Bear Over the Mountain

I’ve been a bit behind on some projects (like Amerieurovisioncast) the last few months because:


This is #3 for us and he’s almost three months now, but I’m just in the last week or two getting back to work. I found out with #1 that my creative brain is nonfunctioning when my babies are little. I tried! K1 was a few weeks old and I thought I’d try writing a story based on the phrase “when Bear went over the mountain” that my sleep-deprived brain kept tossing up. This is what happened.


The world was young and life was younger when Bear went over the mountain.

“There’s nothing over the mountain,” said the Carry-Man, who had made the trip before.  “Nothing but land and sea and the Wound of the World.”

“Then that is where I’ll go,” said Bear.  “Across the land and over the sea to heal the Wound of the World.”

So off went Bear with the Razzle Dandy by his side to find and heal the Wound of the World.  They crossed the fields of the Marsh Merry Maids, the lake where the Snarlfish swarmed; for a day and a night they traveled the land, and then they went over the mountain.

At the top of the mountain they met an old man whose beard was as long as a pike.

“Where are you going?” asked the pike-bearded man, “and what do you plan to do there?”

“We go over the land and across the sea to heal the Wound of the World,” said Bear.

“May I come?” asked the man with the pike-bearded chin.  “I have lived on the top of the mountain but never dared venture below.”

“Come along,” said Bear, and the Razzle Dandy grinned, and they set off together, all three.

Across the land and over the sea the companions made their way.  They met strange folks in the lands over the water, but Bear led the way


Yep, it ends in the middle of a sentence. I wish I knew where the story was heading. I rather like the sound of the Razzle Dandy and the Carry-Man. But you need more than interesting names to make a story, and unfortunately(?), the rest of that story is lost to the fog.


How Busting Made Me Feel Good

I just got back from seeing Ghostbusters.

This is my face.



That was my face for much of the movie, to be honest.

I want to talk about why.

First, though, I want to say: it’s OK if you didn’t like the new Ghostbusters. That’s fine. Don’t even want to see it? That’s fine! People interact with entertainment differently and in no way do I advocate people spending time and money on something they are pretty sure they wouldn’t enjoy. It’s cool. We’re still cool. J

I interacted with this movie *very positively*, though. On the drive home I tried to articulate to Lucas why it impacted me so much and I started crying.

You know what? I’m more comfortable framing this in the form of fiction, so let’s just roll with that. Once upon a time, then…


…once upon a time there was a little girl who was fat and who had a low voice and a string of bad haircuts and loved fiction.

(…yeah, that’s me…)

Once upon a time there was a little girl who couldn’t understand what there was to enjoy about being a girl. Boys got all the fun jobs, boys had all the cool roles. Boys were the heroes, boys fought dragons, boys saved the world. Boys busted ghosts.

Girls got kidnapped. Girls needed saved.

I fed my brain with every scrap of text I could find — fantasy books, when I had my preference, and when I didn’t I read PA Game News and The Old Farmer’s Almanac and orchard magazines and my mom’s Dean Koontz novels. Whatever I could get my hands on, I read. I read like it was going out of style. I read like I needed it to survive.

I did need it, too.

And maybe it’s because I didn’t have a lot of direction when I was reading, maybe it’s because I didn’t have anyone to give me the right books, but my perception of what it meant to be a girl was this:

Girls need saved. Girls are thin and beautiful. Girls wear beautiful dresses. Girls are princesses.

Y’all, I’m not a princess. I’m just not. I’m not thin and I’m not beautiful and until *very very recently* I haven’t enjoyed wearing dresses and I am certainly not a princess. Princesses need saved because evil men want to force them into marriage, or a dragon demands a perfect sacrifice, or a queen is jealous of their beauty. I need saved because I’m clumsy and incompetent and just basically don’t know what I’m doing most of the time.

I don’t even know where I am in space most of the time. I have no spatial awareness. Ask my husband, he’ll confirm it.

So anyway, once upon a time there was a little girl who hated being a girl, who hated wearing dresses, who hated makeup and clothes and hair and not being able to sing soprano because no one ever thinks to teach you the alto line in VBS, who hated that she wasn’t like other girls and hated herself for hating that and yeah. Childhood was a fun ride.

It got better, a little bit, in middle and high school. Ali helped. We could be not normal girls together, and that was pretty awesome.

I ruined it, of course, because see above about my incompetence. But it gave me some hope that there were others out there like me.

And then I went to college, and LO and Lynn and Jill were the absolute perfect roommates for me. They did not seem to care how girly or not girly I was. They did my hair for dances and helped me get ready for dates with Lucas and we giggled about boys and they waited right along with me for the day that Lucas finally (finally!) proposed.

(They were all in my wedding.)

But we also all played Urban Ops together, and shooting terrorists was even more fun with Jill up on the top bunk holding her teddy bear and giggling. We played RPGs together. We saw geeky movies and complained about normal girls and had a super ton of fun being just us.

And I became OK with being a girl.

And I got married, and being a girl was AWESOME.

And I had kids, and being a girl was EVEN MORE AWESOME because I MADE PEOPLE, y’all, and fed them, and there is no sweeter name to me right now than “Mama” even when it’s said one million times in five minutes. I cherish it.

But OK, back to Ghostbusters.

I liked the first movies. I liked the cartoon show. I had a massive crush on Egon just like every other nerdy girl out there. The original Ghostbusters is great and so fun and wonderful.

But this Ghostbusters is for me.

If I had seen this movie when I was twelve…what a world of difference it would have made.

That goofy grin on my face up there? That started the first time we saw the shot of all four ladies powering up in a row, one after another, and it didn’t go away until we were driving home and I started crying.

Because here’s the thing. Somewhere there are girls that need this movie. Somewhere there are girls that have never seen themselves on screen, being the hero, not needing rescued by men, not being princesses. Somewhere there is a little me, who is fat and not very girly and certain only that she’s not a princess, and she can see a fat woman being a scientist and fighting off ghosts and being funny and competently leading a team and having important close friendships *and being a woman*.

Look at this Ghostbusters team. There’s a fat girl and a tall girl and some middling height skinny girls. There’s a black girl and a nerdy girl and a really offbeat girl. And they are scientists and normal people and they are fighters and they are brave and they are smart and they are determined and they are friends — real friends, not catty high school clique friends, but real grownup friends — and they are amazing.

Look, I’ve made it out. Thank goodness I’m not a kid anymore. I’m in my 30s, I have two kids, a wonderful husband. I’m a stay at home mom. I’ve been reaching for a skirt or dress more days than not this summer. I actually like being a girl now, because I’ve seen the world, I’ve seen outside small town PA and I know that I can be a girl while still having super short hair that is currently a quarter blue. I know now that I can still be a girl while wearing jeans, or leggings, or men’s tshirts, or dresses. I can still be a girl even though I pretty much never wear makeup. I can still be a girl even though I have never been, and never will be, a princess.

There are *lots* of ways to be a woman, and I just wish it hadn’t taken me so long to realize that.

And that’s why I started crying on the way home: because this movie is what is going to tell some girl that they, too, will make it out. That no matter how they’re a girl, they’re doing just fine.

Was it a perfect movie? Nope! Do I have quibbles with parts of it? Yep!

But when those ladies pulled out their proton packs and powered them up, I was twelve again, and I felt all the empty places, the places where I felt inadequate with my femininity, the places where the only friendships modeled were fake friendships, the places that made me wonder what there was to enjoy about being a girl, all those places got filled up with four ladies, on the big screen, busting the heck out of some ghosts. Saving each other. Saving the world.

And it was good.



(But that fight scene with Holtzmann, right? DANG.)

Cleveland Concoction 2016

I generally try to keep a low profile. I don’t like making an entrance — I’m pretty uncomfortable with the spotlight — if I can get through the day without being noticed, I’m happy.

But sometimes I’ve got to up my game and dear readers, everyday (this weekend) I’m hustlin’.

Cleveland Concoction 2016 starts Friday, March 11 (tomorrow!) and I will be there in spades. If you want to hear me talk (and don’t want to listen to my podcast ((or my other podcast)) for some reason) you can see me at the following panels:


Friday, March 11

2 pm — Overcoming Writer’s Block

6pm — Author Showcase

7pm — Autographing Session

11pm — My Favorite Heroines


Saturday, March 12


12pm — Why Villains Matter

6pm — Common Problems of New Writers

8pm — Shaping the Short Story


All panels are in the Lyra room, except the Autographing Session which is in Authors Alley.


Please stop by and say hi, show me a smiling face in the audience, we’ll take a selfie, and hey, buy my books while you’re at it!

If you can’t make it this weekend then 1) laaaaaaame, 2) I still love you and 3) don’t worry, you can still buy Wolves and Witches and Peculiar Situations online. (Peculiar Situations is also, for a limited time, at convention discount on both Amazon and Smashwords.)

Of course, if you come see me in meatspoace, you can get your copy of Wolves and Witches signed for free. I’ll also have coupons to get Peculiar Situations for free.

FOR FREE, y’all.

But even if you don’t want a book for free for whatever insane reason, ConCoction is a good time and you guys should totes come.

The Better to Type With…

My very first NaNoWriMo was Sorority Vampires, a novel about…vampires. In a sorority.

(It was a little more than that, but not terribly much more.)

A few NaNos later, I decided to write the sequel, Fraternity Werewolves.

Some day I may go back and rewrite them, shine them up, make them better, because in their present forms they are not great. But even if your NaNo novel is kinda crappy, that doesn’t mean you can’t mine it for short story material!

Fast forward to the present day, where Chaosium, Inc., released The Mark of the Beast, which contains my short story “The Better to Type With, My Dear.” It’s a story about college kids, and werewolves, and it was totally taken out of Fraternity Werewolves, fixed up, and sent off. And accepted. And now, published.

Nothing you write is useless, my friends. Sometimes the only value is in the practice you get writing it, and sometimes a decade later it gets you in another anthology.

It’s a weird world.

Pappy’s Canteen

(This was cross posted from The Ration Project blog. The Ration Project, of which I am a co-host, is a year-long experiment in living history. We are living on World War 2 rations for a year and exploring the history of the war both overseas and on the home fronts. The Ration Project is available as a podcast wherever you consume your podcasts, on Facebook at The Ration Project, and as a blog at

I (Mrs. Hart) don’t remember much about my grandfather. He died when I was ten — my memory is bad enough that I barely remember things from a week prior, let alone two decades ago. I have one vivid personal memory — I asked him for some peanuts, and he said he would give me five, and somehow I ended up with ten in my hand. I told him he counted wrong and he recounted, again somehow ending up with ten peanuts that he claimed were five. It was hilarious at the time — remember, I had to be less than ten — and it’s still the one thing I most clearly remember about him.

There are other things I “remember” — memories that are not truly mine, memories constructed from hearing stories and seeing pictures. I “remember” stories that my dad told me, that my sister told me. I “remember” how he looks from pictures of him in a plain blue work shirt — the kind my dad still wears — and plain tan slacks — the kind my dad still wears — and a plain ball cap — the kind my dad still wears. Actually, a lot of my “memory” of my grandfather, my Pappy, is tied up in my dad.

Since starting the Ration Project, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to my dad about Pappy and Grammy, about what they told him of their experiences during the war. I also have the letters that Pap wrote to Gram when he was overseas, back when they were younger than I am now. It’s fascinating. It’s touching. It’s weird. It’s beautifully strange, opening up a whole chapter of my family’s history that I only barely knew about.

We have some of Pappy’s war memorabilia still, most of it in almost perfect shape. His tie, his jacket, some medals and pictures…and this.

His canteen.

We like writing things down, my family. We make notes and keep journals and make sure that the stories of our family are able to be passed down.

On this canteen, through this list of names, my Pappy drew us a map of every place he was during the war. They couldn’t censor his own water cup, and secrecy didn’t matter any more when he came home.

I love this. I love that he did this, as a way of remembering and making sure we were able to know where he was, what he went through, even though he never talked about it. Oh, he told my dad some stories, but they were mostly funny ones. We don’t like dwelling on sad things, my family. We like to keep it light when we can.

But looking at Pap’s canteen, I can see that he was at Anzio. That he was in Italy in 1943. That he was in Algers, and Cassino, and Roma. And Naples. And Bari. And I can imagine the stories he didn’t tell, the ones that were anything but light.

We’ve been talking the last few weeks about the Italian campaign, about the Allies sweeping through the penninsula. I can hold that history in my hands now, and it makes me wish I had known enough, thought enough, to ask Pap about it before he was gone.

It makes me wish he was still here to ask now.

My pap (in the middle) and two others making music on a hay cart in Italy.

Free Fiction: Mary

Halloween is coming up (which means I need to get started on making costumes for the kids — and me!). I love Halloween — not as much as some people *coughcough* the people in my neighborhood who have had decorations up since early September *coughcough* — but I still enjoy the time of year. I take any excuse to dress up in costume and Halloween is perfect for that.

One thing I don’t love — but that my sister Amanda REALLY loves — is the spooky stuff. I’m so soft. My brain doesn’t forget things that it labels as scary, and it tends to bring them up at the worst possible times and then it refuses to let me stop thinking about them. I didn’t learn this lesson until unfortunately late, which is why I still have nightmares about Pennywise, but now that I’m wiser I tend to stay away from spooky stuff. I don’t write a lot of horror for that reason. It’s just not my wheelhouse.

Pretty early on when I started writing more seriously, though, I did a few zombie pieces. This one, so far back I was still using my middle initial, was picked up by Everyday Weirdness (and can still be found there.)

I don’t love this so much, but it is nice from time to time to look back at old pieces and see how my style has changed, and hopefully to see some improvement.


Sixth grade:
Mary was wearing
her brand new dress,
and when the children gathered ‘round,
sing-songing her new name,
she didn’t cry
until the nurse took her hand,
led her away,
cleaned her up with unfamiliar kindness,
and sent her home
still bleeding.

Five years in pictures:
kids squirting ketchup on her chair,
saying her name
in a chanty chaining rhyme—
“Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary”—
and then screaming like a horror movie bimbo
and laughing like hyenas,
making jokes about Carrie and prom night
because kids don’t know.

Five years in whispers and their fists behind the door.

The day before the first day of school
Mary cut her wrists in the bathtub,
sinking into the warm oblivion
where there were no taunts,
no hyenas.

The next day
Bloody Mary went to school.
took a big bite from the new year,
and when the kids screamed
“Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary”
and ran away,
they weren’t laughing,
and they didn’t get far.

The school nurse peeked out and saw her shambling
down the hall, gnawing on her lab partner’s lung,
and when Bloody Mary stopped
and turned,
she screamed.
But Mary grinned—
a horrible, bloody grin—
and kept on leaving breadcrumb trails
with Chet Parker’s teeth.

The nurse darted through the bodies,
ignoring their clutching hands and scratching nails,
locked the door to the teacher’s lounge,
crawled out a window
and ran all the way home,
still bleeding.

Free Fiction Friday: A True Story About the Devil and Jamie’s Shoes

I feel like doing a Free Fiction Friday today! YOU’RE WELCOME.

This story, A True Story About the Devil and Jamie’s Shoes, was written for a Shock Totem flash fiction contest prompt and was first published in the delightful anthology The Old Weird South, edited by Tim Westover. I liked the feel of it so much that I included it in my short story collection Peculiar Situations, available on Amazon.

I grew up in the mountains, and to get anywhere we had to go up and down and all around hills and mountains of various sizes. (In fact, my boys know the way to their gram and pap’s house as “Up the mountain and down the mountain”.) There’s one road in particular that takes a wicked curve at a wicked angle. It’s known locally as Peggy’s Curve and I was always admonished to drive carefully around that turn because PEOPLE HAVE DIED THERE.

No one ever told us who died, and for our entire childhoods my sister and I thought it was some teenage girl, probably on her way home from prom, obviously called Peggy. I scared myself more times than I can count by imagining her ghost haunting that stretch of wooded road, appearing in front of the car while I was driving or, more often, showing up in the rear view mirror after I sped past. I never saw the ghost of the long lost Peggy girl, and here’s why.

A few years ago my dad was telling stories of the area, and he finally — finally, after 30 years! — got around to telling us that Peggy’s curve was named after a truck driver who had been killed in a crash there. A man. Who had a peg leg.

I suppose the ghost of old man Peg could haunt that curve, too, but I’m no longer quite so afraid of seeing a ghost there.

I do, however, always drive very carefully around that curve.


A True Story About the Devil and Jamie’s Shoes

One Saturday me and my brother Jeff and our pal Jamie were coming home from a day’s fishing.  Our poles made shadows on the road and the laces on Jamie’s shoes were flapping, kicking up little puffs of dust.

It being summer, Jamie was the only one wearing shoes.  He never went barefoot, even though his mama tried to make him save them for school and church and threatened his life if he ever lost them.  We asked what was wrong with squishing through mud and marsh like the rest of us, and he took off the shoes and showed us the paper that lined the insides.  Turned out that Jamie was superstitious.  Last year at the county fair an old woman told him to write the names of the Apostles on a piece of paper and put it inside his shoe for good luck.  Now, Jamie is also sloppy, and couldn’t keep his shoes tied tight.  He always had extra scraps of paper ready in his pockets, just in case the ones in his shoes fell out.

We came up on the crossroads where Main Street runs out of town and all the way over to Durham and there was old Peg Barnes, leaning against the telephone pole.  His wooden leg tapped against the crutch he used and his grizzled hair stood out all around his face.  As we went past he grunted “This is it.”  We stopped – how could we not, with an opening like that just hanging there?

“This is what?” I asked.

“This is where I met the devil.”

Jamie got a little pale.

“They say never make a crossroads bargain,” Peg said.  “But I wanted my leg back.  So I came down here at midnight and shed my blood and when he came, I made a deal.”

Jamie was listening with wide eyes and Jeff was too.

“What kind of deal?” I asked.

“Old Scratch needs someone,” Peg said, “to stoke the furnaces away down in Hell.  That’s what he wanted: two men, to do his bidding.  I told him I’d bring him his men, sure, right here to this crossroads.  And here we are.  I figure a boy’s as good as a man, to the devil.”  He looked over at Jeff and winked.  My brother started to cry.

“You stop,” I told Peg.  “It’s gone far enough.  Say you’re joking.”

“No joke,” Peg said.  “I made the deal, and I’d do it again.”

The wind kicked up and the sky got dark.  We blinked the dust from our eyes and when we could see, there was a man.

I tell you, the devil didn’t look like much.  I’ve seen finer men, but he wasn’t shabby, and I’ve seen uglier men, but he wasn’t handsome.  He looked like every other fellow on the street.  I could tell he was the devil, though.  It was all around him.

“Afternoon,” he greeted us.  “How was the fishing?”

“Never mind that.  I’ve got what you asked for,” Peg said.

“Boys, not men,” said Mister Scratch, studying us.

“They’re strong boys, big enough to do a man’s work,” Peg said.  “Take any two you like, I don’t care.  Just give me my leg back.”

The devil looked at us and opened his mouth and said, “I choose –”

“Wait!” Peg said.  “Give me my leg first, or else you don’t get any.”

Scratch gave him a look but waved his hands.  Peg dropped his crutch and the peg fell off as his leg filled out.  Peg stared down at his two good legs, then took a few steps and whooped.  He ran in a circle, laughing.

“My turn,” Scratch said, and pointed.  “You and you.”

First I thought “Thank the Lord” because it wasn’t me or Jeff.  Then I thought “Poor Jamie,” and then I thought “Good” because the devil had also chosen Peg.

Peg stopped running the moment the devil’s finger tagged him.

“Well, boys,” Scratch said, “it’s time to go.”

He gave a raucous laugh and, with a whoosh of dust and the rush of hundreds of wings, turned into a giant crow that picked up Peg in one claw and Jamie in the other and lifted off.

Now this is where Jamie’s shoes saved the day.  As the devil flew into the air, Jamie’s shoelaces wrapped around the telephone wire that hung over the crossroads.  The laces tangled and caught, and there was Jamie, hanging from the devil’s own claws, stuck on the wire.

The devil glared back, but no matter how he flapped and pulled, Jamie wasn’t going anywhere.  It didn’t make sense, how he stayed in those floppy shoes.  The only thing we could think later was that those Apostles’ names held him fast somehow.  He wasn’t coming out of those shoes, though, and those shoes weren’t coming off of that wire.  Scratch thought for a moment and then flew under the wire, giving the laces some slack, hoping they’d come unstuck and let him carry away his prey.  He shook Jamie a little and a scrap of paper came floating out of Jamie’s pocket.  It hit the devil square between his eyes.

Scratch squealed, shaking his head to get it off, but it was stuck fast.  Jamie wiggled a bit and another scrap came down, and then it was snowing paper, a white blizzard of Apostles’ names swirling out of Jamie’s pants.

You know how sometimes you’re so scared you come out the other side where it hits you as funny and you laugh because there’s nothing else for it?  That’s what happened to us when Jamie’s scraps kept falling.

So there’s the devil, and there’s Jamie, stuck, and there were Jeff and me, laughing.  The devil hates being laughed at, and those papers must have hurt him something bad.  Faced with that, Mister Scratch must have decided that one man was good enough.  He gave up on Jamie and left, Peg still hanging from the other claw.  The papers stopped falling as soon as the devil let go and Jamie dropped, barefoot, to the ground.

No matter how we tried, we never could get those shoes off the wires.  Jamie got a hiding when his mama found he’d lost them, though, even if it saved his life.  You can laugh at the devil but there’s not much you can do about mothers when it comes to shoes.

Meet Zinnia and Harris: Corvidae Released


Attention all bird lovers! Corvidae is now available!

I’m excited about this anthology for a lot of reasons: I love Rhonda and am happy to be in one of her anthologies, I love Jane Yolen and am thrilled to have my name in the same TOC as hers, and I love birds in stories just in general. But one of the biggest reasons I’m excited about this anthology is because this is the first Zinnia and Harris story to appear in print.

Sometimes you have ideas that seem great at the time and then, upon further reflection, you realize they’re terrible and you put them safely away. Sometimes you have ideas that grab you right from the start and then, upon further reflection, grab you even more. That was Zinnia and Harris.

I knew I wanted to write about some buddies. I knew I wanted to write about women. I knew I wanted to write about monster hunters. So I did those things. “Seven for a Secret,” the story that appears in Corvidae, is the first to be published but never fear, there are a half dozen more stories in various stages of completeness, so I hope to have more to share soon.

For now, though, you can check out Zinnia and Harris in “Seven for a Secret” (and many, many other amazing stories by other amazing authors) in Corvidae, available directly from the publisher here, or on Amazon here. It’s also on Goodreads so if you read it please stop by and give us a review!

CORVIDAE Cover Reveal!



That gorgeous thing is the cover for the upcoming anthology Corvidae, the second volume in Rhonda Parrish’s Magical Menageries series.

Check out how cool this book is going to be:

Associated with life and death, disease and luck, corvids have long captured mankind’s attention, showing up in mythology as the companions or manifestations of deities, and starring in stories from Aesop to Poe and beyond.

In Corvidae birds are born of blood and pain, trickster ravens live up to their names, magpies take human form, blue jays battle evil forces, and choughs become prisoners of war. These stories will take you to the Great War, research facilities, frozen mountaintops, steam-powered worlds, remote forest homes, and deep into fairy tales. One thing is for certain, after reading this anthology, you’ll never look the same way at the corvid outside your window.

Featuring works by Jane Yolen, Mike Allen, C.S.E. Cooney, M.L.D. Curelas, Tim Deal, Megan Engelhardt, Megan Fennell, Adria Laycraft, Kat Otis, Michael S. Pack, Sara Puls, Michael M. Rader, Mark Rapacz, Angela Slatter, Laura VanArendonk Baugh, and Leslie Van Zwol.

(There are a lot of awesome names up there. Plus I will never get tired of seeing my name in the same list as Jane Yolen’s.)

((OK, I’m going to scroll up and look at that cover again.))

(((OK, I’m back.)))

Corvidae will be released on July 7, so you’re going to want to start saving your shinies now. This is one book you will definitely want to have in your nest.

(You can pre-order within the US now from World Weaver Press or go ahead and add it to your shelves at Goodreads!)

Eurovision 2015 Automatic Finalists: A Tiger Sorceress and Italian Nerds

It’s here! It’s tomorrow! It’s the Eurovision Grand Final!!

There are seven entrants this year who don’t have to fight through the semi-finals process: the “Big Five” (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the UK), the host country (Austria for 2015) and as a special guest this year, Australia, because apparently they’re all big Eurovision fanboys?

Sometimes the automatic finalists kind of seem like they’re not even trying, like since they get a pass to the finals no matter what they just kind of send something that is not the top of the game. (Engelbert Humperdinck, I’m looking at you.) This year, though, they mostly seem like pretty good entrants — good songs, and where there aren’t good songs, there are good (or at least interesting) videos.

Australia — Tonight Again — Guy Sebastian — If Australia wins this year, they get to be in next year’s contest, too. With this song, they actually have a chance. This is such a fun dance song, with broader appeal than some of the other ones and a really good feel to it. I also love a good brass line, too.

Austria — I Am Yours — The Makemakes — OK, I lied. This is neither a good song nor a good video. It seems kind of retro but in a not great way? I guess they do set the piano on fire there at the end, but it’s not totally engulfed so it’s sort of like, why bother?

France — N’oubliez pas — Lisa Angell — This is the Frenchest of French entries. She’s in the sky? People are on a beach? It’s super arty and makes no sense because I’m not French enough and they’re not going to deign to explain it because I should just really learn French already.

Germany — Ann Sophie — Black Smoke — I think I’m thrown off by her bad outfit, but I can never get into this song too much. It’s singable, though, and that’s something.

Italy — Grande Amore — Il Volo — I love this. I love everything about this. I love the song, I love the conceit of the video, I love these guys, I have a great love for this entry.

Spain — Amanecer — Edurne — This song is highly forgettable but the video is AMAZING. She’s some crazy singing sorceress who turns into a tiger in a fantasy world! I would watch the heck out of the TV show for which this would be the theme song.

UK — Still in Love With You — Electro Velvet — Another one of my very favorites this year. They’re both so super adorable in a super British way. I really dig the weird blacklight rave in the middle, I love the awkward scat session, I love that “Oh yes?” he does. This is just great. I know a lot of people don’t like this one but it really is in my top 5 of songs that just make me happy when they come up.