Friday, November 30, 2012

City of Bones Chapter 17

I mentioned last chapter post that I like action. But I am not adverse to romance or books that focus JUST on character development. One of my ultimate, all time favorite books is That Hideous Streingth, a book that many people consider to be C.S. Lewis's worst work of fiction. There is so much vitriol surrounding it, I've added it to the list of to-be-bitched books, because yes. Even I acknowledge that the book has severe issues. Why do I like it? Because it's a story about how evil works, and how its ultimate "goal", if you will, is its own self destruction.

Why do I bring this up? What salvages THS for me is that character development. The primary story arc is a man who is an idiot, and probably C.S. Lewis's own self insert, whose mind numbing stupidity almost brings about the end of the world, and how he gets out of that stupid. And of course there is Jane's arc. Jane's arc rocks. These are two people who are not good at the beginning of the book who become good later.

That is not the case here. City of Bones contains one terrible person--Jace--and one prop to reward that terrible person with--Clary. And because Clary is not a real person, and isn't intended to be anything except our vehicle for adventure, anything that focuses on romance is predictable, boring and just...ugh, let's just get to it already.

This chapter is called "The Midnight Flower." Congradulations, we're about to land on Planet Girl.

The description of the greenhouse is stunningly bad. The scent of blooming flowers hits Clary "soft as the padded blow of a cat’s paw." Because the first thing I think of when I smell roses is of my cat batting my face around like it's her favorite chew toy. There is colon abuse, M-dash abuse, and this little gem:

a plant bearing a star-shaped yellow blossom whose petals were medallioned with golden pollen.
That is not a word. That does not even invoke an image I would associate with a plant. I'm thinking of Lillies, and how, if you don't remove the stamens before they mature, the pollen gets everywhere. Festooned, covered, coated, dusted, glazed, all of these are words I would apply. But medallion implies the big gaudy thing at the end of a necklace, not the soft fluffy stuff on the tip of your nose. And that noise you heard? That was the sound of spellcheck underlining "Medallioned" so hard it burned out a couple pixels on my laptop's screen.

And of course, the lights of the city glitter like "cold jewels".

Jace assures Clary that they'll be left alone up here because Isabelle and Alec have allergies. This is their house. Why would they have flowers in their house they are allergic to? Clary asks what all the flowers are, and Jace says he doesn't know, he's not a botanist, he only needed to learn how to kill things. This strikes me as less "Jace is a Badass" and more "Cassandra Clare didn't want to write about flowers."

Which sucks. Yes. Flowers are a boring topic and having characters talk about flowers might be difficult...if you do it wrong. In Sunshine, my favorite book of all time, a vampire gets the main character to keep herself alive (it's complicated) by talking about her activities as a baker. It develops her character and his at the same time, not because she's talking about baking muffins but how she's talking about those muffins. This is a moment for Clary and Jace to connect. He could talk about something that grew in Idris, about a peaceful moment he remembered from his childhood that's connected to flowers, she could mention something else, and through their movements and how they react to each other they could develop their relationship subtly. Nope. They talk about birthday presents, about Jace's dad doing nice things for Jace for a change, and you get the feeling that this is being rushed along. This is a CONNECTION moment, after all. These two will feel a CONNECTION, and we must rush along to that moment.

Jace confides that he had no friends, his Dad homeschooled him and that he never saw another kid his age until he was ten years old. Then he says "Don't feel sorry for me, Dad was great."

Clary does not call bullshit on this. I will. Bullshit, Jace, your dad was emotionally and physically abusive. Idris needs CPS like YESTERDAY. He goes on to tell Clary she's lucky her dad died before she was born, so at least she doesn't miss him.

...BULL. FUCKING. SHIT. JACE. Death of a family member creates an absence. Perhaps not an acute loss, but I miss the chance to get to know my paternal granddad. It's not the same as knowing the person you lost, but it's still something that you can miss and mourn. But once again, Clary is perfectly okay with somebody else invalidating her feelings. And then, at midnight, all the pretty flowers open.

The author watches too many AMVs when she was writing this, because I could hear the music and the anime shininess in the background.

Anyway, Jace and she discuss tattoos and if he and Isabelle ever dated. He says no, it'd be too weird, Isabelle was too much like a sister to him. And then they clean everything up and have the accidental kiss know, I thought this would be more vomit worthy. This is more like watching two actors who have no chemistry whatsoever try to convince you that they're going to make like rabbits when the screen fades to black. He takes her back to her room, kisses her one more time, and OF COURSE Simon catches them and Simon's hurt because, DUH, he's in love with Clary. What I don't get is why Jace suddenly goes cold on Clary. Well, I mean, I do get it. Romantic Cliche Number 2227 requires the romantic leads to have wacky misunderstandings before they lip lock in true love. But Jace knew that Simon had a thing for Clary, and he knew that Clary didn't return the emotion. But nope, he burns her off because, you know, the special snowflake must show off his softer side, as covered by raging jealousy and total disreguard for the feelings of others.

And then Simon and Clary have a fight, and Simon proves to be the most perceptive male alive.

“Details,” said Simon dismissively. “He’s an asshole. I thought you were better than that.”

And then, after several paragraphs of Clary missing the very fucking obvious, Simon confesses his love, then walks out the door, leaving Clary to collapse into a helpless pile of angsty, blubbering tears.

Human beings whose brains are wired correctly are goddamned good at reading social cues. The healthy human brain can read when someone is happy, when someone is sad, when someone likes you or when someone hates you. When the brain is not wired correctly, the individual becomes socially handicapped. Now, what I am about to say will probably be very ugly to some people, and I apologize ahead of time. Clary Fray shows no other signs of being severely autistic, but her utter inability to read the people around her has no single other possible explination.


But no, we have her collapsed in little sobby tears because she didn't know, and now Simon is gone and she never understood how much she loved him before, only she loves Jace too because he made her happy for a few minutes, making her forget her mother and Luke's betrayal--given how often Clary has thought about Mom and Luke, she forgot it a LONG time before Jace took her to see the pretty flowers--and...and...and maybe it's her fault she's losing Simon, because she committed the terrible sin of being happy.

Words cannot express how fucking angry that makes me.

I am not going to rant about this, because it will make this post way way way too long. So I'm just going to state the plain facts and move on.

I had issues with Self Injury, starting when I was eighteen and running until I was about 21. I still have them, but 21 was when I stopped actively doing it. One of my triggers was accepting the blame for things I had nothing whatsoever to do with. One of the worst episodes, one of the few that has left permanent scars, was when I bought dinner, for myself, and did not offer any to my grandfather. I overheard him telling my grandmother what a horrible, inconsiderate person I was for buying myself food and not offering it to anyone else, and for daring to eat it in front of him. I blamed myself for making my grandfather hate me, and I effectively removed the top layers of skin from my right knee using a razor blade as a reaction. Accepting blame for the actions and behaviors of another person is not healthy. That's what Clary is doing right now. I know exactly how Clary's brain is working right now, because it's what my brain does all the time. And the fact that this is never brought up, never mentioned again, and kind of glorified in these passages as a normal way to react to teenage stupidity, has made me extraordinarily angry. 

We cut from Clary being emotionally triggered into a state of dejected and unwarrented self hatred by the two most important men in her life to Clary realizing that her absent scrawling of magical runes on the edge of one of her drawings has made the wings in the drawing feel like feathers. Now, because are two thirds of the way through this crap-tastic novel, this triggers Clary suddenly realizing something important. And I'm not going to spoil it for you guys, but this book has finally begun that wonderful tradition in terribly written fiction of swiveling around and shooting itself in the face.

Brace yourself kids. The next chapter is going to be pretty vicious. 

Starbleached 2 Status

I am re-reading this book. And with the pressure on to make it ABSOLTELY PERFECT I want to kick myself for not doing a better job on the first draft.

The thing about writing is, the first draft is not a thing. It is the moment when you are flinging shit at the wall and waiting to see what sticks. So far, not a lot is sticking. I hated writing it, I will probably hate editing it, until about Dec 15th when it's come together a little more and I start being amazed at how...not from me most of my writing is. The best moments are usually in the second or third draft when most of the bullshit has been cleared away and I find out a whole bunch of disconnected things kind of connected themselves when I wasn't looking, and if I just tweek a couple passages the rest of it will all link up and make me look really, really good. I know that moment will come. It came with every other book so far. I just don't like not having that feeling now, when I know there are at least two people actively waiting on this.

I will, I think, be keeping the flashback/flashforward thing from the earlier books. Partially because it will help my ultimate goal with this series along emencely. (If you do not simultaneously love the book and hate me at the end of it, I have not done my job right) partially because it says part of what I think Sci-fi should say. Fantasy is about who we are right now. Sci-fi is about where we're going. Weird thing is, we're also defined by our past in a really weird way. And I like being able to lay past and present side-by-side like this and say, this is what made these people the way they are.

The other thing that worries me is...this story will have a positive ending, but I can't comfortably say this is a Happily Ever After yet. Oh, that's coming. I LOVE HEA as much as the next girl. I just believe in making characters earn them. But I've got this story arc planned down to the minute, and if it were a real novel, this ending would technically be the midpoint. You're going to hate me. The next one is going to end at the "failure" point, which means (If you're still with me that late into the career) that you are REALLY going to hate me.

Which I am fine with, as long as you like the story. If I am not fucking with you, boys and girls, I am not doing my job as a writer.

Ah, well. Must sign off and go do real job now. Which sucks. I've got a migrane that is KILLING me. Have a nice weekend!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

State of the CW...again

Yeah, I know. It's a little early to be doing YET. ANOTHER. ONE. OF THESE.

But I want to. First, I want to talk about numbers. I like numbers. I don't like adding numbers, but I like playing with them. When I'm playing video games and/or selling books I like watching the numbers go up. The one nice thing about KDP is, I get a little screen that I can refresh as often as I want to, so I can know with a couple hours delay exactly how many books I have sold. I have a stat addiction. Sometimes I feel like huddling under the sink with a box of cheetoes and my knitting row counter, counting how many times I can click the little red button.

If everything goes right/well/same as it's been for the last two months? I'll have sold 100 books by the end of the year.

Yes. I know this is not a ground breaking thing. I know that a *real* writer would have sold that the first month her book was published. That doesn't even mean real money. But's a number. It's a pretty cool number. I would like to see that number happen. Buy things in December, you know, if you want to, and make that number happen. It would make me very happy. Think of it as my christmas present or something. :D

As ya'll know...well, you SHOULD know, given how much time I spend talking about them around here, I have three series going. Exiles, which nobody really cares much about, Gray Prince, which definately nobody cares about (Which is sad. I'm VERY proud of that book) and Starbleached. Oh, ho ho ho, Starbleached.

Ready for numbers, boys and girls?

As of today, this minute, I have sold a grand total of 84 books.

45 of them are copies of Starbleached. Yes. The sci-fi story that I basicially wrote over the course of three days in the desperate hopes that the story itself would go away and let me get back to writing books that nobody cares about. Now, since then I've understood the story better and I really like it. A lot. And I like where I want to take it, otherwise I'd be taking it somewhere else.

But for the first time? Guys?

I'm scared.

This self publishing thing is not my attempt to be successful as a writer. I gave up on that back in April. And that giving up? Was hard. But it was a combination of realizing just how unlikely my being really published was, and understanding just how truely fucked in the head the attempt had made me...and it was really more the latter issue than the former that drove me to throw in the towel and go with KDP. I figured that after six months or so of utter failure, I'd publish the goddamn novels Exiles are leading up to, and that would be that. You know that line from Toy Story? "We're not flying! We're falling. WITH STYLE!" That's kind of how I wanted this to go.

And then things started going well. Not the kind of great numbers that lead to publishing deals but the kind that give me a warm, fuzzy feeling at the end of a shitty day. My life outside of writing is suddenly something I like, which is not something I could say back when I was trying and failing at being a real writer. I could sit in the glow of nice, expectationless numbers and be kind of happy. I was--hell, as far as I know, I still am--falling with style.

But a couple nights ago it hit me: You guys like that story. I mean, really, really like that story. You don't give a flying flip about the other two series, far as I can tell, but that one? You like that one. And now I have to release the sequel in a month. Which I've been looking forward to, because I really, really like this story too. Only...ya'll hate the other two series, close as I can tell. So what if I fuck this one up? Don't do it right. What if it was like that one fluke, and now...yeah, kids. It's stage fright. The pressure is on.

It makes me think that that's all professional success is. That there isn't one moment where you get to sit back and go "I did this, I am cool, I am awesome, go me" and that instead it's a mountain of work, followed by a mountain of work, followed by another mountain of work, with breif pauses for you to eat, sleep and get drunk in .That the anxiety I felt when I was trying to be published is the way I'm gonna feel this time next year when it's time to assess how this project's really going, because I'm always going to be scared of fucking it up. I'm not that good, boys and girls. If I were that good, I'd be a real writer with real books and stuff.

IDK. Maybe it is just stage fright.

Alright, signing off. Planet Bob ETA 32 days and counting. We're gonna do it. I can't swear that you'll like it--the story arch as I have planned isn't going to be the prettiest thing in the universe--but damn if I'm not going to try.

City of Bones Chapter 16

This may come as a surprise to those of you who read my books, but I like action.

Starbleached is the way it is (Flash back, flash forward, flash back, flash forward) because otherwise it would have been a LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG time before we got to the interesting parts. It was either juggle explaining why the plot was what it was with the actual interesting bits, or bore the utter living shit out of you trying to set everything up. I went with the first option, figuring that Memento: The book wouldn't be annoying as long as it stayed short.

My point with name dropping my own stuff in this review? I like character interactions, too, as long as they are interesting character interactions. There is no action in P&P for example, and yet I love every moment about it. Mostly because every moment is telling us something about these characters. And you know the Kiera Knightly movie? There's one scene that is the most telling moment in it. It's short and it's subtle. Darcy helps Elizabeth into her family's carrage after Bingley's party. She appears shocked, as he's actually touching her. He walks away. Camera cuts to his hand, which he is flexing rather quickly. Short, quick, over in a second, but you know that her presence has affected him, somehow. It allows the next big moment in their relationship (his proposal of marriage in the gondola) to happen with only a couple more interactions between Darcy and Elizabeth (...I think the next time they talk is at Lady De Bough's house, when Lizzie is attempting to play the piano.)

Cassandra Clare? Is not nearly that subtle. She wants to build romance between characters, and I think poor Applebloom will be puking quite a bit in the paragraphs to come.

They go back to the Institute (...infidels being protected by consecrated ground by a God they don't believe in. And Jace says God doesn't care.) and Hodge reads all three of them, Simon included, the riot act. Let's cover all the things Jace has done in the last few hours:

-Involve no less than three percieved mundanes in Clave business (He thought Random Hispanic Dude AKA Raphael the Vampire was a mundie at the time, so it counts for stupid)
-Put Simon's life in danger by taking him to Magnus's party
-Invade the home of vampires who were minding their own business (they thought Simon was their rat)
-Hurt the vampires who were formerly minding their own business, in ways that were possibly fatal
-Possibly break the Accords between Clave and Downworlders by doing the two above items.
-Possibly incite a war between vampires and werewolves, because the two aren't supposed to be ANYWHERE  NEAR each other.
-Steal a vampire's motor cycle and fly it over downtown New York

I'd ground the little bastard two. Preferably into bone meal, because I think he'd be better off as fertilizer.

Then they all troop off to the infirmary, though Clary takes time out for a shower. Jace and Clary exchange sexually laden innuendo and romantic tension. Simon gives her a kiss. And hey, I haven't pointed out descriptive fail in a while:

“Sure.” To her surprise he leaned forward and kissed her on the cheek. It was a butterfly kiss, a quick brush of lips on skin, but as she pulled away, she knew she was blushing.
First of all...

Secondly...and I really hate myself for knowing this...that is not what a butterfly kiss is. I grew up in a borderline Christian fundamentalist household, meaning that Harry Potter was banned, but Terry Brooks and David Eddings were not (Figure that out, sports fans) and the only thing our radio played was Christian Music. Newsboys. Audio Adrenaline. Stephen Curtis Chapman. Mercy Me (who are still awesome). Kendall Payne (who is, no bullshit, the best lyracist I have heard in my entire LIFE. Seriously. Go find "Wonderland" on youtube and listen to it. If by some God granted miracle the Exile books ever turn into an actual tv/ movie thing, that song is the theme song)

Anyway, one of the less awesome acts in CCM was a dude named Bob Carislile. There is mellow, and then there is that shit. And the song that he was best known for was a song called "Butterfly Kisses". Todd in the Shadows, one of my favorite human beings of all time, ever, uses a term "overplay" to describe when a radio station pounds a song into the ground so hard the individual music notes wind up in China. Those of you who do not listen to CCM have no idea what this thing is. If you combined the overplay of "Hey Soul Sister", Kesha and Katy Perry, you'd be about halfway to the level of bone-chilling nausia I felt whenever "Butterfly Kisses" hit the airwaves back in 98-04, when I stopped listening to CCM exclusively. I promise you, it is still on the airwaves. I am embedding the music video for the song down below, but promise me. You don't want to hear it.

So what is a Butterfly kiss? It's where you hold your eyes really close to someone's cheek...and blink. Fast. Like Bella in the "WTF is Human?" scene in BDpt2. So that the other person feels like a butterfly is tickling their cheeks with their eyelashes.

Hold on...

Okay, better now.

So yeah. It is not a "there and gone again" kiss, Clare. Look this shit up.

Clary, of course, misses the ENTIRE POINT and decides Simon's showing off for Isabelle.She wanders off. Alec follows her and then...*sigh*

The biggest problem I have with this book is one I can no longer ignore. Not that I've ignored it all that much, but here goes. Jace is Draco Malfoy from Harry Potter. Fandom Draco, where he's suave and dashing and not the constipated little shit from the real books and movies, but for all intents and purposes, The HP fandom took Draco, brushed his hair and taught him how to sit up straight, and then Cassandra Clare repackaged him for this book. Which would not be a huge problem IF Cass's hero worship of Draco wasn't oozing out of every page. This is her perfect human being and oh holy fuck does it ever show. Clary is a perfectly beautiful person NOT because the main character has to be perfect for her own self, but because only a perfectly beautiful person is worthy of Draco Malfoy. It's that pretty girl door prize that all boy are promised.

The problem? He's still a constipated little shit. He's just got better lines this time around.

Seriously. Jace is a terrible human being. He's a bigot. And by bigot I don't mean the "the black people are worth fifty points" game my racist relatives used to play. I mean he actively hates the visibly different so much he becomes homicidal around them. He says hideously insulting things to EVERYBODY around him. I have glossed over the number of terrible, terrible things Jace has said. He's a bully, he's so self-absorbed unrequited love directed at him only amuses him. He makes Ted Bundy look like a well adjusted human being with a few small anger issues. And this book worships him.

However, the last couple of chapters? Have been less than flattering for Mr. Weyland. First, he brought a mundane to a magical party and lost him to vampires. Then he broke his system's own rules going after the mundane he lost. Then he came very close to restarting a civil war. Then he got his ass rightfully chewed by his boss for doing the above stupid things. He also reveled that he's a religious bigot as well as a racist one. And as any author worth their salt will intuit, he needs some salvaging. Normally, this would be where the character is required to make some great sacrifice, preform some good deed, or otherwise do something to make up for being an utter asshole during his screen time. He would do something that would require significant character growth, promising that eventually, his asshole bigoted nature will go away.

Clare does not allow him to do this, because if he stopped being a racist, bigoted little shit he would stop being a direct clone of Draco Malfoy. So instead, she sends Alec after Clary to tell her, and by extension, the rest of us, what a fragile, precious little snowflake Jace really is.

“You don’t understand,” Alec said. “You don’t know him. I know him. He thinks he has to save the world; he’d be glad to kill himself trying. Sometimes I think he even wants to die, but that doesn’t mean you should encourage him to do it.”

You know who else thought they were saving the world? Hitler and the SS. No bullshit. Find a documentary on them, ANY documentary, and see for yourself. The power of thinking you're on the side of the angels is the kind that blinds you to your own terrible actions. The road to hell isn't paved with good intentions, kids. It's paved with self righteousness and bigotry. Combine the two, and everyone around you is fucked.

And I haven't gotten that vibe from Jace at all. I've gotten suave ladies' man. I've gotten murderer. I've gotten abused plaything. I haven't gotten superman.

Second, Alec's whole rant is way, way, way WAY off the mark. He says nobody asked her to get involved and she should just go home, and that's the biggest load of horse pucky this book has thrown at us so far. Clary is not here by her own choice. She's stayed here by her own choice, but she didn't even walk into the Institute for the first time under her own power. Clary got involved in Clave business because Jace hunted her down after the murder episode in the night club. If he hadn't gone to find her, if he had just ignored her being there, worst case senario is she would have faced the ravener demon and the demon cops outside her apartment on her own. Given that Dorothea was there with a magical doorway, there's a good chance that Clary could have survived with a little extra Downworlder help. Which, as this book will soon reveal, she definately would have gotten. Alternatively, she could have grown a spine and gone home in time for her and her mom to escape Valentine together. But Jace showed up, after everyone, Hodge included, had told Jace to drop it and leave Clary alone. So her being involved in the Clave? It's Jace's fault. Jace brought Clary to the institute the first time, Jace decided that Clary needed to go see the Silent Brothers, Jace decided that they then needed to go see Magnus Bane, Jace allowed Simon to tag along, and then left him alone with Isabelle and Alec, whose anti-mundane retoric should definately have disqualified them as babysitters. Jace decided to go after the vampires without backup. Clary hasn't even had a clue what the fuck is going on half the time. Jace has been in control the whole way. But what does Alec say?

“You mundanes are completely selfish, aren’t you? Have you no idea what he’s done for you, what kind of personal risks he’s taken? I’m not just talking about his safety. He could lose everything. He already lost his father and mother; do you want to make sure he loses the family he’s got left as well?”
Right. Because it's selfish to want to understand where your mother went. Because it's selfish to ask for protection from the people who probably inadvertantly exposed Joycelyn to her enemies (again. Clary's mom has been on the run for sixteen years, and she is kidnapped within twenty four hours of Clary meeting Jace. In fact, given what I know about the other characters involved? Mom getting abducted is Jace's fault too, because he mentioned this Shadowhunter-seeing mundane girl to the wrong person.) It's selfish to expect the boneheaded moron who got your best friend turned into a rat and then kidnaped by vampires due to his not giving a shit to go out of his way to fix things.

And then? The book loses me. Because this is not characterization, kids. this is Clare slamming our heads into the wall, screaming "JACE IS A SPECIAL SNOWFLAKE! JACE IS A SPECIAL SNOWFLAKE!" Clary decides that Alec is "partly right".

This is victim blaming.

That Fundie household I grew up in? Sometimes, and not all the time, but sometimes, it could be emotionally abusive. I did wind up blaming myself for things that were not my fault. I remember once clearly believing that my asking for toys had caused my parents' bank account to become overdrawn. The victim's most natural self-protective reaction when faced with emotional abuse is to blame themselves for the abuse. It allows them to modify their behavior into something that will get them out of the situation alive.

This is not what Clare is going for. Instead, Clare gets angry because Alec is right, and her life is so unfair and everyone else is so mean to her, and she says ugly things back at Alec. And not just ugly things. Weaknesses and secrets that Jace shared with her in confidence, trusting that she would not use them against one of his own oldest friends. And then her own observation that he's in love with Jace. I have had this done to me, and sadly, I have done this. It is the ugliest, most underhanded thing a person can do short of doing physical harm.

So Alec ups the ante by hitting her and telling her never to bring it up to Jace, or he'll kill her. Well, boys and girls, if Clary were a decent human being? She wouldn't have brought it up with Alec.

So she goes to bed, scribbles a little, has a big cry about how her whole life has been a lie (Newsflash: Your mother had to keep secrets from you. You were a kid and she was in hiding, and if she hadn't kept things hidden you would have blown it. Her mistake was in keeping those secrets too long, not in having them in the first place.) and then Simon shows up to comfort her. They say sweet things and it is all friend-romantic.

Unfortunately Simon falls asleep in her bed, so she has to go off and find somewhere else to sleep, and who should show up but Jace!

Yeah. Literally. She pingpongs from one boy to another. Because we haven't hinted at this enough, it's time to develop it into a full-fledged nightmarish thing.

Of course, where Simon is an adorable teddy bear, Jace is perfect. Except for one tooth, which is "endearingly chipped".

...I can't use the Applebloom picture again, can I?

She asks him why he's here, and he spouts off some metaphysical bullshit to show us how uncomfortable he is with his feeeeeeeelings. Then he produces a basket, tells Clary he just found out from Hodge that it's her birthday--how would he know this?--and takes her up to the roof for a romantic rooftop picnic under the stars, to celebrate her birthday.


Next chapter: I need more cutesy romance-induced puking macros, because it's entirely possible Applebloom might die before chapter 17 is over.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Publishers and grocery stores pt deux OR... WHAT THE ACTUAL F**K?

Okay, boys and girls. Some of you might remember a couple weeks back I went on this long, weird, rambling post about the Penguin/Random House merger, which I then named Penguin House because "Penguin Random House" sounds like the world's perfect password and not, you know, an actual thing.

Anyway, the tl:DR version of it is, Penguin House wants to compete with Amazon and will probably shoot the rest of the industry in the process. I thought it was 90% bullshit at the time, but I know what happened when HEB did the same thing with Wal-Mart down here and, well, I felt like rambling. That's the name of the blog, right?

Well...and this is really weird...I kind of found the connection that makes it all make more sense. And then the connection that makes me go why the fuck is this even a thing?

Let me introduce you to Author Solutions, sports fans. And by "introduce" I mean "talk about" because I'm not linking to them. They are not PubliSHAMerica but they are close to it the way that Miller/Bud/Michelobe lite beers are to water. It kind of sort of looks like the real thing, but you know it's not. Here is a litany of how awful they are. 

In case you don't click on that link, however, you'll miss the really weird part. Apparently Author Solutions is the DeBeers of the publishing industry.They are everything, apparently, that isn't Createspace or Lightening Source or Lulu. Including iUniverse, which I could have sworn was its own thing, but apparently not. And they're talking real publishers into creating their own self publishing arm.

I think this is the way most of 'em are going to wind up going, given the massive amounts of money Amazon is making off the self pubbed authors they've published via KDP. But the weird thing is, the publishers who do decide to do this? Aren't doing it on their own. They shove it off on Author Solutions, which is a little like asking the hot dog guy to do your surgeries for you when you're an IRL brain surgeon and you could probably find a way to do it cheaper and better if you thought about it hard enough. I get not wanting to deal with us self-pubbers, I really do. We're whiny, self-entitled idiots who think we understand the universe better than the people who have done it their entire adult lives. But again: hot dog guy.

And they're charging money for this. Oodles and oodles of it. They are charging shitloads of money, in a branch of the industry that has a TON of free options that are as good, if not better. KDP. B&N's PubIT. Smashwords. All of these I can work with right now, for free (and Amazon is still my best option. Phooey) As for print books, I can go to Createspace or Lulu and, again, have it all done for free. Which I'm not doing yet because a real book will cost you twelve fucking dollars and I'd only get maybe a dollar out of that? And negative dollars for overseas sales? I was kind of drunk when I did it, and I just remember being massively disgusted with how much paper books would cost. My vanity, boys and girls, does not reach that far.

And if I'm not having books printed when they'd cost me nothing, I sure as shitfire am not going to have my books printed by a service that'll charge me ten thousand fucking dollars for the privelage. Not even to have Simon and Schuster's new affiliate attached to it.

Oh, yes. They're the latest to jump on the band wagon. They're gonna have "their" self publishing service, just like iUniverse and Harlequin's self pub service, and just like Xlibrius and a few dozen other ones, because it's all being run by Author Solutions.

Who suck hard enough to take the black out of space.

How does this tie in with Penguin House? Well...They bought Author Solutions back in July.

Speechless Castle is Speechless

So Simon and Schuster have basically licenced their name to Author Solutions, so Author Solutions can put it on a sticker on the spine of some of the books they print and then send a large portion of their profits to Penguin House. Simon and Schuster have licenced their brand to their biggest competitor.

And Penguin House? Now has its own self publishing arm that it doesn't have to fuck around with because, hey, it already is everything. iUniverse? PENGUIN HOUSE! Xlibris? PENGUIN HOUSE! The Harlequin offshoot that got Harlequin taken off the Romance novelists guild...thing...list of qualifying publishers? Penguin House again! As of right now, if you lined up all the self pub companies that are actually worth the card stock it took to write their name on and threw darts at this hypothetical board, you'd have a better chance of hitting an Author Solutions/Penguin House company than you would anything else. Including Amazon, who has a grand total of two services as compared with Author Solution's apparent nine billion. And, sadly, Amazon is still the only platform that offers a chance at actual sales. Which means? These books? That Penguin House will be printing via Author Solutions via whatever cardboard cut out they're using to sell these services? will probably be sold via Amazon.

This is wheels within wheels. This is the Russian Nesting Dolls of WHAT THE FUCKING HELL. There are weird systems, there are systems that don't make logical sense, and then there is the fucked up WAY past broken system we've chosen to call the publishing industry. I'm not even resentful anymore. I'm just kind of sitting here going

And...why. WHY? S&SCHUSTER, WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS? WHY WOULD YOU INVEST ANY MONEY IN YOUR BIGGEST COMPETITOR? ESPECIALLY when the company you just hired to do the work for you has a TERRIBLE record as far as publishing actually goes. WAS THE PITCHMAN HAROLD HILL? Wait. He was, wasn't he? He sang "Seventy six expresso book machines lead the big parade, while a hundred and ten copy machines followed behind" and the internet wayback machine had already stolen the pages that said the Gary Conservatory wasn't even open until aught six, so now you're stuck with the industry's version of marching band instruments and the think system.

Guys, I'm not as confident that I'm full of shit as I was a couple weeks ago. I'm not confident that we're about to see Penguin House Vs Amazon, but all this looks weirdly familiar to this Texas girl. HEB fought Wal-Mart, and everybody else in the grocery world "died" as a result. The problem with this comparison is...HEB actually takes damn good care of both its employees and its customers. It does things like donate day-olds to local food banks and truck in water if the local supply is bad and then give that water away to anyone with a bucket. When I worked for them, I did shitty, nasty, awful labor, but I was goddamn proud of the company I worked for. Yes, it's a cold heartless corporation that only thinks about its bottom line, but it's a cold heartless corporation that understands giving a shit about people is best for its bottom line. They're gonna charge as much as they can get away with for that box of noodles, but they'll turn around and spend a good portion of that profit making sure your community has drinking water and canned goods if a disaster hits your hometown. They'll do it, because they know when you're back on your feet? You're never shopping anywhere else, ever again.

A publishing company trying to set itself up as the HEB to face down Amazon's Wal-Mart? Would not buy Author Solutions. They're trying to compete with Amazon by being bigger and worse at the same damn time. Would you like to live in a world where the only options were Wal-Mart and the company worse than Wal-Mart?

Yeah. Me neither.

A hint at where TALES OF THE GRAY PRINCE is headed as a series

Starbleached book release blog tour January 2013!

So Planet Bob comes out January 1st. I want to promote the crap out of the entire series, since apparently it's y'all's favorite. (...this is Texas. That's a word here.)

Anyhoo, here's what I want to do. If you have a blog--counting your facebook page--and you'd like to participate in the tour, let me know. You'll get a copy of Starbleached for review purposes, gratis, because otherwise I'd be a horrible person, and you can do a review, or interview me, or just mention the book and post a bunch of cat macros under, if that's all you want to do. (...or chart out the basic plot with cat macros, which would be utterly awesome on every level)

In return? I'll review your blog, or a couple chapters of your book, or whatever, here. It's a blog tour quid pro quo. There's a page dedicated to it over here, so just pick a free day (They're all free at this point) and tell me what you'd like to do and what you'd like me to do.

Whatcha think?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

State of the CW

New countdown is up! Starbleached 2 comes out January 1st. And it is going to be a good one. I hope. I hope I hope I hope...

It's not too late to pick up a copy of This Found Thing for free. You might want to go do that now, as a matter of fact. Go! GO! the giveaway ends tonight! The higher we can make it go, the better.

The problem I have with writing these days is...I get it. There is a rhythm that good writing has. Once you get a good feel for that rhythm you can start to go "Gee, I need action to happen now" and know where to put it. Plotting has also gotten...somewhat easier. Sometimes I have a goal in mind. Sometimes I'm just writing until I figure I've gotten the end. It's not about the material, kids. Well, okay, sometimes it's about the material (coughMichealBaycough) but usually it's just about pacing, details and character development and making sure you haven't accidentally recreated Jar Jar Binks.

But there are times when I just don't want to do it. I'm writing a scene right now. Not for Starbleached the Second, but for the next Gray Prince book. And this scene is begging for a fight. In fact, it'll be "BAD CW NO COOKIE" if this scene does not end with the two characters having to run from the ravening horde. But I don't want to write this fight scene. I want to get these two characters back to the other place so that we can move on with the rest of the story. (BTW do you have any idea how hard it is to figure out how to do gunpowder in a late mideval setting? I am cheating horendeously, and if anybody has a good reason why a sodium/water reaction wouldn't work for projectile weapons, you need to speak up now. None of my research has uncovered much either way. Which actually stuns me, given how freaking spectacular that reaction is)

That said, I'm having a lot of fun with this one boys and girls. I'm playing with currency and economics--not trying to answer any questions, just...establishing a thing and then working out how people will deal with it--and now chemistry. Also a little biology. I have, for example, decided that Leythorne and his folks will be using a reindeer-analogue instead of horses as the beast of burden. Because why not? It's my book.

And I'm knitting again. I know. Riveting. I'm adapting a pattern from The Second Book of Modern Lace Knitting into a circular Pi shawl. Someday I will do things like sweaters and straight-forward squares, but Pi shawls are so freaking easy to chart. My only problem is deciding how many increases I want to do, and what the final border is going to look like. That's the other awesome thing with pi shawls. You don't have to work out the whole design before you start knitting. I am a VERY lazy designer, boys and girls.

Okay, there's your updates. Now I need to go have the bad guys chase the good ones for a couple of pages. 

And the vertigo is GONE. Not quite 100% but definately 90-95.

Monday, November 26, 2012

We interrupt this bitching to bring you... minutes of TOTAL AWESOME.

He picked up that picture and I went

How'd you react?

City of Bones: Chapter 15

At the risk of starting my THIRD religious rant in as many posts, the Random Hispanic Vampire is named Raphael. Raphael is, for lack of a better term, my favorite archangel. Should I be annoyed that this is the nearest he gets to real coverage, or actively relieved?

Anyway, last time on Suddenly Werewolf, the vampire party got crashed by a band of Random Wolves, and sadly, Jace and Clary are both still alive. The sociopathic wonder and the cardboard cut-out exposit about how vampires and werewolves are mortal enemies, and I have to ask: WHERE THE FUCK DID THIS COME FROM? Seriously. Fifteen years ago Laurel K. Hamilton didn't suck, and she was writing books were the weres and the vamps were, at worst, reluctant allies if not outright in bed together (...literally. This IS LKH after all). I was never *that* into Buffy, but I really liked Angel and the wolfies weren't hated there. But the last few years it's been vamps and wolves/lycans/therianthropes are mortal enemies. It even reared its ugly head at the eleventh hour in Breaking Dawn of all places. WHY. WHY IS THIS A THING?

Wait. Cassandra Clare book. Right.

Okay, so back to "Random Collection of Shiny Object Plot Things", Jace explains that this is bad, something must have HAPPENED to make the wolves arrive at this moment in time, and that they are about to be in a war.

...something might happen in this book? Seriously?!?

So then a wolf shape-shifts and says that they came for Clary.

OF COURSE THEY DID. This whole book REVOLVES around Clary. Nothing would happen in this book that DOESN'T have something directly to do with her. You remember my rules about a Mary Sue? She can solve the plot, but she doesn't start it. The problems should not revolve around her little tiny life.

Of course the vamps do not say "Sure, take her with our compliments, and make sure you eat the rat too" like any sane creature would, having been stuck in the same room as Clary Frey. Rather, they decide to keep her, and a fight breaks out.

The sound of the fight is described like this:

The noise was like nothing Clary had ever heard. If Bosch’s paintings of hell had come with a soundtrack, they would have sounded like this.
We need to have Intellectual Pretense Bingo Cards. This item would go in the corner. Also in a corner are Clary and Jace, who are not participating in this fight at all, and who also are not running. If werewolves had tried to steal me from werewolves, I'd be running.

Simon, being brighter than the main cast all rolled up together, spots a door behind the drapes and runs for it. Clary and Jace follow the rat, because that's what our heroes do. A wolf follows them and Clary, who has never thrown a knife in her life, manages to nail the wolf with one of Jace's knives on her very first try. I guess somebody pointed out that Clary has done fuck all for over half of this book, but it's way too late to salvage her as a character by now.

So while the incredibly badass end to Breaking Dawn  2 (the whole movie is kind of worth the last twenty minutes, I'm not kidding) happens behind a closed door, Clary and Jace get to sneak down a shaky staircase. It's rickety. It's rotten. It shakes a little when they step on it. Then the door gets broken down by one side or the other, and they flee quickly, with as little  as one hundred feet between them and the bad guys. But they need it, because Jace is going to steal one of the screams-of-the-damned motorcycles. She sees the vampires as they leave, though, surrounded by werewolves. So there is that.

Meanwhile, Clary and Jace flirt on the motor cycle.

There was a battle between werewolves and vampires BEHIND us, and we have flirting instead. RIVETING, boys and girls. RIVETING!

Also, Clary has never flown on an airplane.

Yo, Clare? You can have your heroine be innocent and sweet, but look...she's mainstreamed in the modern world, and she's never been in a real fight, she's never thrown a weapon--and nice move there Mom--she's never flown in an airplane, and she's never been in a church. Why not just tattoo "I AM A VIRGIN" on her forehead and get it OVER with.

(Oh god it just occured to me...this is probably one of the scenes C&Ped from the Draco Trilogy, isn't it? I bet it is...)

Of course, when the sun rises the bike conks out, and we have Obligatory Falling Scene. Simon is magically returned to humanity and he and Clary share a loving embrace...that Jace witnesses. The last sentence in the chapter is Jace turning sharply away "As if the sun hurt his eyes."

aww. You made Appleblossum puke.
Buckle up boys and girls. The romance is about to get hardcore.

City of Bones: A rant on religion

You know, sometimes I am AMAZED by what pisses me off. I am still freaking steaming over the stupid I read yesterday, and I keep thinking of things I wish I'd brought up during that rant. So now, kids, you're gonna get it full force. A full on, no holds barred, profanity laden rant on how FUCKING STUPID Cassandra Clare's treatment of religion is. And it's gonna be brutal. How brutal?

Loki made popcorn.
So to refresh your memory, Clary and Jace are raiding a church for weaponry to fight vampires with, because every religion has demons in it, so every religion keeps weapons around. Never mind that of the three religions mentioned in this chapter (Christianity, Judiasm and Shinto) Two of them are founded on the same material, and one grew out of the other one. What about Islam, Clare? Do they keep holy water and throwing stars in mosques, too? What about the pagan revivals going on right now? Do the hard core Gardnerian Wiccans have rose scented holy water? Does it make a difference if the weapons are blessed to the Lord or to the Lady?

And then it comes out that Jace doesn't even believe in this shit, because "If there is a God, he just doesn't care." First off, that's the fucked up creed of anybody with a bad Daddy. Or, to quote the (possibly) late, lamented Tyler Durden:

Our fathers are our models for God. If our fathers abandon us, what does that say about God?
Yeah. He said it better than Jace ever could. Before you start doing heart-felt soul seeking, work out your daddy issues so they don't get in the way. Second, the reason God might not be very nice to you, Jace, might be because you're a self centered cold hearted bigoted murdering sociopath, and kindness won't be your wake up call. Just a suggestion.

But there is a deeper issue here, my friends. Yesterday I wrote that Clare might feel the need to write her novels to be as all-inclusive as possible, avoiding any possible stepping on any possible toes, so that every audience can enjoy her Harry Potter rip-off without shame. But with that one chapter she managed to crush everybody's ten little piggies in one fell swoop, except maybe a special brand of privileaged morons who don't know any better.

Oh yes, blog fans. I thought I could avoid and ignore that oh, so commonly dragged out word, "privelage", most commonly applied to the ass end of "white", because we white  folk get everything easy. And I'm not saying that sarcastically. As a white person and a Christian, I've got a healthy privelage going for me. And if I hadn't added a couple fun wrinkles to my personal theology (long story) I probably wouldn't understand a goddamn thing about how bigoted religion can be.

But let's step away from religion for a second and talk about race. Why? Well, I'm reading this book right now. It is a disgustingly awful, terrible, and yet wonderfully bad thing called Save the Pearls. The subtitle is, Revealing Eden, and it's supposed to be a trilogy, but if the author publishes the second one she's got bigger balls than a tom-cat. See, in the book, the white people? are the downtrodden and oppressed. The black people? Rule the world. And the white people are called "Pearls" while the black people are called "Coals". Yes, boys and girls. The book is literally titled "Save the white folk." And the point of the book is that we all need to be colorblind. We all need to realize that everyone is the same, and if we can come to a universe of homogeneity and oneness, then everybody will be at peace and harmony.

Basically, we're waiting for Jasmine from Angel to show up.

The problem is, once you dig a little deeper the message is not "We must all be one" but rather "Just shut the fuck up and lose the differences that make me uncomfortable." It's "Don't be different, don't think about differences, and while you're at it, forget about everything bad that ever happened to you, every triumph you gained and defeat you suffered, because I'm tired of thinking about how shitty I was to you. Get over it."
It is entirely possible to take something, divorce it from its history (an angel, the Nephilum, consecrated ground) and use it as a sock puppet to parrot your own POV to the universe. It's possible to do that, but it's wrong. Because first, by ignoring the history of the shiny object you've just picked up, you're making yourself look like a moron. Second, it pisses people off.

It's not like I don't like books that refuse to treat my religion with kid gloves. There are books that I love that acknowledge Christianity has issues (Mercedes Lackley's Bedlam's Bard series, for example) There are books that do scary things to theology (To Rein in Hell by Steve Brust) and there are stories that are just beautiful things. Neil Gaiman told a wonderful story involving pagan gods (American Gods. If you have not read it yet I will disown you until you do) and even he took time to acknowledge Christianity's source material. It was one paragraph involving Jesus having to hitchhike through the middle east, I think, but it was an "Okay, this is here, we acknowledge his place in the framework of our universe, let's get back to the story now"  moment that added to the realism of what he was doing. And I remember it because, like everything else in that story, it was profoundly beautiful.

This is not that. This is "Hey, we're in a Christian church borrowing Christian artifacts consecrated to the Christian God, our home base is in a Christian church consecrated to the Christian God, but we won't mention His name or his Son's name even once."

  "And hey, let's make it better. Let's ask for entry into His church in the name of our organization and cause, rather than his own, and let's shit all over the very concept of his existence and benevolence while we're getting the weapons we're going to depend on during the next battle. This is absolutely smart and badass for us to do."

" And hey, in the spirit of Political Correctness, let's add that All Religions Are One before we go off to kill the vampires. That way NOBODY will be offended!"

 And on the name front: For Fuck's sake, Clare, you could at least have used the Tetragrammaton. In fact, given the "vastness" of the occult practices you're drawing on here (and that's kind of sarcastic, here) I'm surprised that you didn't, given that many, many MANY magical systems at least ACKNOWLEDGE the power of the name of God. YHVH, Clare. Look it up. 

"All Religions Are One" is the same kind of bullshit as "Colorblind". No. All religions are not one. All religions may be equally valid--even if you can't believe that due to your religion's rules, you can at least acknowledge the possibility that you might be wrong and respect the other religions as if they ARE equal, because you are a decent human being who respects the rights and beliefs of others, even when yours says they're wrong. Odds are, theirs says you are wrong too. But you do NOT go out there and say that all religions are the same damn thing. You don't say that Jesus is Buddha is Krishna is Odin because one, that makes no fucking sense and two, it denies the fullness of each individual. It denies the mythology, the cultural baggage, the beauty of the liturgy, the stillness of meditation. It denies that there might be a reason why someone would choose Odin over Jesus or Buddha, or Jesus over the other two. Many terrible things have been done in the name of Christ. I'll be the first to admit it. So have many beautiful things. Other religions have also done terrible and beautiful things. One of my favorite stories about Islam is how a Muslem neighborhood stood guard over a Christian church on Christmas day, just so the extremists in the neighborhood wouldn't hurt them. That's not "All religions are one". That's "You're different and I am different, but we are both human beings and we both deserve to stand before our Gods in our own way without fear or shame because that's the right thing to do." In other words:

FYI I have been waiting three months for an excuse to use this macro.

The way to fix the world isn't to erase religion. The way to fix the world isn't to erase race. The way to fix the world is to fix the people, so that it doesn't matter if you are a hindu or a buddhist or a Hutu or a Tutsi, you are a human being and you deserve respect, and that respect had better damn well include respect for the differences between you and me that make you who you are. 

And just because you happen to come from a dominant group does not give you the right to say "we must all become the same to be equal." No. You make me your equal, I make you my equal. So take one sentence in your stupid book to at least acknowledge that my religion exists. Hey, Loki, you got anything you want to say to Cass while we're at it?
Thank you.

Have a good night.

Oh, and TFT is free today and tomorrow. We're at #52 on the fantasy-epic Kindle list. Whoot. Go get a copy.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

City of Bones chapter 14+ Comments on Breaking Dawn

My stepfather has a strong love for the Twilight Saga.

I am not remotely kidding.

I sat through BDpt2. They cut most of the stupid out by omitting unnecessary character interactions (a'la Emmett's commentary on Bella's sex life during her post-vamping reunion with Charlie) and Bella's running commentary. Charlie got shafted, but then he got the same in the books too. You got to see Leah's profile once. Renesmee is the creepiest fucking baby in the history of CGI, is just as creepy as a toddler, and is pretty much a prop through the whole movie. Alice saves all the things, of course. Christopher Heyerdahl (AKA Marcus) needs to get a bigger part in a better movie because GOD is he wasted as an actor. Stephenie decided to show everyone who bitched about the book's ending what would really have happened had everyone thrown down (Spoiler: Carslile, Jasper, Seth *sob* Caius, Leah, Jane--VIA ALICE AND WEREWOLF IN SCENE OF SHINING AWESOME. Allowing the strongest actress and character in the movie, respectively, to have a showdown was probably a mistake--Marcus and Aro all die, as do Ed and Bella by implication.) and then undid it because dream/vision ha ha everybody lives isn't this totally better. No, Stephenie. It wasn't. I actually got emotionally involved in the war scene, which the rest of your glittery blood-sucking soap opera failed to do.

Also? One of the Romanian vampires was also Cottontop from Hatfields and McCoys, which I finally watched two days ago. Needless to say after watching that actor play a mentally disabled boy, I was unable to buy Vlad 2 as a scary individual. I kept hearing "They Hornswaggled me with Love!" and experianced the wild urge to curl up sobbing in a corner every time he opened his mouth.

So. City of Bones.

...this is the vampire chapter, isn't it? Fuck.

Now, they're supposed to go to the Hotel Dumort to get their rattified friend Simon back, but Clary and the Murder Trio are at a church instead. A Gothic church. New York City. I am assuming we mean "in the gothic style" and seriously, the vampires are in a gothic church. I'll bet they have a heavy metal mass and everything.

Oh, right, they need holy stuff for fighting the vampires. Well, at least now we'll find out what makes things holy in this book, right? RIGHT?

Jace’s profile in the moonlight was serene. “We’re not going to,” he said, sliding his stele into his pocket. He placed a thin brown hand, marked all over with delicate white scars like a veiling of lace, against the wood of the door, just above the latch. “In the name of the Clave,” he said, “I ask entry to this holy place. In the name of the Battle That Never Ends, I ask the use of your weapons. And in the name of the Angel Raziel, I ask your blessings on my mission against the darkness.”
You know what? I'm actually offended. I made it through Hubbard, Gor, and the last twilight movie, and this is the shit that offends me. THIS. Yo, Cass? I accept that you have to write your book as all enclusive as possible, respecting all religions and yadda yadda yadda. The problem is that they're not going to a Druid grove or a pagan circle. They're going to a church. Churches are sanctified to a very specific deity. This Deity does not like it when you play with His toys outside of their intended use. He does not like it when you do not respect His holy ground, and He sure as horses love hey does not like it when you ask for His blessing in the name of things other than Him. These characters might not be believers--and again, if they aren't they should be SOL in the Christian holy object department--but they sure as hellfire sucks should give the Deity they are invoking the fucking courtesy of naming him.

In. The. Name. Of. Christ. You are using Angels and Demons, holy objects and now you're using a fucking church. In Jesus name. Your book will not burst into flames if you treat religion like something other than your toybox.

Clary has never been in a church before. Jace has to explain what everything is. Then he starts looking for weapons. Because all faiths have demons in them. And all churches/synegogs and whatnot keep weapons for Shadowhunters at the alter.

HEY KIDS! IT'S BIBLE STORY TIME! No, no, sit back down. It won't take more than a second. God chose the Israelites as his people. He told them to build him things like a pretty tent AKA Tabernackle, gold cups and candle holders and the Ark of the Covenant, which could have destroyed the Nazis if Indy hadn't been a pest. Now, eventually they took the tent down and put all the gold stuff into a temple. The rule was, only the preists could handle these things and only on certain days for certain reasons. One day the Babylonians came along and took most of the Hebrews and all of the shiny gold things back to Babylon with them, including God's gold things that no one but his preists were supposed to use. The king at the time respected God, because God wrecked his shit on more than one occasion, but eventually that king died and his son had to prove that he could party longer and harder than the old king ever did. So he threw a big party and gave all his guests God's gold cups to drink out of. That night God's floating hand appears and writes things on the wall. New King sends for Daniel to interprete the writing. Daniel takes one look and says "Boy are you fucked" before explaining that God is going to hand Babylon over to the Persians in the next couple of days. The Persians invade and the new king, and all his party friends, die horribly.

All because they drank out of God's gold cups. Because these cups, like the eucharist and holy water and concecrated ground (You know, the same shit Jace is depending on to protect the institute?) are all concecrated and dedicated to the use of Yheweh, aka YHVH, aka the God who has a history of wrecking your shit if you disrespect something dedicated to him.

I would CONSIDER giving Cass a pass on this, but there are angels and demons and they are depending heavily on blessed/holy objects, and she just disrespected God so hard I think if I set my bible on top of my hardcopy of this book the covers would start to smoke. You CANNOT have it both ways. If the objects in a religion have power, it is because there is a Deity behind them. If there is a Deity behind that power, that Deity will expect you to follow His/Her/Its rules. If you do not follow those rules, then the best you can hope for is that these objects you need will fail you when you need them most. The worst? Honey, God can be very creative when he is pissed off at you.

What does Jace find under the alter?

“Vials of holy water, blessed knives, steel and silver blades,” Jace said, piling the weapons on the floor beside him, “electrum wire— not much use at the moment, but it’s always good to have spare— silver bullets, charms of protection, crucifixes, stars of David—”
And it turns out that Jace is an athiest.  I have nothing against athiests as people who have gone through a long soul searching and found themselves unable to reconcile the concept of deity with the universe as they understand it. However, if you are an athiest raiding a church for the protection of a God you do not believe in?

...Oh, but his DAD believes in God.

Knowing how this book ends, my level of PISSED THE FUCK OFF just went through the roof.

Jace goes on a long monologue:

“My father believed in a righteous God. Deus volt, that was his motto—‘ because God wills it.’ It was the Crusaders’ motto, and they went out to battle and were slaughtered, just like my father. And when I saw him lying dead in a pool of his own blood, I knew then that I hadn’t stopped believing in God. I’d just stopped believing God cared. There might be a God, Clary, and there might not, but I don’t think it matters. Either way, we’re on our own.
You know, I could go off on this one paragraph for hours. I could explain how this character is pretty obviously Cassandra Clare's mouthpiece. I could go on about how I fucking well know what Clare's opinion of Christianity is, given shit she's said online that somehow made it back to internet drama sites. I could explain why this "all religions are one but we need CATHOLIC HOLY WATER to fight vampires with" bullshit is offensive to every fucking religion on the face of the planet. I could go on about how Jace is the most infantile sociopath to stalk the universe since they electrocuted Ted Bundy. But I won't. I'm going to counter just the bolded part of that paragraph. Cassandra Clare, meet C.S. Lewis:

Not many years ago when I was an atheist, if anyone had asked me, ‘Why do you not believe in God?’ my reply would have run something like this: ‘Look at the universe we live in...The race is doomed. Every race that comes into being in any part of the universe is doomed...All stories will come to nothing: all life will turn out in the end to have been a transitory and senseless contortion upon the idiotic face of infinite matter. If you ask me to believe that this is the work of a benevolent and omnipotent spirit, I reply that all the evidence points in the opposite direction. Either there is no spirit behind the universe, or else a spirit indifferent to good and evil, or else an evil spirit.’

There was one question which I never dreamed of raising... If the universe is so bad, or even half so bad, how on earth did human beings ever come to attribute it to the activity of a wise and good Creator? Men are fools, perhaps; but hardly so foolish as that. The direct inference from black to white, from evil flower to virtuous root, from senseless work to a workman infinitely wise, staggers belief. The spectacle of the universe as revealed by experience can never have been the ground of religion: it must always have been something in spite of which religion, acquired from a different source, was held.

That's from The Problem of Pain, and if you have any interest in Christian theology I REALLY recommend that book.

So after addressing the concept of religion in the most offensive way possible (GOD doesn't matter, just his toys!) we go on to the Hotel Dumort. It's abandoned and boarded up, so the kids break in. But only after paragraph on paragraph of the kids digging through garbage and making cutsy quips. They also collect a random Hispanic boy, because if you're in a bad neighborhood all you're gonna find are people of color and street kids.Of course, the kid is a vampire, which Jace figured out a long time ago, even though he's been muttering about how much he hates mundanes since they picked up the idiot.

The other vampires show up, they use Random Vamp Boy as a hostage to get Simon back. Jace balks at making an oath, though, because oaths are important to Shadowhunters.

And concecrated religious artifacts aren't. Right. Jace? Seriously? Go die in a fire.

And then Clary blows her own negotiations to get Simon back, right when Jace was about to swear that oath. We're approaching Strawchick level stupid here, kids.

So they're running around the ballroom, trying to escape the pissed of vampires who have been interrupted, stabbed and chewed on by rat-boy, when suddenly WEREWOLVES!

They break through the windows. And the chapter ends.

Vampires and werewolves in the same chapter I review the night I watch Twilight.

Yep, I'm gonna go get a drink now.


Yeah, so I caved+FREE BOOK.

I have the spine of a six year old.

 And technically I broke my promise to a couple of ya'll. I enrolled This Found Thing in the deal where it has to stay on amazon exclusively for three months. Good news: It'll be free tomorrow and the next day, so you won't have to screw with Amazon being, well, Amazon, any further than you have to.

I'm sorry. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. It's just been, well, not the best month for me in book sales, and TFT isn't going anywhere. Either it sucks, which is an acceptable probability, or it needs a bigger push than I can give it.

So tomorrow and Tuesday, This Found Thing will be free on Amazon. Ya'll can go get it now. It's free. Go on. ...well, technically, go tomorrow. But go. Read it.

Seriously. No spine. At all. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

My Fun with Vertigo and Sushi

When I was eight years old, I was absolutely positive my grandmother was going to die. I remember sitting in front of her when it began, watching a National Geographic documentary on the Iceman. That leathery, noseless face will always be associated with physical illness and someone being in trouble. My grandmother became extreamly sick, terrifying the everloving life out of me. My father took her to the hospital. In my little young heart I knew that soon my parents would come back and tell  me my grandmother had died.

But it turned out to be nothing life threatening. The first time Mom told me what it was I thought she said "Veneer's Disease" and I thought it had something to do woodworking or dental caps. It's actually called "Menier's Disease" and it means your inner ear has gone haywire. Some people get it mild, some people get it severe. My aunt contracted it a couple years ago, and I began paying attention to every little quiver my equilibrium, because my aunt and my grandma? They are exactly like me.

So when I began having sensations of vertigo two weeks ago? I got worried. Especially as it got worse, and worse. I thought maybe it was a cold, and felt a little relieved until the cold went away and the vertigo didn't. I did, however, begin to have migranes. Although I'm not sure if it is "migranes" or "week long migraine" in the singular. The last three days were horrible. I had to work on Thanksgiving, and halfway through the shift I had to sit down and put my head between my knees. I had trouble walking in a straight line and the headache seemed to have its own color and flavor. I complained about it on the blog a little bit, but not to the digree that I could have. Two weeks of feeling as if I were floating on a ship, as if the room were spinning around me. Nothing made it better, and I tried just about everything I could think of.

Of course, it's always the stuff that you don't think about that gets ya.

One dumb, stupid thing got me through Thanksgiving thursday. It was knowing that the next day, yesterday, I would get to have sushi for lunch. I eat a lot of sushi, starting from back when I was eighteen and my mom handed me a piece. It started with the baby stuff--California rolls: imitation crab meat, avacado and cucumber--but by now I've moved on to actual raw fish. And the restaurant here in town has also addicted me to edamame and miso soup. To say that I eat sushi twice a week minimum would not be an exaggeration. Friday was twice the usual reward, though, because the restaurant had been closed while the owners went on vacation.

For two weeks. Starting about five days before the vertigo started.

I made a lot of homemade sushi too, but due to transportation issues I hadn't had a chance to go to the store lately, and when I began feeling sick I didn't really feel like going out much. Looking back, I think that was fatigue talking. But the result was, I went from eating a large amount of seaweed, miso and fish, both at home and by eating out, to eating none at all. Now, I'd skipped a week or so before, but usually by the weekend I'd be willing to kill for a philidelpha roll, and I had both the grocery store, the restaurant and my own kitchen to sate the craving with. And it was an active, sometimes even urgent craving. I'd ride a couple miles in blazing sunlight to pick up a couple boxes of grocery store sushi. And it's always the same thing: Tuna, maybe some shrimp, edamame and miso. I don't have to even think about it. My stomach says WE WANT THAT ONE. NOW.

Now, some people had brought up dietary triggers, specifically soy products triggering vertigo. I shrugged and said yeah, I DID eat a lot of soy beans, but I hadn't had any for two weeks, since before the vertigo began, and that probably should have clued me in. But it didn't. It seemed so freaking STUPID, this whole idea that not eating raw fish and seaweed could be causing something so painfully debilitating, I blew it off. I just hoped that it was Meniere's disease, that the headaches and balance problems weren't an indicator of something else. My other searches for the same symptoms brought up things like meningitis and MS. I needed to go see a doctor, I figured, and I could only hope that it wouldn't be expensive, that they wouldn't order six billion tests, and that if I did have something degenerative, it'd wait for me to find a way to make money at a job that didn't require eight hours of my standing and walking.

And then I ate one meal.

By five o'clock on Friday night, I felt almost normal. Not 100% but I could walk in a straight line again, and the headache, my friends, the headache was gone. So I decided to repeat the exparament by making my own sushi for dinner. And I feel utterly, completely and entirely normal now for the first time in two and a half weeks. No headaches. Minimal vertigo.

I've done a little research, and I will be doing more, because this shit is WEIRD man, but if you google "vertigo" and "mineral deficiency" the first thing that comes up is magnesium. A quick google of sushi reveals that it's high in magnesium, plus a bunch of other things. I'm going to be reading up on this, and I'll say more when I KNOW more. Right now I'm just freaked out that eating one meal could have such a strong influence on my own body. But it's just...well, kind of cool.

And if you're having vertigo issues, drink lots of water and take magnesium pills. And maybe order a couple extra rolls the next time you go to a sushi bar.

Friday, November 23, 2012

City of Bones Chapter 13

You know, one thing that still bothers me about this book? How much talking everybody does. In the first chapter the Murder Trio and their victim exposited about things they had no earthly reason to talk about--EVERYONE WANTS TO KILL EACH OTHER--so that Clary can understand. In chapter two Clary and her mother talked about how unfair life is, and how they have a sudden burning need to be anywhere else in the world, other than right here. In chapter three, Clary and Jace talked. In chapter four we had action, no talking required. Chapter five? Talking. Six? Talking. Talking. Two chapters ago there was a wild carrage ride I didn't mention because they spent the whole time talking. 

And yet for all of that we know very little of who these characters actually are.

There are two kinds of characterization. One is purposeful, and the other is indvertant. Both are done through their character's actions and words. Bella Swan is a great example of inadvertant characterization. The author intended her to be a good person, but because Bella had all the character traits the author associates with goodness (virginity, modesty, a quiet and retiring nature) she never bothered with purposeful characterization. And so Bella comes off as being a manipulative, controlling, self-centered worthless cinder of a misbegotten human being. In the absence of purposeful characterization, the reader's mind latches on to anything that might resemble a character trait. And if your main character's first action in a book is to mentally sigh and roll her eyes over how childish her mother is, "ungreatful bitch" is going to be your character's first character trait.

The problem with this book? We don't even really get that. We get that Clary is stupid because she goes after Murder Trio without trying to find an adult, something that Simon does. We get that Clary is a terrible friend because of how she treats Simon, and we get that she has truely shitty taste in men because she chooses a verbally abusive, manipulative sociopathic murderer AKA Jace to be her primary love interest. But all Clary does is ask questions about things and whine. She has taken it upon herself to act exactly twice in the book so far. Once to follow the Murder Trio, which may mean her mom getting kidnapped is doubly her fault, and once to go through the magical door into the total unknown that turned out to be Luke's backyard. The rest of the time? She follows Jace around like a good little lamb and thinks judgemental things about the other characters in the book.

The most interesting thing? She has not once, NOT. FREAKING. ONCE. thought about trying to find her mother. She went through the door because she wanted to see where her mom would have gone, implying she knows damn well Mom ain't there. She goes to the party because she wants to get the block out of her memory. She wants the block out of her memory because the Shadowhunters want to know what's so dangerous she can't remember it. Never once does Clary go "hey, maybe this can help me find my Mom!"

I say all this because the first chunk of pages in this chapter is Clary, Jace and Magnus Bane talking about why Mom put the block in Clary's memory. Something any reader with two brain cells figured out three chapters ago:

Clary's mom is Magical Eva Braum, she's deeply ashamed of her having slept with evil incarnate, even more concerned that she's having Evil's baby (Clary) and she badly wants to hide and have her kid be normal. Her kid is not normal, and having a kid who can see things no one else can see is very bad, given the magnitude of secrets Mom is hiding. So she mind-blocked Clary to protect her from the massive number of things that would like to kill her, seeing as how she's Valentine's fucking daughter. 

Even if you left out the part about her being Valentine's daughter--which should have been revealed a long time ago--the rest of Joycelyn Frey's actions make perfect sense.

And of course, we have to have Clary go on a long rant about consent and mind rape, something I have no sympathy for whatsoever, given that Clary had magical sight back for one fucking day before Joycelen got kidnapped and Clary wound up with the absolute last people she should be talking to. Should Joycelyn have been upfront and honest with her daughter, once Clary was old enough to keep the secret? Fuck yes. But you know, given Clary's maturity level, I think Joyce was planning on telling Clary as soon as they got to whatever safehouse she had squirreled away. Clary had to have the block replaced every couple of years, and she was over due enough for Magnus to drop by the Frey place. Mom's too careful to let that happen. So probably she was trying to wait for Clary to display thoughtfulness and foresight, she realized that was never going to fucking happen, and she decided that Clary needed to know things even if she is an idiot.

So after Magnus info dumps things we really don't need to know about, he tells her that the block will wear off and Clary will regain her memories on her own.

So the last three chapters? WERE UTTERLY FUCKING POINTLESS.

And so is what happens next. They go out into the party and Simon has drunk a magcial potion that turned him into a rat.

After screaming at Isabelle, who should have been watching them, Clary hauls Simon out from under the bar. Jace goes for Magnus, who tells them the spell will wear off in a few hours. Clary bitches about how much trouble it'll be to get a rat home on the subway.

Uh...isn't this New York? I'm sure rats have used the subway before.

Anyway, somebody starts a fight and Magnus moves on to stop it before it gets out of hand. Given that there are Phooka and Nixies and the like here, that's a good plan. It turns out to be vampires--uh, getting them taken care of instead of rat-boy is a VERY good plan--who are pissed because they can't find people. Magnus promises to send everyone home and ends the party.

The one cool thing about this scene is, Magnus's cat is named Chairman Meow. I think this is awesome.

And then Clary's mom...uh, sends a telepathic message or something through Magnus, telling Clary not to waste all her sacrifices by trying to save her. Thus justifying Clary having NOT GIVEN HER MOTHER A SINGLE THOUGHT since she got kidnapped.

You know, these moments are when the writer's subconsious is screaming "YOU ARE NOT DOING THIS RIGHT". Just saying.

Moving on.

So Clary leaves the building with the others, smiles at the vampires who are watching her for some reason, gets to whatever vehicle the Murder Trio are using for the night, and discovers that Simon-the-rat is no longer in her backpack.

She compares losing her best friend in rat form to losing her wallet on the subway.

Moving on.

So they go back to Magnus's place, and he tells them that he saw a vampire leave with "a brown rat" that he obviously thought was one of their own. Because of course he did.

Magnus's parties must be AWESOME. Just sayin'.

Moving on.

they ask for the location of the lair. Magnus says no, he won't betray the others to Shadowhunters. Clary sticks her foot in the door and says, "Hey, pretty please" in an attempt to have substance. Magnus tells them where the hotel is.

Finally Jace demands the location of the nearest church, because they're gonna need weapons.


The chapter ends.

So yes, boys and girls. This is really happening. We're taking one fuck of a plot detour involving rats and vampires. Because allowing ANY of this to be related to the kidnapping of Joycelyn Frey--remember that? Clary's Mom?--is asking far, far too much of this author.

Tomorrow: The hotel the vampires stay at is the "Hotel Dumort". It is not the hotel Transylvania, and things go as well as you can expect. MURDER. MURDER EVERYWHERE.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Blog Review: Nesquester

So a buddy of mine asked me to do a review trade for him. He's an old-old old old old friend from WAY back in my Houston days, and when we connected back up on facebook I discovered that, like me, he'd gotten bit by the blog-review bug.

He and I decided to do a review exchange. This is my end.

It is difficult to review something that I heart as much as I do NESquester. The humor on this blog usually means I get a big head of ire up. NESquest is where I go when I need a giggle or two. He reviews old-school NES games in order of release. This is a little bit like saying that Niagra Falls is made of water. I would dread being the creator of a game that pissed him off. There are people who can curse, like yours truely, and then there are people who can use curses the way a guided missile uses radar.

What's really awesome is that he is doing EVERY NES game. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. Which means there are a few turds in the pile, and more than a few gems that I certainly never ever heard of.

If there is one problem it is that he does not update often enough. But when he does, be it good or be it bad the review itself is a thing of gleaming beauty.

Go. Pay him many visits because he is, my loyal blog readers, far better at this game than I.