con to enter the contest, so if you know of someone who writes BSG fanfic, or if you want to take a crack at it yourself, check out this link! But hurry, the deadline is coming up soon!

And to give you an idea of what you might expect if you come to Galacticon, here’s a sneak preview with Richard Hatch!

 

 

The Evolution of Halloween

Welcome to my Howloween Blog Hop post! Anyone leaving a comment here will be in the running to win a signed, print copy of Going For Gold, the M/M Olympic themed anthology from MLR Press, including my sport horse novella, Lightning in a Bottle (if you live in the continental US) or the reader’s choice from my backlist in e-book form (if you live outside the US). Comments for the contest will be considered up until Nov 1, then a winner will be selected randomly from among the commenters.

The contest is now closed and the winner is vitajex! I’ll be contacting you via email–thanks for playing along, guys!

When I was a child, Halloween was one of my favorite holidays. I didn’t care for the Fourth of July with the fireworks and the cookouts. It took far too long to get to the park where we could see the fireworks display, and even longer getting out at the end of the evening. Ditto with New Year’s. A lot of noise and the making of resolutions no one ever keeps. Valentine’s Day was usually a bust for me too; with me complaining loudly to all who would listen that V-day was a commercial holiday orchestrated by society to force us into buying flowers and dinner out at a fancy restaurant. Thanksgiving seemed like a lot of work for an hour’s worth of good dining (though the days of leftovers helped make up for it!). Christmas Eve, in which everything was still a potential, (and nothing yet had disappointed) was always my favorite over Christmas Day.

But when I was growing up, Halloween had a special kind of magic all its own. For starters, there was the dressing up and going Trick or Treating. I don’t know about you guys, but Trick or Treating was a Big Deal when I was a kid. My grandmother had made me a tiger suit when I was very small–and being a sickly child who didn’t grow much, I was able to wear this outfit year after year. I loved my tiger suit. It fit over my entire body, compete with tail and a hoodie with ears.  My mom would draw whiskers on my face with her eyebrow pencil, and I would drape my tail over my arm as I headed out the door with my pumpkin basket to collect my candy.

Back then, Halloween was the culmination of my favorite time of the year.  I loved going back to school when I was a child. I loved that first day in September when the temperature dropped by 20 degrees and you had to take a sweater with you, ‘just in case’. I loved the crackle of dry leaves underfoot–the scratchy sound they made on the pavement as you walked through them. Even the air was different–smelling of wood smoke and damp earth, cool and crisp as a Red Delicious apple. October was all red and yellow leaves, gorgeous afternoons with bars of light that lay in heavy bands of gold across the path in the woods. November is different. By the time November arrives, the trees are bare, the afternoons are cold and rainy. Halloween is the last, best week of the most glorious time of year.

But on Halloween, everyone would pull out the stops.  People carved pumpkins and placed lighted candles within to indicate they were receptive to Trick or Treaters. We would wait, dressed in our costumes, until dusk, after which we would hit the streets. Back then, people knew their neighbors. My favorite house to visit belonged to Mrs. Hutchins–she made the most incredible gingerbread men–each individually decorated.  Not to be outdone, my mother made popcorn balls and created little airplanes out of Popsicle sticks and Lifesavers–the tube of Lifesavers making the body of the plane, and two Lifesavers were used as wheels.

Somewhere along the way, Halloween changed. Pixie stix were found to be laced with cyanide, and candy was showing up with razor blades inside. My father insisted that our candy be radiographed at the hospital where he worked before we ate it, and my parents refused to to let us eat anything that was homemade anymore. I outgrew my tiger suit, and trick or treating in the neighborhood was replaced by Halloween parties. My parents were not big party throwers, so Halloween became something to set aside, as another part of my childhood that I shelved on growing up.

I noticed the other night that in the upscale neighborhoods near my house, homes are decorated for Halloween now as seriously as some people take Christmas, with colored lights and inflatable displays that go up at the first of October and stay up until Thanksgiving (when the Christmas decorations come out). Some are gorgeously and tastefully decorated with little orange lights and garlands of brightly colored leaves winding around the railings. Some are a little more out there…

Great. One more thing that I can’t keep up with due to lack of time. As it is, I no longer decorate for Christmas. I just can’t do all that work when half the time, I’m not even there. Decorating your house for the holidays is so that you can pull up at night and see the lights glowing in the impending dusk. It sort of dampens the effect if you have to go inside and turn the lights on first, you know?

I never lost my love of dressing up in costume, however. My mother, freed from the pressure of keeping up with the likes of Mrs. Hutchins, refused to acknowledge the day. One year, I’d come home from college for the weekend, only to find my mother heading out to a movie, house darkened, no candy available.

Well, screw that, I thought. After she left, I went to the store and bought some candy. When I got back to the house, I scrounged around until I put together an outfit that could have passed for a woman in Colonial Williamsburg–a floor length skirt, a long sleeved, high-necked blouse.  I piled my hair on top of my head and picked up a camping lantern. I left the lights off in the house, and wandered through the rooms with the lantern, pausing in windows so I could be seen from the street.  I have to admit, more than one car screeched to a stop when passing the house!

I decided that if anyone rang the doorbell, I would liberally hand out candy without speaking.  I did get a few callers, though I suspect the lights being out discouraged most of them. I do remember one small child, leaning in with her basket to receive her candy, saying in a voice filled with awe, “You’re beautiful!”

I didn’t hear that a lot when I was young. It made an impression. 🙂

Somehow, I never let go of Halloween. Even with nowhere to go, I still wanted to dress for the day. There’s something about putting on a costume that is so liberating. I tend to dress as favorite characters from movies or stories, as opposed to the Sexy Witch, or the Sexy Vampire. Dressing as a favorite character imbues you with their strengths, and for a brief period of time, you are your hero.  I’ve written about Walking like Beckett and what I’ve learned from that, but over the years, I’ve been Athena from the original Battlestar Galactica series, and I’ve worn my Star Trek Next Gen (science blue) outfit for years. I’ve purchased the short dress uniform from the Star Trek Reboot, and Starbuck’s uniform from the new Battlestar Galactica, too.

But making my own costume makes me happier than any pre-made one. There’s something about the hunt for all the right components that’s akin to searching the used bookstores for an elusive out-of-print book. Sure, you could probably find it online–but the treasure hunt is part of the fun. This year, I’ve decided to go as Peggy Carter from Captain America. My word, I love the feisty heroine! Take a strong female character (strong, not bitchy!), dress her in a WW II uniform and put lipstick on her, and I am your devoted slave. Peggy Carter is everything I would like to be–tough but feminine, purpose-driven but believing in heroes, and one helluva shot!  I loved how–period not withstanding–Peggy was not simply the love interest in the movie, but out there in the thick of things fighting with everyone else.

So for months now, I’ve been putting together a costume. An authentic uniform (or as close as I can get). Olive military jacket and skirt (wool). A white shirt. An olive tie. Silver wings. Kick-ass shoes.

I mentioned to a friend that I needed to find just the right ‘wartime red’ lipstick to finish the outfit, and she surprised me with a package the other day. She discovered that the favorite lipstick of the day was Victory Red by Elizabeth Arden, and that they still make it! She sent me a tube, along with an era authentic compact (Stratton–what ALL the English women used), and the piece de la resistance, a pendant with the likeness of Captain Steve Rogers embedded in it!

Do you know how much fun it is when your friends get involved in your fandom loves?  It’s magical.  It’s what Halloween is all about.

Be sure to leave your email in your comments so that I can contact you if you are the winner!

Going for Gold is the M/M Olympic themed anthology from MLR Press! Ice skating, diving, equestrian eventing, competitive shooting and more! There’s something for everyone (especially if you like hot athletes in Speedos, or tight breeches and tall boots!)

Coming Soon from Sarah Madison…

Today is rainy and cold, as much of the US is experiencing a cold snap for the first time this fall. My thoughts turn to autumn and how this is my favorite time of the year. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) I’ve been much busier than usual, which has really cut into my writing time. I have a little unexpected time off these next few days and I plan to spend it working on Hold the Reins, the expanded version of my novella Lightning in a Bottle, which is part of the Going for Gold Anthology from MLR Press.

I love these characters and the sport horse world, so writing this story should be a snap. right? Not really. I have to make sure I don’t duplicate or reveal too much of what happens in the already printed novella section, as well as try and fix some things that weren’t completely developed there (I re-wrote a huge bit of LIAB on the fly, with the blessing of MLR Press, so that writing this expanded version would even make sense). I am finding this much harder to do than I’d expected, and the demands of work tough as well. Since I’m an inveterate tinkerer when it comes to my WIPs, I simply don’t understand how anyone can post segments of an unfinished work online anywhere! I’m constantly revising. If I see a glimmer of gold on the stream bed, I’m going to sift through that scene until I can determine if it is a vein worth pursuing or not.

I’m over-extended in a serious way and looking gratefully toward the holiday season, when things normally slow down a bit for me. But autumn, that’s my Holy Season. The sunlight slants through the trees in the afternoon, the spectrum of color a rich yellow that lights up the falling leaves from within and highlights their shades of red and gold. In a few short weeks, the trees will be bare, and the now-crisp leaves underfoot will turn to wet mulch. The light will slide from yellow toward the clear, cold white of winter. Autumn is such a brief time of magic and wonder, when the heat and humidity have finally broken and you can see the mountains clearly for the first time since the spring. I have a few days planned off here and there, but nothing like the actual vacation I need to recharge my batteries and get my mind wrapped around writing again. So for now, it’s write when I can, and hope it doesn’t completely tank.

I’ve finished some other writing commitments while others still languish. When I have very little time to work on too many projects, too often I spin in circles when I do get some time, dashing from project to project, envisioning scenes for something I can’t work on right now, frittering away the morning in chats or on Twitter because I can’t seem to settle down to work. Well, I’m going to be a good girl after this post and shut the browser. I’m NOT joining in on a chat, I’m not heading over to Facebook. I’m going to pull out the WIP and see if I can figure out what the problem is with it and whether it is salvageable as written or if I need to scrap the 7 K written and start over.

In other news, I’ve got a blog post up at KMN Books, which is a short scene between Tate and Alex from Crying for the Moon, in which they discuss Halloween and why Alex doesn’t celebrate it. Crying for the Moon was recently awarded 1st runner up in the category of Best Paranormal of 2011 in the Golden Rose Awards. One of the judges stated, “Crying for the Moon is a wonderful paranormal story. Author Sarah
Madison has managed to refresh the vampire/werewolves stories that are
the current fad! Well done! I look forward to more from this author.”

I’m delighted and honored to be among such distinguished authors and their stories! Of course, now I feel guilty that I haven’t been working on those promised sequels…

Anyone who leaves a comment on the KMN post before Oct 10th is eligible to win a signed, print copy of Going for Gold (if you live in the continental US) or reader’s choice from my backlist as an e-book. Hurry before the contest ends!

Speaking of the need to hurry, you should also run over to Dreamspinner Press and check out all their specials this month of October. New discounts are available every few days in honor of specific events this month–so many DSP authors are traveling to conventions and almost every paranormal story will have a discount this month as well. But the days vary and the specials don’t last for long, so check them out before it’s too late!

Also coming up soon, guest blog posts from Cooper West, Nessa L. Warrin, and my dear writing pal, Claire Russett. I’m also doing a blog hop at the end of the month: The Howloween Blog Hop! (I don’t think that link is live yet, though)

Lest you think I’m not planning any fun at all for myself, I’ve almost put together the finishing touches on my Peggy Carter costume for Halloween (yes, I spent FAR too much money on this, but come on, Peggy Carter!! It had to be as close to perfect as possible!) and I’m going to a get-together of fandom friends too.

Or maybe I just like shoes… 🙂

So don’t be surprised if you don’t see much of me around–this means I’m working my tail off writing!