…there exists a place called L.A.

There dwell creatures of the night, glittering vampires, countryless queens, and countless screenwriters working tables and pushing daily specials, their eyes veined with silver from living so close to the Dream.

Every day, these free agents of social norm toil away at the daily grind, their true natures often hidden beneath the steel-gray mantle of Realistic, Responsible, and Common Sense, trying to make their way in the world like we all must…by placing one foot in front of the other and keeping our eyes fixed on the bright lights of the horizon.

Once a year, temporary alliances are drawn between goblins and faeries, Blue Bloods and commonfolk, even angels and their fallen brethren as they come together for two nights united in a common cause: to celebrate the Beautiful, the Absurd, the Outrageous, and the Sideshow Freaky.

This, my friends, is the Labyrinth of Masquerade Ball!

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And if you haven’t heard of it, haven’t been to it, you must change that now, this year. There’s still time! The Labyrinth of Jareth XVII is happening July 4th and 5th, at The Park Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, California!

Sadly, I cannot make the ball this year, for I am previously committed to the 1st Annual Fry Fest that will be happening in my backyard, and thus, will be tending to my cauldron, checking for golden brown and crunchy…so you will have to tell me how it turns out. You’ll be glad you did.

It’s something I think anyone who’s ever felt a little bogged down by the “shoulds” and “musts” of “real life” should experience…because it’s like a dream. It starts out with straight lines, laws of physics strictly observed…then suddenly you exhale, open your eyes, and nothing makes sense…and you realize this is real life….

I went in 2012.

Amanda Panda, my sister-in-law, Costumer Extraordinaire, invited me to go with her, my brother, and some of their friends. As is my bent, I said yes…for it’s not just a celebration of all things masquerade and costumes and sequins. It is also a celebration of my favorite movie growing up…Labyrinth.

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[NERD ALERT! Oops…too late.]

I used to have the whole movie memorized. I owned puffy shirts (the kind Jerry Seinfeld hates). I laid awake at night trying to untangle the logic between the Door that Leads to the Center of the Labyrinth and the Door that Leads to…ba-baba-boom!…Certain Death!…[whoo-oo-oo!]

I was 13 years old when this movie came out — that age when we are most susceptible to rabid, unquestioning fandom — and it was pure magic. I loved it. I had a mad crush on David Bowie’s Goblin King, and sometimes wished Sarah would just let him have a little control…dang!

If you get it, then ya’ll know what I’m talking about. But for those who missed out on the Labyrinth experience in their formative years, it doesn’t matter. Magic flows into any open heart.

All you have to do is say yes, get gussied up, and get in the car!



Fear not for my selfie safety! I took this on the 10 freeway, where cars don’t move. 😉 j/k!!!


I decided to go as Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas…another fantastic film!…because…well, just because. 🙂 (That’s the beauty of this kind of dress code…I’m tellin’ ya!…Casual Fridays are out, Cosplay Tuesdays are in!)

Since I was driving in from the hinterlands of  the Inland Empire (doesn’t that sound like an evil empire?), the plan was to meet up with Amanda & Co. at the venue, The Legen (wait for it) dary Park Plaza Hotel.

Driving to L.A. is always a little like driving to Oz. Look! The Wells Fargo Building! Their parking rates are heart-stopping, but there’s a great Chinese restaurant in there.


Over the freeway and past the hood to Grandmother’s house we go…


The moon hangs expectantly over MacArthur Park. I love L.A.!

I knew I had arrived when I saw winged females sashaying up the sidewalk next to a hulking werewolf.

My friends were running late, so I ventured on in alone.

Wouldn’t you know it, the moment I stepped through the grand entrance, a man brightened in recognition and called out, “Where’s Jack?”

Me: “Who?”

“Jack! Jack Skellington?”

Oops. “Oh…um…he’s stationed out of state, but maybe next year.”

I considered what chance I had in tricking Fat Cat to dress against his own immovable nature and go to L.A. for a “surprise thing.” We’ll see. Sometimes he surprises me.


Front Entrance of the Legendary Park Plaza Hotel ~ Los Angeles, California


Wow! Stepping inside was like stepping into a movie. I was instantly struck by the thought that I wish every day were like this, that business casual meant horns were optional, but faerie wings encouraged.

My second thought was, “I bet all these people are accountants, lawyers, and doctors.” Probably not, but I’m sure they were there. I began to wonder at everyone’s true nature.


Dark Angel by night — isn’t she gorgeous? — runs a marketing department for a medium-sized firm by day?




Restroom Mistress by night, community college professor by day?




Scary Bauta-masked Pirate by night…organic beekeeper by day?




Ooh! I know this one! Soul Eater by night, airport shuttle driver by day!


I made my way through the ballrooms, past a man wearing elfin ears and liquid dancing to his own beat, the shining doppelgangers of Jareth and Sarah (clearly now in a long-term and mature relationship), and more winged beasts than I could shake a stick at.

Just like in a dream, incongruous images began to slide past me as the rooms filled up with merrymakers, one after another, unconnected and connected, senseless and dawning realization.



Hip Band from the 1700s




Memoirs of a Geisha



The Junk Lady waiting for the elevator…naturally.


Drums were building in the distance, thrumming in my blood, pounding to the rhythm of my feet as I searched through the crowds for something familiar. And then I found them, my long lost tribe. I found the belly dancers.



Encouraging zaghareets flew up from the crowd like the call of exotic birds. I added my own soft zaghareet, feeling shy and a bit like a dusty old traveler returned home unrecognized.

It didn’t matter. In the spirit of Faire, everyone is the same, and part of, and all good things.


I miss the bellydance community. I suspect I am not long from returning. Who can resist being a part of something so beautiful?



Beautiful synchronicity!


After the dancers spun away to other things, I checked in on my friends. On their way! Oh, goodie. Maybe I’ll go find the bar to wait for them….



Found the bar…a few times….



Ran into this dude….sweet guy. Preschool teacher, I think he said he was, or something along those lines. He kindly directed me towards the food court.



Hallelujah! The food court! Looks like a vintage studio photo from the 1940s, doesn’t it? There’s Matthew Broderick sitting with Bat Girl in the foreground!




Okay. It’s been a midsummer night’s dream up to this point, but now we gotta talk some serious business. Food. Look at the picture above. What you are looking at is a Kobe Beef Slider with Shoestring Potatoes, specialty of Slammin’ Sliders. Beyond good…especially after spending an evening cavorting with the faerie folk. So good that I took a picture of their food truck so I could track them down later and tell you about them. That good.

At this point, my evening was complete. I could go home a happy ragdoll creation of Dr. Finkelstein’s now that I had those burgers in my belleh!

But then a fly and a unicorn walked into the joint….


… and the band struck up a chord that traveled from Windows to Sky….(they were really fantastic!)…


Windows to Sky

My peeps had arrived! And the wait was worth it…they were simply ravishing! That’s when the party really took off!


The Owl Princess (Chelsea) and her Handsome Unicorn (Jason)



Smokin’ hot Aunt Mary and her smartly-dressed hubs Capt. Eugene



Me and Amanda Panda Bat Girl!



Me and my brother (channeling Jeff Goldblum)


We did what we could to paint the castle crimson, but even bedtime comes for the wicked, especially when they’re old and live far away and have had too much to eat. It was, alas, time for me to go before I turned into a pumpkin. So I sent out a signal to the Mother Ship. Beam me up, Scotty!



The Mother Ship responded by sending me a tooth fairy…which was about right. She gave me a dollar and pointed the way back to the parking lot, and real life, which at that point, was exactly what I needed. 🙂


Note:  If you do decide to make this wondrous event — and I hope you do — please be aware the lighting is pretty dark, which is why I ended up with so many black and white photos. All of these were taken on an iPhone 4 and adjusted in iPhoto. I imagine with the right sort of camera and flash, you’d end up with some pretty incredible pictures just like the ones on The Labyrinth of Jareth Masquerade Ball‘s Facebook page.




My little girl and I got into a spirited debate recently. She is five years old and a born animal lover. If it’s got fur, she loves it. She is the expert. She’s been studying animals her entire life, and she knows her way around a petting zoo.

So we were coloring the other day ago, and she asked me to draw some animals with her. I pulled out a couple of comic books from Ye Olde Comic Book Pile (every household should have one) and drew a couple of my favorite ducks.

When we were done, we both held up our illustrations to show each other.

She, of course, had composed an excellent picture of a cat with whiskers and stripes and eyelashes…because it’s a girl. (They’re always girls. She has no use for boys at the moment. Don’t say it!) It was very beautiful, and I told her so.

But she was not so smitten by my efforts. She took one look and said, “No, those aren’t animals.”

“What? Sure, they are!” I pointed at the evidence. “They have beaks.”

She shook her head. Doesn’t count. Not even close.

I pitched the old if-it-looks-like-a-duck-and-waks!-like-a-duck-it’s-a-friggin-duck rationale.

The Child and Resident Animal Expert was unmoved. “Nope, not a duck.”

We decided to go to the Source.

Here is how Wikipedia describes Donald Duck:

“Donald is an anthropomorphic white duck with a yellow-orange bill, legs, and feet.”*

Anthropomorphic. Hmm. Not just a duck.

I checked Scrooge McDuck’s entry:

“Scrooge is an elderly Scottish anthropomorphic white duck with a yellow-orange bill, legs, and feet.”

Elderly and Scottish and also…anthropomorphic. There’s that word again.

I checked Merriam-Webster: “Described or thought of as being like human beings in appearance, behavior, etc.”

It’s also synonymous with personification. Person-ification.

Holy hot cakes! The kid was right. Donald and Unca Scrooge are people, albeit duck-shaped people, who have to deal with many of the same problems that we do: paying taxes, adventuring to unknown lands in search of mythical treasure, and taking care of pets….

I give her this one, but I still maintain I’m right on the vegetables-are-good-for-you thing.



* I left the links in from the Wikipedia excerpts because I rather enjoyed that “white duck” takes you to Pekin duck, which leads one to thoughts of hoisin sauce and green onions…oh, my!

** The top illustration comes from the pages of William Van Horn’s wonderful “The Black Moon” (1993), and the bottom, of course, is from the esteemed Carl Barks’ “The Pixilated Parrot” (1950).

*** Ducks rule!

"Music of the Savannah"


Summer has finally begun. And what better way to celebrate than to spend a few hours with good friends, good wine, and a room full of people making the same painting!

My bestie Kellie takes Summer very seriously and has packed her family calendar full of fun activities: pottery making, kayaking, botanical gardens, San Diego, Irish fairs, quilt runs, hiking — you name it. Summer is serious business. And because I’m her bestie, I get to ride on the coattails of her BOGO deals! Yay!

So she and her two beautiful girls took me to the Purple Easel, in Rancho Cucamonga, California, where we commenced to make the art…and man, was it fun! (Did I mention yet you’re allowed to bring booze? Well, YOU’RE ALLOWED TO BRING BOOZE!!…and drink it too!)

When you walk in, you’re escorted to a table by their courteous staff and set up with a blank canvas, a smock to protect your couture, all the necessary paintbrushes (color-coded for ease of use), jars of water, palettes, paper towels…and, of course, paint. They make it so easy…and fun!

IMG_9838Eric (up there on stage in the purple shirt) was our Bob Ross last night. He did a fantastic job of guiding us through the African landscape, explaining how to mix colors and make grass and how to turn a football into an elephant. What’s really great about the whole thing is you don’t have to be good at art! It’s very basic, very doable, and cuts out all that angsting one normally has to put oneself through before art-making can begin.

Eric broke it down like a boss:

First, you make three stripes…deep sky, low sky, and something for your animals to stand on.



A blob of red, a blob of orange, and a blob of white gets you Thousand Island clouds. A blob of yellow and a blob of white gets you a drowsy sun amid distant clouds. A light touch gets you grass and vegetation. I said a light touch!



Now to give it some life!!! (There’s Little D on the other side making her own magic.) 🙂


They played really great music too. Everyone was sort of humming and singing along to classics like Van Morrison, Blind Melon, and even a little Rihanna. And while I was hoping we would have a Magic Movie Moment where the whole room breaks out into united song and precise choreography…this didn’t quite happen because everyone was concentrating so hard. It took me the entire session to drink one little ‘ol cup ‘o celebratory Moscato (courtesy of Ninja S…so good!…thank you!).

"Music of the Savannah"

It’s a crazy simple sort of thing. Walk in with a bottle of wine, walk out having made art. That’s really the best feeling, having just made art. If only this were a mandatory civic obligation…like taxes or jury duty. When you receive your Art Summons, you have to report to your local town square with a good attitude and clothes you don’t mind getting messed up. Crime rates would collapse to the bottom of all bar graphs across the board. People would spontaneously hug each other in the street. Litter would simply not exist. When I become Queen, we’ll all be rolling, eating cake, and making art. 😉

Anyway, I give Purple Easel two thumbs up and a bag of tater chips for a job well done. It was a great experience. Everyone had a smile on their face…. Great fun! And the fireworks bursting over our heads as we left clutching our creations was the cherry on the top of a sweet time. Thanks, Purple Easel…and thanks, Kell!


* I must confess, this painting gave me the worst Lion King earworm since the original movie came out. I even woke up the next morning to the sounds of, “NANTS INGONYAMA… BAGITHI BABA, SITHI UHM INGONYAMA…!!!!” coming from my left ear. A little disturbing. Especially when you can’t help but join in. My poor neighbors.


two steaming cups of tea, goblin hands resting on table


two steaming cups of tea, goblin hands resting on table


So I’ve been a busy little bee. In the past several months, I’ve been putting something special together that I’m really excited to share with you. I made a book! Or rather…we made a book. I had lots of help!

It’s a little book, but it’s a real book, nonetheless…with an ISBN and bar code and everything! A lot of love and hard work went into this little guy, and I’m really proud of it! Lemme give ya a tour!

First, the cover. My very talented brother Jon McConnell, who just so happens to work as a character design artist, took a very simple concept like this…



…and made it look like this!

two steaming cups of tea, goblin hands resting on table

As you can imagine, I feel very lucky to be his sister. 🙂



In fact, I’ve been more than lucky in the access-to-ridiculous-talent game. The intrepid, awesomely geeky, and surprisingly Vulcan-like Pam Peacock, aka The Snarky Peacock, designed the logo for my publishing company Seven Left Turns Publishing, Inc. Somehow she managed to distill the spirit and intent of this crazy venture into an awesome logo reminiscent of Route 66 and classic 1950s. Love it!


I also needed a professional, respectable author’s photo that exuded maturity and rational thinking, so I called on Andrew Bramasco, Photographer Extraordinaire. With the help of Amanda McConnell, the coolest costume designer I know, and Cassie Landis-Cushard, who really knows how to handle a mustache — as well as assorted foam sculptures, duct tape, and a potato launcher (don’t ask) — for one moment in time, I became…the Far Side Lady. Can’t get more respectable than that!


(I accept this photo renders me no longer eligible to run for public office. I deny everything!)


happy fish sings bubble notesGotta give a shout-out to my bestie Kellie Flores who gave me the final nudge I needed to tackle illustrations. I’m glad she did. I had way too much fun doing these, and I got to spend a bunch of money at the art supply store! Always good fun!

Of course, none of this would be possible without my husband Fat Cat and all the hard work he does, as well as my parents. It is to them I owe my weirdness. (They are puzzled by this as well.) Love you guys!

As you can see, it takes a village to raise a book. A mighty crazy one at that. Please to enjoy. 🙂

Between Friends also includes an essay about the times I met Ray Bradbury and is available now on Amazon. (B&N, Kobo, and other fine e-tailers coming shortly.)




Oh, my Gawd! How the heck are you guys?! I know, I know. It’s been like a million years in Internet time, but I’m back! Oh, the places I’ve seen! The people I’ve encountered! You have no idea! It’s a big, beautiful world out there, even in the mild wilds of our local suburban safari park! But I have ventured beyond the boundaries of my average-Joe reservation many times, to that forbidden shadowy place called “El-Ay”…where the stars lay at your feet and the light falls silver from a plasma sun…and I have brought back with me stories of greed, lust, outrageous public behavior, and damn good food.

Throughout my wild wanderings and weekend sojourns, I’ve thought of you, Dear Reader, as I collected stories, photographs, and recipes that I imagined would put a smile on your face, a tear in your eye…and if you’re lucky, a twinge in your gut.

So I’m back, baby, and tending the store! In coming days, I’ll cover the proper care and maintenance of hula hoops, give a rundown on the Trader Joe version of Bulgarian kyopolou — and, of course, I still need to finishing telling you guys about what happened down at the docks in Venice that cold, dark night. Shenanigans!

So visit me daily for good reads, good eats, good laughs — and most importantly — great stories! You’re not gonna want to miss any of it!

In the meantime, please forgive moving menus and disappearing widgets as I am in the midst of straightening up around here in an effort to improve your reading experience. Thanks, guys!

Feels good to be back! <me-YEOW!>