About Dani Alexis

Dani Alexis is a freelance writer with a decade of experience and a passion for creating new things. As Verity Reynolds, Dani is the author of the Non-Compliant Space series. Buy her a coffee: ko-fi.com/verityreynolds

#VerityLTstheBible: Links to 1 Kings

Part 11 of 66 of a project I started in the summer of 2019: To reread the Bible publicly, evaluating the oft-repeated notion that the text is inerrant, self-contained, and a bearer of clear, self-evident truths.

(Looking for another book of the Bible? Click this link for a master list of threads, sorted by book.)


1 Kings 1-10: David takes a long time to die. Solomon becomes king, but messes it up with too much lovin’. He has a lot of stuff, though.

1 Kings 10-22: Solomon dies, Judah and Israel now have two different kings, and a bunch of baffling nonsense goes down (mostly wars). Elijah the prophet does a bunch of SUSPICIOUSLY FAMILIAR prophet-y things. Ahab makes poor life choices.

#VerityLTstheBible is a labor of love, but it’s also a lot of work. Show your support by buying me a coffee or checking out one or more of my books.

Non-Compliant Space Character Descriptions: A Resource for Fanart

This tweet floated across my feed yesterday:

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Tweet by @VickyCBooks. It reads, “proposal: authors keeping character descriptions on their website so fanartists can have a reference even if they don’t have a copy immediately on hand. pls i beg u”

I immediately retweeted it with the promise that I would do this for you, my beloved fans. I will describe characters for you.

This list is alphabetical. It’s ongoing, but also probably always incomplete. If you need a character description that’s not here, drop me a line in the comments!

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Aqharan Bereth

Voldemort, if Voldemort were creepily handsome instead of just creepy. Bereth is tall (about 6’5″/196 cm) and fairly thin; his shoulders are a little too broad for the rest of his frame. Despite this, he doesn’t move as if he’s top-heavy, but rather like he’s been a professional dancer his whole life.

He has a long face, black hair that reaches to mid-back, ears that are pinned back slightly, and his eyes are a little too far apart. They’re blue. Blue blue. The kind of blue eyes that appear too often in bad fanfiction. Mid-May Mediterranean “nothing that blue actually exists in the real world, I must be hallucinating” blue.  “I will stab your soul” blue. However blue you’re planning to make them, make them bluer.

You know how Angelica can’t stop singing about Alexander’s eyes in Hamilton? Like that. Your impression of this man should be “he can and will kill me with his gaze, and I will let him. I will die happy contemplating these eyes that should not exist. Stare at me, senpai.”

His entire family, and all Rehhn, have skin that ranges from Cardassian gray to paper/snow/icing-sugar white. It’s also pearlescent. Yes, they literally glow.

He tends to wear monochromatic, minimalist suits that are of course made for him. He favors grey tones or muted blues. No embellishments – no buttons, rickrack, etc. People should wonder if he’s sewn into his clothes every morning or what.

Aqharan Mazereth

Mazereth is shorter than her father Bereth, but not much – about 6’2″. She has his too-broad shoulders, but on her they make it look like she’s basically a rectangle and her “curves in all the right places” (and she has curves in all the right places) were pastede on yey.

Her face is more square than round, and her eyes, rather than being “this blue is clearly fake” blue, are “I think they call this color ‘gunmetal'” grey/blue/purple. Her hair is also black, but a slightly warmer/more brown-toned black than her father’s, and it reaches nearly to the small of her back when it’s loose, which it never is.

She favors severe updos and painfully of-the-moment dresses, with heels, in an attempt to make herself look older than she is (she’s about 27 in Earth years). Most of her wardrobe is black, white, red, forest green, or royal blue.

Cordry

Senior Engineer Cordry is 24 years old with an incredibly lanky build – all limbs, no curves. Cordry has hair the color and texture of cornsilk, in an inch-long cut that’s never quite even all the way around, being self-administered. Eyes are hazel-ish. Ears are a little too big for the face. Cordry’s skin tone is very pink even for a white person.

Entire wardrobe is “cargo” – cargo pants, cargo jacket, and so on, along with basic t-shirts in various colors, and always looking like Cordry got dressed in the dark. Everything’s a little too big, which obscures any curves Cordry may or may not have.

Special Agent Quincey Dillon

Medium. Medium everything. Whatever the median human [attribute] is, that’s Dillon. Dillon strikes the viewer as someone who is so utterly the median human that he should not exist. In fact you’re not even sure “he” is the right pronoun.

Favors three-piece suits in shades as medium as his skin tone, with flamboyant ties or those floppy bow-style ties that you see in pictures of Oscar Wilde.

Ideally, all images of Dillon will be generated by feeding billions of photos of human faces to an AI and asking it to generate the median human face. Every result will be equally accurate.

Hayek

Hayek is about 6’5″, big-boned and strongly built but going slightly to seed. The kind of guy you would ask, “Dude, did you play football?”, except the perpetual scowl on his face kind of makes you not want to talk to him at all, in case he answers by punching you in the face.

Hayek’s ancestry is Latino/Hopi; in him they read as “generic Brown dude.” Lips are thin, nose/ears are a little too big and eyes (brown) are a little too small for his face; his nose has definitely been broken and not properly set at least once. His hair is black, but in that phase where it’s interspersed with gray so that it looks either black, charcoal, or salt and pepper depending on the lighting. It’s in a “high and tight” military cut, which doesn’t suit him. He’s not a handsome dude, but there’s something appealing about him when he smiles, which isn’t often.

Always wears combat boots, cargo pants, a basic t-shirt (black or white) sometimes with the sleeves cut off, and a large olive-colored Kevlar-plated jacket. Also always has at least one gun.

Lang

Erin Lang is 19 and is built almost exactly like Cordry, except her hair reaches past her waist (she can almost but not quite sit on it), her eyes are blue (regular blue), made larger by her choice of makeup, and her skin isn’t quite as pink as it is generic white girl. Her ears are quite small and she has a button nose. She has visible curves, unlike Cordry, though this is probably due more to how she dresses.

Lang prefers jeans and t-shirts or sweatshirts, most of which are random graphic tees, often relating to places she has never been or schools she has never attended. She has an oversized olive-colored field jacket of the type commonly found in Army surplus stores, with lots of pockets. Her whole wardrobe looks like she’s assembled it on the run from random thrift stores. Her hair is always worn straight down her back, without bangs.

Lang and Cordry are not actually related, but they look like they could be.

Makkarah Alatwi (Twi)

Twi is a young adult (around 25-30 in human ages), about 6’6″ tall and 300 pounds. There’s not a straight line anywhere in her build except the slope of her nose, which is basically a right triangle. Her eyes are gold; her skin is bright blue – not as bright as Aqharan Bereth’s eyes, but much that same Mediterranean sky color. (Devori skin tones range from royal blue to faded blue-grey, so she’s right in the middle.)

Her hair is the same color as her skin, but streaked with red and gold. The red is natural, the gold is not. She has a sprinkling of bright red freckles across her nose and cheeks.

She wears nondescript slacks or scrubs without embellishment, long-sleeved scoop-neck shirts, and a white lab coat that pulls downward at the shoulders because the pockets are so overstuffed.

Molloy

About 5’4″ and 160ish pounds. I imagine her looking like Mae Jemison, only stockier. Molloy is built like a rectangle and gives the impression that she doesn’t use doors – she just walks straight through the wall. (In fact she has a giant soft spot for little kids and surly a-holes down on their luck, like Hayek.)

She’s 45 at the time of the first book. She dresses like Hayek, only with fewer weapons and a non-armored jacket.

(A note for fan creators: Molloy is a straight-up lesbian. She has never had Those Feelings for a dude in her entire life and she never will.)

Niralans (like, all of them)

The first thing to understand about Niralans is that every single one of them has the same basic face. The Niralan face is round, trending toward oval but not quite, with high cheekbones, a small nose and ears, medium-full lips, and eyes that are slightly larger than expected (with a third eyelid that fully retracts when they’re awake, unless they’re ill, similar to a cat’s), and way too many eyelashes. Skin tone is flat white, like standard flat latex wall paint.

What differ are hair tones, eye colors, the pattern of the kiiste (the black lines that cover the right side of the face and body), and heights/weights, which are influenced by their upbringing to a much larger degree than humans’ heights/weights are.

Nantais: Hair is true black and so are her eyes, with no clear difference between the iris and the pupil. Kiiste consist of four lines that converge and diverge in a twisting pattern across the right side of the forehead, merge completely at the outermost edge of the right eye, and diverge again across the right cheek and jaw and down the neck.

  • Dar Nantais is about 5’3″ and 120 pounds, mostly muscle. She has little in the way of curves; she’s built like she was born to spend her life crammed into small spaces. She’s most noticeable among Niralans by the way her face always looks tense. She wears utility coveralls or jeans and tank tops (usually black).
  • Koa Nantais is taller, about 5’6″, and 130-140 pounds, with considerably more curve (and less relative strength) than her cousin Dar. She moves like she’s not only completely comfortable in her body but enjoys causing pantsfeelings in others. Unlike most Niralans, she loves color and wears a lot of it; she’s very comfortable in full-length dresses. Koa smiles a lot. It’s not always friendly.

Nahara: Hair is blue-black; eyes are navy blue. Kiiste consist of three lines that otherwise look very similar to Nantais’s.

  • Piya Nahara is about 5’6″, barely 110 pounds; she looks bony and underfed, and her cheekbones and eyes are especially prominent. Until the end of Nahara, she never wears anything but a sleeveless black dress with two large pockets that looks like a potato sack.

Niralans get more white hair as they age. Until middle age (about 100 in Earth years), their hair is entirely black; as they get older, more white strands begin to appear, until the hair is completely white around age 175 or so.


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Surviving Color Guard Auditions: What I Wish All My Rookies Knew

I enjoy audition season. The season is full of promise, the weather is (usually) beautiful, and I get to introduce people to one of my abiding passions: Throwing things in the air and catching them while also dancing.

I believe everyone should try color guard at least once. I also understand that color guard is not everyone’s cup of tea. That’s what auditions are for.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably thinking about trying out for color guard or winterguard. Maybe you already signed up for auditions and are wondering what you’ve gotten yourself into.

First, breathe. Auditions can be a lot of fun, especially if you show up prepared. Here’s what I wish all my new and returning members kept in mind before Day 1 of tryouts.

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#1: The Couch is Not Your Friend.

Every year, I have people come to auditions having done nothing all summer except sit on the couch. A summer of lazing around, as nice as it feels, is the worst possible preparation for color guard or winterguard tryouts.

Whether you have three months or three days left until your audition, make it a point to get up and move every single day. Go for a walk, a run, or a swim. Do a strenuous chore like gardening. Put on some music and dance around your bedroom. Look up “tabata workouts” or “HIIT workouts” on YouTube.

Anything you do is going to to help you in tryouts (and the entire season).

If you’re completely out of ideas, here’s the conditioning program I use with my guards. We do it in pairs, but you can modify it to your needs.

A Sample Conditioning Program

In this program, you’ll alternate cardio exercise with strength-training exercises.

  • Cardio: Choose a space where you can run laps, jump rope, do jumping jacks, or run in place – whatever gets your heart rate up. Do this for about 2 minutes.
  • Strength: You’ll alternate between push-ups, planks, and squats/lunges (your choice).

Start with 2 minutes of cardio. Switch to 2 minutes of push-ups. Do two more minutes of cardio, followed by two minutes of planking. Finish with two minutes of cardio, followed by two minutes of squats/lunges.

Over time, you’ll find that your cardio endurance is better and that you can do more reps of each strength exercise with shorter rest periods.

#2: Read the Handbook. I’m Begging You.

Not all guards have a guard handbook. Mine do. If your guard has a handbook or a contract or any other kind of handout (digital or paper), please, please read it. 

The handbook covers the things I don’t want to have to repeat twice for every member of the guard – but that I absolutely will have to repeat if y’all don’t read the handbook. Reading the handbook is so important to me that I actually give bonus points in auditions if I can tell the members read it.

If you want to read our guard handbook, it’s here: Comstock Colorguard Handbook 2020-2021 [pdf].

#3: Dress for (Audition) Success.

I generally give people a pass on their outfit for the first tryout, especially since they haven’t even seen the handbook yet, as a rule. By the second tryout, dressing in a way that hinders your performance is a problem; if you’re still doing it by the time you’re actually on the team, I absolutely will put you behind a prop.

For auditions, dress in clothing that allows you to move easily and that is comfortable. Colorguard auditions will demand all your mental focus. You do not want your clothes or shoes to distract you in any way.

I recommend:

  • Athletic shoes – sneakers or split-sole dance sneakers, if you have them. No sandals, flip-flops, or dress shoes. You want your foot entirely covered, and you want to be able to move easily.
  • Leggings or athletic shorts. Denim limits your range of motion, plus it’s gross when you sweat into it. Leggings are often ideal, but athletic shorts can be a good choice for hotter weather.
  • T-shirt or tank top, plus a long-sleeved top. Outdoor rehearsals can be subject to weird weather, so bring a layer.
  • Sunglasses and/or a hat. Both of these can improve visibility.
  • Sunblock. An absolute must. Don’t be the person who flunks out of auditions because you’re in too much pain from a sunburn to continue.
  • Water jug or bottle. Get the biggest one you can find. Mine is a half-gallon, and I usually refill it twice during an 8-hour day of band camp.

If your program gives you the chance to acquire colorguard gloves before auditions, get them. They make everything easier, especially rifle.

In addition to packing along your sunblock, a snack, and your water container, I recommend bringing a writing utensil. They always end up being useful at tryouts and nobody ever seems to have one. Extra hairties often make you popular as well.

#4: Pack Your Mental Bag.

Your choice of clothing and items to bring to band camp help you stay comfortable and focus – but what you focus on is what will lead to success at tryouts (or not).

While every guard program prioritizes slightly different traits in its members, as a rule, you’ll succeed in any guard program if you:

  • Stay curious about your own learning. Everything you learn can always be done better. The more engaged you stay with the process of learning, the happier you’ll be and the better you’ll be at the skills you’re taught.
  • Accept correction and apply it – whether or not it’s addressed to you. Accepting correction is hard, yet you’ll do it for your entire guard career. I’ve been spinning since 1996, and I still sign up for clinics every year just so I can take correction from world-class instructors. Accept it as your coach’s attempt to help you become better and apply it – even if it’s directed at the group generally or another individual in the block.
  • Listen more than you talk. Listen much more than you talk. Talking is generally a waste of time and an annoyance during rehearsal; save it for breaks.
  • Compare yourself to yourself – and no one else. Generally speaking, the judges at auditions aren’t looking for technical perfection. We’re looking for teachability and improvement. As long as you spin better today than you did yesterday, you’re succeeding.

One of the biggest secrets of guard is that “talent” isn’t really a thing in our world. Scratch the surface of any “talented” guard member and you’ll find years of hard work. Nobody rolls out of their cradle able to spin a flag; everyone who does it well has done it for hundreds of hours.

Be mentally present and try your best, and you’ll be ahead of half the people at the audition.

#5: Don’t Try to Hide.

New people always gravitate toward the back of the block at tryouts. Always. You can find the rookies by going to the last line of the block and watching those people spin.

New people hanging out in the back is so common that the guard world even has a name for them. We call them “Back-Row Bettys.”

Don’t be a Back-Row Betty. You don’t have to jump into the very front line unless you want to (some people find it helps their concentration), but do try to get near the front. Most instructors will make the front and back lines switch several times anyway, so it doesn’t do you any good to hide – you’ll be up front eventually like everyone else.

Instead, focus on learning the work as well as you can for yourself. Imagine that you’ll have to teach it to someone else. If you don’t get into the habit of following the person in front of you, you’ll never have to break that habit.

Bonus #6: Practice Between Tryouts.

If you’re allowed to take equipment home, or if you have your own equipment, please use it between tryouts.

There’s a difference between “rehearsal” and “practice” in the guard world. Rehearsal is when you get together with the rest of the guard and your instructor. You learn how your individual part fits with the rest of the team and with the band as a whole.

To fit your part in with everyone else’s at rehearsal, you need to know what your part is before you arrive. Preparing your own part is what you do in practice. 

Any evidence of improvement between tryout sessions, no matter how slight, is like gold to audition instructors and judges. We want to see it. We love to see it. That improvement tells us that you care enough about guard and about your own growth to work on your own – which means you are going to succeed in this sport.

Even if you don’t have equipment, practice what you can. Spin a broom or “air flag” the choreography. Do the dance or movement drills you covered in auditions.

Some Things That Won’t Help You In Auditions and May Actually Make Things Worse

If you do the six things listed above, you’ll be in great shape to make the team. You’ll be in even better shape if you avoid a few things, too.

Here’s what not to waste your time on – it won’t help, and it may make things harder for you:

  • Watching a lot of YouTube videos. Yes, they’re fascinating. But every instructor teaches technique a little differently, and every element in guard has multiple different names. Take a few weeks to understand how your group handles technique before you start comparing it to other instructors online. Otherwise, you might end up having to un-learn how to do things – which takes twice as long as learning it.
  • Buying or using your own equipment unless you know exactly how your instructor wants it assembled. I don’t see this very often, but it has happened: A new person will show up having already bought their own flag or rifle – or worse, borrowed one from “back when Grandma/Mom/Auntie was in guard.” Chances are excellent that you have the wrong item, or it’s weighted wrong, or something else is going on that will hold you back if you use it. If you want your own equipment, ask the instructors for exactly what they recommend, and buy that.
  • Trying to be someone you’re not. In auditions, judges are looking for people who make good additions to the team, not just people who spin well. Being anyone but yourself will distract and exhaust you. We can tell you’re too insecure to be yourself, and we can tell that it hurts your skill development. That’s two strikes in the “no thanks” column.

Show up ready to work and try your best, and you’ll be well on your way to joining the worldwide guard family.

See you on the field/floor!


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