Friday, December 28, 2012

NiC paused until after the New Year

As you can see by the count down I have a couple days until Planet Bob hits the e-shelves. I also have a terrifyingly packed schedule at my work. So we will pause for CW to get her shit together and come back after the new year.

It is not something I wanna do, but priorities, man. Book flogging is fun, but it's not what I came to the dance for.

Meanwhile...New book on Tuesday! Yay!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Narcissus in Chains--chapter 25

So I had a setback with Planet Bob. Not a massive one, but a moderately frustrating one. My mother has been my copyeditor so far (It's part of her IRL job at the print shop). Somehow we failed to communicate on the release date properly. So I'm on my own. I refuse to miss a deadline just because I didn't say "deadline January 1st" when my mom and I were discussing things. I also refuse to waylay her life because of my hobby.

So when you see mistakes in the release, you can blame me for it.

Fortunately today's chapter is going to be short and brief and problem free, and we'll blow through it quick, and...

...fuck. It's this chapter.

Anita ended the last chapter with the dead ghost of the former lupa crowing that she'd pushed Anita into triggering a fight. This chapter starts with Anita being restrained and Richard saying "Fuck, I deserved that hit". There is no fight.

Hey, guys? Do you remember the Nancy Drew Books? I remember the Nancy Drew books. Especially how every chapter ended with both a cliffhanger and an exclimation point! Even if it was just a knock! on a door! And this chapter really REALLY reminds me of Nancy Drew in the scenes where she's in trouble but yeah, not really.

Anita calls bullshit on Richard for using the oubliette. Richard says it was Jacob's idea. NO, Rich. You do not pass the buck like that. You're the boss, you decide. Maybe your problem is not that you're trying to impose democratsy, but that you're trying to impose it without first instating a bill of rights, or removing the barbaric things that make rule-by-force a necessity. (Look, if most people could vote their enemies into a guilotine, an Iron Maiden, or a rack, we wouldn't have Justin Bieber anymore. Just sayin') YOU are in charge of the pack, YOU should have decided where Gregory was stored until it was time to kill him. You have six hundred people in this pack, I'm sure you could have found a bank vault or something to house him in. And it is absofuckinglutely your responsibility to make sure that your ideals are followed in your pack, and to punish the shit out of people who fall back into the old ways because the old ways are fucking wrong. 

It's not Richard's morality holding him back, in other words. It's Richard's inability to enforce it, or to stay on top of what's happening in the pack. Richard is not leading, and his morals have nothing to do with it.

But rather than calling bullshit on Richard, because fuck yes this is still on him, Anita goes psychopath on Jacob for suggesting it. So "Kill the Messenger" is in full force in this pack. Nice to know.

Laurell K. Hamilton, meanwhile, tries to be funny:

He stepped back from me, averting his eyes, his face. “You heard the Ulfric. Go fetch your cat before we change our minds.” 

“You couldn’t change your mind with a hundred watt bulb and a team of helpers.” 
He frowned at me then. Sometimes my humor is a little esoteric, or maybe it’s just not funny. Jacob didn’t find it funny.

Humor is hard. Humor without being offensive is even harder. So to make up for that bullshit, let me show you a man ten thousand times more talented at humor than anybody else. John Pinette:

That? Right there? It's six minutes of genious. Dramatic stories? I can do those. (maybe). I cannot, and will never be able to do humor, and I am perfectly content with that, because we have John Pinette.

Right. Shitty book now.

Anita pulls lupa rank, which she still has for now, and kicks Jacob in the face. Yeah, Jake and Elizabeth are probably going to get together at some point. Richard says that he's "voting her back in", and IDK if that means as lupa for life or if we're still going to watch them have public sex later in the book, but if it's the former, well...much as I DO NOT want to see Anita and Richard make out on a chunk of rocks with pretensions, way to chicken-shit your book out of a crisis, LKH.

Jacob calls Richard out on turning things back into a dictatorship, Richard hulks out and gives a speech that ends with this little gem:

“I thought we were people, not animals. I thought we could change the old ways and make something better. But we all felt it tonight when Anita and her leopards melded. Something safe and good. I’ve tried to be temperate and kind, and look where it’s gotten us. Jacob said Anita is my backbone. No, but she’s doing something right, something that I’ve missed. If you won’t take kindness, then we’ll have to try something else.

And I just had a VERY unpleasant flashback.

I had a very ill-fated foray into the world of Robert Jordan several years back. It ended when somebody complained about how the series slowed down after book four, and I stood there going " gets slower? HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?". They recommended Terry Goodkind to me as a replacement. And while Wizard's First Rule was less "replacement" and more "direct fucking rip-off of Jordan's second book", I liked it. And I liked the second one, and the third one, all the way up to Temple of the Winds. Along the way, Richard, the lead, and Kahlan, his wife, got stranger and stranger and more militant, and Richard began getting preachy, but I'd never heard of Ayn Rand or Objectivism, and even if I had, Goodkind was too good of an author to destroy a good series by shoe-horning his own politics into the plot.

And then Faith of the Fallen happened. It was a good book. It was very clearly the book that Goodkind had been working towards from the beginning, because the writing sizzled (at least, compared to the book before, which I cannot remember one goddamned thing about) but HOLY FUCK. It was a freaking love letter to Ayn Rand.

In this book, boys and girls, I think I can safely say that LKH has a similar adjenda. And we just got our thesis statement. "If kindness won't work, we go for the kill."

Except not one fucking person in this book has been kind.

Ah, but now that Richard has agreed with Anita, shown his fangs and gone back on his word by throwing Jacob into the oubliette as soon as they get Gregory out, he's now perfect Ulfric material.

End of chapter.

Next chapter: Time to gross us all out, folks. They go get Gregory.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Narcissus in Chains--chapter 24

So after whining  about how perfect Richard is and how having Micah (her rapist) at her back she can't forget about Richard. Finally, she asks about taking Gregory home. Jacob tells her that if she can track Gregory by scent, then she can take him home.

That's the test. That's it.

I think they dumbed it down a little bit.

Anita and her boys, however, are all offended. Anita hasn't shifted yet! (she won't). And this is a test that only a powerful shapeshifter could do. Track a man's scent like a bloodhound. Right. Anita asks what the rules are, and Richard tells her no one can help. She asks if she can use her necromancy, because she had a vision of Gregory sitting on a pile of bones. Jacob says "I don't see how that will help at all" but nobody actually tells Anita no.

This is the stupidest part of the book. There are places that are MUCH more offensive, but this part is just plain dumb. The test is way too simple for a shapeshifter to do, and Anita cheats her way through it by summoning the spirit of the last dead lupa, Raina

Apparently this is something only a great alpha could do. Because it's not just summoning a dead thing, it's summoning the munin, the ghost of a dead wolf. The ghost of a fucking psychotic dead wolf. Raina takes over Anita, somewhat, gets snippy when she sees what a mess the pack is--it's too big for one man to control, of COURSE it's a mess--and after demanding some kind of sex or chaos in payment, says that Gregory is in the oubliette.

Note: Anita never finds out where this oubliette is. The test was to track Gregory down by scent, and she never does that. But she gets pissed as hell at Richard for putting Gregory down the same hole that Raina and Marcus put all their condemned bad boys, and Richard backs right down like a good puppy.

Anita gets so pissed off she takes a swing at Richard, and the chapter ends with her going "Oh fuck, I've started the fight."

Huh. Other than being MORONICALLY STUPID this chapter wasn't so bad. Are we getting a reprieve?

No. And we're not going to get that fight, either.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Narcissus in Chains chapter 23

We are still heading INTO the lupanar.

I got to see the Hobbit today with my dad. In IMAX, it was FUCKING AMAZING and I will never critize 3D again HOLY SHIT. But it was also one third of the original story. One third. From "In a hole in the ground, there lived a Hobbit" to the dwarves and Bilbo climbing out of the orc caves (or thereabouts. There was a Final Conflict, it was utterly bad-ass). There was not enough book to fill that much movie, so Peter Jackson started making things up (and it totally worked).

So it was one third of a book's worth of plot spread so thin they had to add more things in, and that plot still moved faster and contained more character development than this one does.

It also had a plot.

Lupanar. There is an ancient, multi-hundred year old throne with arms worn by "years of Ulfrics" touching it. It is an ancient, multi-hundred year old throne decked out like Boromir is ready to take a seat in it, plopped down in the middle of a St. Louis clearing. St. Louis was founded in 1764. It is barely older than our actual country, Laurell. Where the fuck did the magic chair come from? 

Please say Narnia. Please oh please oh please. (Actually, please say that Merry Gentry's family brought it with them, because connecting this series with the series that is still actually kind of sort of good might help rescue Anita. Maybe.)

"Countless generations" my ass. I'd buy a magic wolf throne if it came from Eire, or Unst, but not this shit. Basically, gang, the wolves decided they wanted to appropreate more than just norsy-sounding names for their leaders, so they took their idea of viking culture and used it to build a fake barbarian throne. Maybe not last week, but probably within the last two hundred to two hundred and fifty years, because I doubt there was a thriving wolf pack back in 1764. And that's a generation gap you can fucking count.

Also, no mention of how many wolves are in this clearing, which is about 100 to 150 yards. I have to assume it's all of them. All six hundred wolves, all two hundred rats, twenty to fifty leopards and a swan. In a 100 yard clearing. It MIGHT work. But sanitation is an issue.

Someone had hung cloth in the trees to one side of the throne. Black cloth, like a curtain, and it took a movement of the wind to draw my attention to it.

Okay. Seriously. Are you guys TWELVE? Are you all going to go home and listen to Linkin Park and Evanescense? YOU ARE HANGING BLACK CURTAINS IN THE TREES TO BE MELODRAMATIC. JESUS.

And once more I think about the Mercyverse, and how Bran the uber-werewolf would show up looking like a pizza delivery dude barely old enough to drink. Bran did not pretend to be bad-ass because he knew damn well he could take the room apart if he wanted to. If you have to put on a show, boys and girls, you're not what you're pretending to be.

Richard shows up.
He looked the part of the barbarian king, but there was still something in him, something  .  .  . soft. And if I could taste it, then so could Jacob.
Because having compassion and trying to give people choices and let everyone's voice be heard at the expense of your own is bad. Seriously, Richard is about to take a pounding because he stands up for his morals. And this makes him weak, because he can't accept that he's a big scary monster like Anita is now, and if he'd just once accept that wonton violence and wholesale violations of human rights are good things, his whole life would have new purpose!

I read a story the other day about Bayard Rustin. Bayard Rustin was a pacifist who refused to bend on the issue of violence ever. To the point that when someone was beating him, he gave the guy a new stick and suggested he be beaten with the new stick too. Bayard Rustin was also a quaker, black and openly gay in the ninteen sixties. He's the dude that convinced Martin Luther King that nonviolence was the way to go. If there is a poster boy for taking a damaging, inflexible moral stand, it would be this dude.

And that guy I mentioned? The one doing the beating? When Bayard Rustin offered him that other stick, the presumably white, racist, angry dude threw both sticks down and walked away. That's right. An act of turning the other cheek, what most people call "being a martyr", usually with a snide little smirk on their face, shut the violence down. In fact, non violence usually shuts violence down. Maybe not immediately, but it's not fun when the person you're beating on stops fighting back.

That right there? That's bad ass. Hell, being openly gay in the ninteen sixties was fucking bad-ass. Anita Blake? Is not bad-ass when she whines about how morals hold you back. She sounds like a ten year old kid told "Sorry, you can't have a pony."

And if I’d still been lupa, hell, we had enough ruthless people to get the job done, if Richard would just get out of our way. We were so close, and at the same time we weren’t even in the ballpark. It was more than frustrating. It was like watching a train race towards Richard, and we were all yelling, “Get off the tracks, get off the tracks!” Hell, we were trying to drag him off the tracks, and he was fighting us.
Other people who used non-violence effectively:

Tank man. He shut down China's tanks.

Ghandi. He shut down England.

Susan B. Anthony. She shut down men.

None of them shot the people they were trying to change through the heart to prove a point. What they did do, though, was produce they change they were trying to cause. (assuming all Tank Man wanted to do was stop China's tanks)

If Jacob was the train, then I could kill him and Richard would be safe. But Rafael was right. If it wasn’t Jacob, it’d be someone else. Jacob wasn’t the train hurtling to destroy Richard. Richard was.
Hmmm...okay, how about somebody whose moral stand cost them everything. Oskar. Fucking. Schindler. The only time in his life the man ever held a position of success was when the Nazis put him in charge of a factory. He decided what the Nazis were doing to the Jews was wrong, and he gave up everything to save just over a thousand people. Used up all his power, all his connections. He died penniless.

And a generation later, the descendants of the people he saved are still leaving rocks on his grave out of respect for what he did.

You want power that lasts, Anita? You want to be remembered as somebody great? You want your name to be something people conjure with? You take a moral stand and you do. not. back. down. EVER.

Richard's problem is not that his morals get in the way. It's that he's too inconsistant, he's way too fucking self-centered to pull off the stand he's trying to make, and his wolf pack is too fucking big for him to rule effectively. The pack needs to be split up. 

Yeah. Sigh. Whatever.

So Richard announces that they're there to bid goodbye to their lupa and to choose another. And so I don't have to mention it later, there are a whole bunch of girls dressed sexily sitting over in a corner. One of them is named "Paris" and she's implied to be some kind of wonton gold-digger. So they're not wasting any time at all.

I think this problem is less "Anita is a wereleopard now (She's not)" and more "Anita hasn't been functioning as our lupa for six fucking months, now we've got a chance to get rid of her." If she'd BEEN THERE, they could have worked around it. She has not. They want her gone.

The book does not seem to be aware that you cannot treat people like they don't exist for half a year and then try to pretend you're all buddy buddy with them.

Richard says they also need to punish Gregory. Anita says a prayer for guidance. God says "You'd have been better off before you shot an unarmed woman in the heart."

Richard asks what the wererats are there for. They explain that they're here to honor Anita's debit, and also if Richard is dead they won't help the wolves anymore, so fuck you contender-for-the-throne Jacob.

Donovan also states he's there to support Anita because she almost died saving his swans. Jacob calls bullshit on Anita saving people. Richard uses this to point out that Anita has saved half the pack personally, made their lives a fuckload of a lot better by getting rid of the former Ulfric and lupa, saved all the rats and did a couple other things too, and turns it into a chance to see who in the pack still supports him. Looks to me like Richard does this politics thing fine. Anita makes a pretty good plea for a second chance, too, but Jacob shoots it down.

Anita asks to go get Gregory. Paris says Anita needs to stop being Lupa first so that Paris can go jump Richard. Anita asks what that means, and there is a ceramony that must be done, though Anita could also refuse to step down. Anita says she thought she was already voted off the island and Silvie, another wolf, says that Anita can either refuse by going into mortal combat against all challengers or by "annointing the throne"

“You fuck the Ulfric on the throne in front of all of us.”
 I was already shaking my head. “Somehow I don’t think either Richard or I are up to public sex.”

I sure hope they wash that thing. Also...this is probably going to happen at the ...sigh...climax of this book. I hope it isn't, but my hopes, dear friends, are not high.

And then some metaphysical nonsense happens between Anita and Richard, and Anita mourns that now she is Richard's perfect mate, now! When she may never touch him again!

I used the pooh-bear graphic too early, didn't I?

Next chapter: It gets dumber. But you already knew that.

And we have book cover!

This is the first time I've finished a cover with a week left to go. No disasters. No mistakes. No errors.

I am not excited about this release--I tend to disappoint myself ahead of time so it doesn't hit later--but the anticipation is starting to get to me. And I am NERVY about this one. Starbleached has done so well (almost 50% of my sales) that I feel like there's a lot riding on this being a good one.

That said, I do think the covers match:

Also, you know what this means, gang. BLOG MAKEOVER TIME!


I love Christmas. I love the holiday, I love the lights, I love the tree, I love watching South Texas try to be cold for Christmas (It didn't make it this year. It's about seventy degrees F outside. Most years its 40 with a steady drizzle so seventy and sunshine are much better) I love how QUIET it is. Oh my GOD does it get quiet for Christmas.

And then there is the accounting of things. Because the best part of Christmas is definately family, the second best is glitter (I include twinkly lights as glitter), but the third best is that on Christmas people give you stuff.

I'd say there were three stand-out highlights. The one thing I asked for this year were a pair of real headphones. I am a music addict, and earbuds just don't do it for me anymore. I got them. YAY!

My brother gave me the motion-capture/wii remote knockoff deal for my PS3. I am a somewhat casual gamer (MINECRAFT! JOURNEY! OMG if you game, and you can find it for your system, GET JOURNEY) so it's a lot of fun. It will also kill your arm and give you tennis elbow in record time. Also, it let me get my mother the dancing game she's wanted for Christmas. It made her happy, too. :D

But my fav this year came from my stepfather.

I am kind of a nail polish addict. Okay, it's not EVERY kind of polish. But I love glitter. No. I LOVE glitter. And there is nothing quite as much fun as a big, spangly holographic glitterbomb. Sadly, companies do not frequently make big, spangly holographic glitterbombs, and I am both too lazy and too cheap to buy the indies, so I make my own. (...It makes sense in my head.). This means there is a table in my garage with a bottle of glitter medium and enough glitter to become a health hazard. My stepfather, who doesn't know me very well yet, decided that it was nail polish in general that I liked, and gave me a set of nail art stamp plates.

Which I had just begun lusting over. As in I had just spent most of Christmas eve looking at stamp plates and drooling, and then looking at my bank account and making a sad whimpering noise. So I. Freaked. Out. And then tried them out immediately. Ready to visit Planet Girl?

 And just because I feel like showing off, and I FINALLY had my camera close at hand, here's the glittery things I mixed my own self:

This is the one I'm wearing in the picture, on top of a glittery gold-purple base thing you can kind of see down near the nail bed.

This one is pure self indulgance
Yes. They're both in brand name bottles. I usually use half of the glitter medium (WHICH IS EXPENSIVE AS FUCK) and half of a brand-name clear polish, which has the added benefit of giving me another polish bottle to work with. I'm not ENTIRELY happy with that gold mix, and I plan on hitting Wal-mart for a bunch of dollar top-coats as soon as Christmas stops being here so I can get the recipe down. That silver-blue spangle mix is perfect. I even have it written down *somewhere*.

Other members of my family had lots of fun. My brother got a buck-knife, and immediately said "That's not a knife" in a Crocodile Dundee accent. My mother got a MASSIVE set of hand-tuned wind chimes. They resonate for about a minute after you hit them. It's like a tape of meditation music all the time, now. I don't know my stepfather that well yet, either, so I gave him what he asked for (Magic 8-ball) and something I figured he'd like (WWE DVD. Because he is *that* into wrestling)

And then he told me he hadn't gotten anything for Christmas for 5+ years, and we both kind of cried.

I have yet to do Christmas with my Dad and stepmother, so unless he can come down to this part of town (it's an hour long drive) we may wind up holding off until after New Year's.

Speaking of New Year's, if you don't hear from me after the first, it will be because the customers at my workplace ate me. It's going to be that hectic.

So now the question is...what holiday did YOU celebrate this month, and how much fun did you have in the process?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Narcissus in Chains--chapter 22

Okay. I have to confess something: I have spent way too much time reading the Mercy Thompson novels. That severely, SEVERELY reshaped my view of were-whatever congregations. See, I was under the impression that were-whatevers were a little hard to find. In that the population was still in double digits. I am sure the other novels stated exactly how many were-whatevers there were in each colony. I must have blocked it out.

There are two hundred were-rats at this gathering. Two. fucking. hundred. 

And there are six hundred werewolves. All of whom are here.

This is not a meeting, boys and girls. It's a fucking convention. There are eight hundred people in this clearing tonight.


I'm sorry. My brain got overloaded by stupid there for a second. These are gangs, boys and girls. And we are about to have a full on fucking gang war. You can float a feud between forty people past the cops, but not eight hundred. 

Rafael gives Anita a body guard. Wisely, this is female. Also, apparently the pard cannot function because it has too many submissives and not enough dominants.

These are fucking leopards. They don't work that way, and even if they did, they could still eat a wolf. 

Rafael points out to Anita that when she's Nimir-Ra in truth, meaning when she shifts (she won't) she'll have to advertise for "enforcers". And when your "pack" is so big you have hundreds of people in it, "advertise" is the right fucking word. Is there a were-whatever craigslist or something?

Nathaniel leaned into me, and said, “If you don’t give in on this we’ll still be standing here an hour from now.”

Given that they've already been here an hour...

Can we PLEASE move on with this? PLEASE?

And then a man guard walks up beside the woman guard. Anita agrees to have bodyguards. And then this happens:

I put my hand out. They exchanged glances between them, then shook my hand. Igor touched me like he was afraid I’d break, and Claudia tried to squeeze hard enough to make me cry uncle. I didn’t. I smiled pleasantly at her, because I knew she wouldn’t really hurt me. She just wanted to see if I’d squirm.

Way to enforce gender norms there, LKH. I'm not being sarcastic. The guy wants to protect fragile pretty Anita, and the woman wants to compete with her.

And then we have Magical Touch Therapy between Anita, Micah and the other wereleopards. All except for Gregory. You remember Gregory? The kidnapped wereleopard? If you do remember him, you might want to remind Anita.

And then it moves on to borderline sexy fun-times with Micah and Anita. And it might be fun for them, but it sure as hell isn't fun for me:

It was as if Micah’s body and mine were a door and we stepped into each other, closer than flesh could touch, closer than hearts could beat, and I felt his beast and mine roll through us, around us, as if the two great animals bound us together like a rope that ran through our flesh, our skin, our minds.

Fifty Shades of Gray had sexier scenes. At least we didn't have to dip into bad metaphores (like a door we stepped through? really? REALLY?) to describe Ana and Christian's fun with ben-wa balls.

And then Richard shows up! He watched the whole thing.

You want to know when I decided the Twilight series had no redeeming qualities? It wasn't the stalkering in the first book, it wasn't the blank-but-for-one-word pages or the halucination-triggering in the second. It was that fucking tent scene in Eclipse, where Bella almost freezes to death due to Edward having no body heat, and Jacob comes in and snuggles with her until she fakes falling asleep, and then Ed and Jake have a verbal dick measuring contest. It was contrived, illogical and shitty for every single character involved, and I hated every fucking second of it.

I bring it up because I saw the word "Richard" and immediately felt the same rush of throat-ripping rage. And Anita goes on about how much she loves and wants Richard, and it is finally time to bring this out:

The next several dozen paragraphs are "Should we rescue your cat? Let's go rescue your cat. Should we go? Yes. But should we?" I'm skimming.

A wolf goes up to Anita and says he's envious of how nice all the leopards are with each other. Anita blames Richard's morals for sabotaging their closeness. Because it's morals that prevent people from being close to each other.

And then LKH manages to throw me right off the deep end.

“I’ve benefited from your loyalty, your sheer stubbornness. What I didn’t realize until tonight is that you didn’t save me just because I was your friend, or just because it was the right thing to do. You didn’t risk yourself and your people to save me from torture because of the kind of moral rightness that Richard is fond of. You saved me because you could not bear the thought of leaving me behind.” He touched my face, very gently. “Not from a sense of right and wrong, but because you are just that tenderhearted.”
Did the ten commandments bite you on the ass, Laurell? Did you lose a bet with a law firm? Did the Magna Carta run over your puppy? SINCE WHEN WAS DOING SOMETHING BECAUSE IT IS RIGHT A BAD MOVE?


Morality is wrong, blog readers. I did not know this. I have lived my whole life not stealing or hurting others or raping or murdering, but apparenlty all these things are wrong. I shall go out post haste and do something terrible. Like book burning. Book burning is morally wrong. Let's start with this one.

Oh, God it's still going on. Anita is so tenderhearted. It's one of her best qualities. 


“First I have to accept the fact that you’re kindhearted, now I have to accept the fact that you’re insightful as well. I knew you were powerful, ruthless, and pretty, but that you have a mind and a heart besides is going to take some getting used to.”

“Does everyone pretty much think I’m just a sociopath who happens to have magical abilities?”


God. Look, sometimes I write bullshit like that too. But I go back and take it out and spend five days trying to figure out a way to convey the same nonsense with showing, so that I don't look like an idiot by having the words and the actual actions of the characters be this badly paired. 
 And this is where I call bullshit on the "Morality is wrong" nonsense: 

You can bandage a wound, set a broken bone, but not caring  .  .  . you can’t cure that, and you can’t recover from it.
 First of all, 104 members of humanity need to grow up. Yes, that was highlighted too. Second, that's a moral judgement on your part. See, Anita, your issue with Richard isn't that he has morals. It's that his moral code does not agree with yours. Richard's code is just based on an outside idealism that he refuses to use. Yours, on the other hand, is based on your emotional judgements and your uterus. If you're screwing someone, or you want to screw someone, they are a good guy. If you're not, or they have no interest in you, or they want to screw one of "your" men, they're a bad guy. 

Really. Out of all the things in this book, I think I am most disturbed by this growing theme of "having a moral code is bad." Richard is trying to make the pack a safe place. Richard's problem is that he's not offering concequences for bad behavior. Hell, his relationship with Anita has probably fucked him up so bad it's gotten in the way of him doing his job. The best thing he could do for the pack is separate from Anita.

   There's probably shocking moments yet to come, but this is the first time I've felt honestly creeped out by this.
Oh, and Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and I hope you all have a very good day tomorrow. I will probably be posting pictures of swag.

Narcissus in Chains--chapter 21

This is another traveling chapter. This is another terrible traveling chapter.

I've read books with objectionable and offensive content before. John Ringo has, um...let's call it a history. I read that book. More than once. He also wrote the Council Wars series (WHY IS THERE NOT ANOTHER BOOK?) and every time I read about violence and/or leadership in this book, I think about a major sub plot in the Council Wars. It involves a character (Megan Travenite) who is abducted by another major character, and basically all the terrible parts of Gor and this book combined happen to Megan. Megan even falls in love with her rapist, and there are many long monologues about how this is a natural psychological response to extended violence and trauma, and the brain's way of protecting itself from a broken situation.

And then Megan kills her rapist by pouring acid down his throat and beating him to death with the bottle. Because no matter how her psyche reacted, what was happening to her was wrong and fuck if she was going to endure it any longer than she had to. She regrets it, but it's less "I killed my one true wub" and more "Damn that bastard for what he did to me, I'm glad I killed him."

I think the difference between Anita and every other heroine in books like this ever is...well, you don't fuck with Mercy Thompson. You don't fuck with Megan. You DO NOT EVER fuck with Honor Harrington, holy shit, I think the last guy who tried had to have plastic surgery and I'm not even kidding. But everybody gets to fuck with Anita. Mercy, Megan and Honor (NEXT BOOK NOW, DAVE. NEXT BOOK NOW.) all earned respect by being sweet, honorable and efficient when life is good, and turning into efficient buzzsaws of death when things went sideways. Anita is a buzzsaw when life is good, and she seems to collapse every time things go sideways.

Also, Megs, Mercy and Honor are all genuinely good people. Anita is not. Which means I don't give a fuck about what happens to her, bad or good.

I've put this chapter off long enough, haven't I?

Rafael the rat-king has a limo. My reaction would be "SWEET!" Anita's is "...he doesn't look like a limo kind of guy."

Lemme guess. You were expecting a low-ridered camaro with flashy LED lights on the runners. And spinners. Weren't you?

Anita tells us all about how tough Merle is. How she gets a tough "vibe" from him. You know, in good books they actually show you this shit. Also, is it just me, or is the cast right now fucking huge? Yes. I know. LKH never kills off characters. I understand this, but I don't *get* it. It's a writer thing. Books work off of emotional investment and emotional energy. And I don't mean metaphysical psychic stuff. I just don't have a better word for it. Intense emotion triggered at the right time (Ie Obi Wan dying in Star Wars) can drive the rest of a story to the ending (Seriously. That movie would not have been as good without that emotional hit at that exact time)

If you're so worried about your fucking cast being happy that nothing really bad ever happens, your book has no energy and your readers will be bored as fuck. And whatever you do with them, Laurell, for the love of God:


Oh, and now dating Richard isn't healthy for Anita. This is a retcon so big I didn't think the universe could even hold it. Dating your rapist is now healthier than dating a high school teacher who loves you. Even the Richard in this book would be healthier than Jean Claude and Micah.

And then we meet the Swan King, Donovan Reece, who is greatful to Anita for rescuing the swanmanes.

I want to know more about these characters. Seriously. were-swans sound almost as awesome as the were-chickens and were-gila monsters in Sunshine. And as anybody who's ever had to deal with a pissed off waterfowl can tell you, they are not sweet and fluffy babies.

Instead he was going with us into a gathering of werewolves where he would be the only nonpredator there. That didn’t sound like a good idea to me.
You do realize that prey animals with natural predators can be fucking intense, right? You ever noticed how those wild-life show people like Steve Irwin are always jumping on the crockadiles and handling the venomous snakes but when they find a moose they stay about fifteen feet away? That is not because they don't want to scare Mr. Moose off. Mr. Moose is probably habituated to humans and very courious about what Mr. Cameraman has in his bag. They stay fifteen feet away because they don't want Mr. Moose to open a can of Mr. Woop-ass all over Mr. Camera. Yes. Predators kill the prey animals. The prey animals kill them back. 

“You saved my swanmanes, Ms. Blake. You nearly got yourself killed doing it. I couldn’t risk the girls coming, they are not  .  .  .” He looked down at his folded hands, then raised those changeable eyes to me. “They are like your Nathaniel— victims.”

"Having to endure shit" does not equal "victim". "Wanting to endure shit" certainly does not equal victim. And victim is not a word that defines a person. It defines a temporary, transitory role of horribleness. Being a crime victim or an abuse victim does not make you a whimpering sack of uselessness. It just means you were on the receiving end. NO ONE is a victim outside of an event. NO ONE is defined by their victimization at the hands of someone else. And unless the bad things are happening to you right now, the word "victim" is always past tense. You were a victim. You might still have emotional pain from what happened, but that event neither defines nor confines you.

And I'd like to see Anita go through some kind of twelve step recovery program. I think she'd melt.

But you know, I think that this predator/prey thing is a male/female thing. And that might just be kind of intentional on LKH's part. Only predators get to survive. Prey must be protected, guarded and nurtured, lest it become meat for a bad predator. Switch out the words and it's HELLO MISOGYNY.

As proven by Donovan insisting he has strong control over his inner swan and Anita dismissing this as a severe case of arrogance. It's confidence, sunshine, and it might look unfamiliar to you because for once it's not being backed by a gun.

Anita is skeptical when Donovan insists he won't be a burden. I am reminded of the terrible western I tried to read once. Only the role of Donovon was played by a pretty blond thing that wound up banging the hero halfway through the book.

And then Anita freaks out because Donovan smells like food.   And everyone freaks out because her self control is so bad she almost chows into Donovan. Who refuses to be freaked out because Anita is one of the good guys, and his confidence in her abilities is played off as stupidity on his part.

Let me say that again. Donovan's confidence in Anita's self-control and innate goodness is played off as stupidity on his part. 

Then it is explained that swanmanes are either cursed or born. Look, see? One sentence. It takes about five paragraphs for us to get through that part. It includes Anita losing her control again and Donovon showing off his feathery belly.

Then more nonsense about how Anita and Micah are perfectly mated. One true wub.

And then Anita says that maybe she and Richard could have worked out, if he could only have dumped his moral code and been okay with anything goes.

NO. Nope. Sorry. Given that in another dozen books or so you're going to be literally fucking a teenager, I think you need to go back to your room and start thinking about your life choices. Morality might be a...pain in the ass, but it keeps you from violating other people. Morality is not a bad thing.

And then it says that healthy packs form a group mind, know, it's a little late to be springing this part of pack life TEN BOOKS INTO THE SERIES.

And then Anita asks questions about Gina, who is apparently one of Micah's leopards, and who is radiating "I am abused".


Anita then asks why Micah hasn't done something for Gina's unspecified victimization. And not as in therapy. As in killing whoever it is hurting her. Let me remind you guys, THIS WOMAN IS A SHAPE-SHIFTING LEOPARD. SHE COULD DO HER OWN KILLING IF SHE WANTED TO. SHE DOES NOT NEED A GUY TO DO WHAT SHE COULD DO ON HER OWN. Get her healthy, and she'll take care of it on her own.

And then Micah drops that something is after him and his pard.

...that's gonna be the other half of this book, isn't it? Anita rescues her rapist from the trouble he isn't man enough to handle. Please tell me I'm wrong. Please.

And then we get "Anita is a bad-ass" speech number 2,947. Given that she has done NOTHING I would call bad-ass, I call bullshit.

And then we find out that precious Anita is a victim of racial prejudice. She's half hispanic, and her nordic boyfriend's family, reffered to as "good little Aryans" here, didn't want to have mexican babies in the house.

I cannot touch this one with a ten foot pole, so I'm just gonna leave it there.

And then the chapter ends on a note. I don't know what to call it.

But guys? Kindle will mark frequently underlined parts of books. IDK, give us e-book readers a sense of community I guess? And all I can say is this:

Maybe they know what I know, that the true way to a man’s heart is six inches of metal between his ribs. Sometimes four inches will do the job, but to be really sure, I like to have six. Funny how phallic objects are always more useful the bigger they are. Anyone who tells you size doesn’t matter has been seeing too many small knives.

99 of you cannot read, and are melodramatic as fuck.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Narcissus in Chains--chapter 20

So Anita finally reaches her house. She explains that she rented the house because it has few neighbors, and if she has a crisis she doesn't have to worry about shooting anybody. I did that in one sentence. It took LKH six. Plus a couple existential statements about trees.

Apparently Anita's house is full of people. So many people she has to park down the street from her own house-with-no-neighbors. My first reaction is to shout "WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS SHIT" and go charging in. Hers is to sit in the car and look at it.

For a vampire hunter with a kill count longer than most rap sheets, Anita sure doesn't do much.

Anita also apparently never thought of Nathanial as a person. Why is she our heroine again? And just because she isn't terrible enough, we find out she always thought of Nathanial as a poor, abused child she had to take care of. This tells me two things:

1. If Anita were a man, everybody would be screaming "chauvinist" at her. I've met men with this attitude. They turn women into something for them to rescue, admire, and care for, and in the process ignore the woman's real wishes and ambitions. When I meet men like that I usually revive my "Women in the military" arguement because it is fun watching them go up in flames. This is called objectifying. Anita has turned Nathanial into an object she has to take care of, and not a person that she has to deal with. This is not okay.

2. Anita is a patronizing, egotistical waste of skin. But we already knew that part.

I know I keep getting hung up on little stuff, but writing is all about little stuff. And these little things are hints of extremely unhealthy and abusive behavior. They are inadvertant on the author's part (I hope) but they're FREAKING THERE. And turning a person into an object of value is the first step in turning them into an object of abuse. If "my wife" or "my husband" ever equals "my dog" or "my boots" in someone's attitude, they are the LAST person who should have a significant other. And then a couple paragraphs later...

My breast was aching, faintly, from his teeth marks. We’d shared a bed so often that it felt odd when he wasn’t beside me. But I still didn’t see him as a grown-up. Sad, but true.
Moving on.

Nathanial explains what Anita will need to do for the ardeur. Apparently Jean Claude explained it all to him, because poor Anita is too fragile to handle information that will keep her from hurting herself or other people via sexpire powers. I'm starting to miss sparkling vampmeyers and stalkering, because compared to Jean Claude's passive-aggressive bullshit Edward Cullen was a paragon of well-adjusted masculinity.

Also, fuck you Jean Claude.

Nathanial is also worried that Anita isn't going to sleep in the Circus of the Damned. A couple days ago I responded to a comment by mentioning that Jean Claude's behavior re: Anita so far has been textbook for cult leaders trying to brainwash someone. This HAS to be unintentional because it's really subtle, but if you're looking for it it kind of jumps out in neon. Anita should have been taken home last night. She should have been given a shower, a set of comfy PJs, time to fix herself something warm and comforting to drink, and allowed to sleep in an enviroment that was not so highly sexualized it could make a dead stick stand up and salute. The human psyche is VERY vunurable to suggestion in the time after emotional trauma. Anita is isolated from everyone she trusts (She loves JC, but she's never ever ever EVER trusted him. Nathanial is not a person to her, Jason is JC's boy toy) verbally abused, and then force-fed information while she's given positive experiances, such as they are. JC is repeating over and over, you can't control yourself and you need me. And the fact that HE isn't comfortably letting Anita go home is another sign of an abusive situation.

NOTHING  about this book is healthy, in other words.

After rehashing everything they talked about in the last chapter (Seriously, this book is almost as bad as City of Bones in the stand-around-and-talk-about-it department. It's not exposition IMHO if it's been mentioned NINTEEN OTHER TIMES in the previous chapter) Anita and Nathanial finally leave the car. She's met by two of the other wereleopards, a male named Zane and a girl named Cherry.

If this were any other book, I wouldn't have noticed. I do not think I can trust a female character in vampire/shapeshifter erotica who is named Cherry.

Also, apparently the way to greet your Nimir-Ra is to get on your knees and rub your face all over their hands like you're a for-real cat. This is the "Formal" greeting.

I used to do this when I pretended to be a cat...way back when I was six. These are grown-ass professionals. And they're doing it in Anita's front yard. When they're done with the hand rubbing, they then twine through Anita's legs like a hungry house cat.

These are not shape-shifted wereleopards. They look perfectly human. They're just down on all fours rubbing their whole bodies against Anita's legs.

And then we meet the pard's central trouble-maker, Elizabeth.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Laurel K. Hamilton's nuanced and sensative description of an antagonistic female:

It was Elizabeth. Her walk was always a cross between a strut and a glide, the ultimate hooker’s walk...Her hair fell in curls to her waist, a brunette so dark you would have called it black if you didn’t have my hair to compare it to. She was pretty in a pouting, lush sort of way, like some sort of tropical plant with thick, fleshy leaves and beautiful but deadly blossoms. She was wearing a skirt so short the tops of her black hose and the garters that held them up showed... The shirt was sheer enough that even by starlight you could see she wasn’t wearing a bra, and she, like me, was a woman who needed one.

 I seem to remember in one of these books--I think it was Kiss the Dead--that Anita showed up for an interrogation in a short-short-SHORT skirt, tiny blouse and five inch heels and said that it wasn't her fault, her live-in "stripper sweetie" (AKA Nathanial) had picked her clothes out for her. A LARGE portion of the cast in this series are sex workers. And I don't mean a realistic representation of sex workers. I mean LKH's idea of what sex workers are like. I do not remember if Elizabeth is one of them, as I suspect she's not going to be around much longer. My point? I do not think a respectful depection of a marginalized group is one of LKH's priorities., Anita sure is a catty b--

Aw, come on! It fits!

Anyway, I don't think we've got Elizabeth truely established as an antagonis--

She fake-pouted at me. “Oh, did our little Nimir-Ra get her feelings hurt because I wouldn’t come and sleep naked beside her?”
Yep, there we go. Dresses like an oversexed clubbing idiot, check, is promiscuious (re: sleeping with the guy escorting her) check, and is nasty to Anita. Check, check, and check.

Anita threatens to kill Lizzie here for not watching over Nathanial like she was supposed to. Personally, I'd go with a severe maiming. Lizzie says it's no fun, Nathanial has "standards now." Anita says "Which means he won't fuck with you" and Elizabeth gets pissed. And frankly, I'm seeing no difference between these two characters at all. It's like when two women show up at the party wearing the same hat, only in this case it's personalities.

Also, the word "sweetie" is starting to not look like a word anymore. I had a boyfriend who called me sweetie. It didn't last long, and after a while the pet name just kind of grated. A sweetie is a kind of candy that you blow through in two seconds. It's not somebody you feel strongly attached to.

And then we are introduced to Gina. I don't know who this girl is, but I think she's a "friendly" female.

Women in this book seem to be sorting out into two groups. "Bad" girls, who are girly, sensual, attracted to Anita's men and not fans of Anita, and "good" girls, women who show up in steriotypically "man" clothes (ie a t-shirt) who don't go for girly frills, who are not attracted to Anita's men and who are fans of Anita. By this I mean that if you are an antagonist, you're in a mini-skirt and thigh-highs, and you're single. If you're help, you're packing heat and already married. It's almost like a virgin/whore complex. Let's call it "Matron/Whore", 'cause in this book virgin is pretty much a synonym for victim.

Anyway, Gina shows up in a t-shirt, is beautiful without makeup and strikes Anita as dangerous. Either she's gonna be a "good guy" or LKH is trying to be subtle.

And then we find out that one of the Leopards, Vivian, is dating Gregory's (the wereleopard being held by the werewolves) twin brother Stephen, who is a werewolf.

Werewhatever is supposed to be rare in this universe, right? So what are the odds that identical twin brothers would be struck by two different strains of lycanthropy? Was this established in another book? Because without a DAMN good plot I think we're approaching "bolt from the blue" odds here.

And then everybody starts questioning Nathanial about who he slept with, because apparently they made a new rule without Anita's imput that Nathanial has to run his potential sex partners by the whole group first. And Anita gets nervious about it, hides the fact that she's the one who slept with Nathanial, is forced by the group to confess, and is taunted by Caleb, who turns out to be one of Micah's leopards.

Sadly, Anita doesn't just shoot the bastard.

It keeps going. Apparently Elizabeth wants a real shape-shifter as a Nimir-Ra and is trying to force Anita out. Anita isn't standing for it, and...uh...

I looked at her, and I let the darkness fill my eyes that was my own version of a beast.
What the fuck does that even mean? Her eyes are her beast? What the hell?

And then Micah shows up, and the description of him is basically this:

Micah insists Anita show him the bite marks from having not-sex with Nathanial. She does. This scares the shit out of Elizabeth for some reason, and Lizzie starts repeating "You can't be Nimir-Ra for real. You can't. You can't."

And then Micah tells Anita that they are soul mates. Literally:

He held my face in his hands, making very serious eye contact. “We are a mated pair, Anita. It’s legend among the leopards that you can find your perfect mate, and from the first moment you have sex you’re bound, more than marriage, more than law. We will always crave each other. Our souls will always call to each other. Our beasts will always hunt together.”

This is still the dude that raped Anita yesterday. There are no words, boys and girls, that can ever make this okay.

Anita still has to deal with Elizabeth, though. For the record, I was kidding about maiming a a punishment. Anita, however, is not:

I shot her twice in the chest, while she was still telling me I wouldn’t shoot her. She went over backwards, spine bowing, hands scrabbling at the road, legs kicking while she tried to breathe. Everyone had cleared a big space around her. I stood over her and stared down while she tried to breathe, and her heart struggled to beat around the hole I’d put in it. “You keep saying I can’t kill you like a real Nimir-Ra by tearing your throat out, or gutting you. Maybe that’s going to change soon, but until then I can shoot you, and you’ll be just as dead.”
Our heroine, ladies and gentlemen. Sorry. There is nothing bad-ass about walking up to somebody and shooting them in cold blood. Mostly because the build up before this is too long and drawn out, and too devoid of emotional energy. Also, because Elizabeth is just fucking standing there.

Oh, but Anita murdering Elizabeth is alright, because Elizabeth has an unconsious death wish and really, really wants to die. She just doesn't know it. What. The. Fucking. Hell.

The only person in the group turned off by this display of sociopathy is Caleb, the bad guy. Everybody else is pleased as punch that Anita just filled another person full of holes. Lizzie heals up while they watch.

We get the required "Anita is a badass exchange" which we don't buy any more than we did the last one, the plot is over in a corner sobbing quietly to itself, and the chapter has ended. 

Next chapter: They're taking the leopards to the lupanar. Or, as my brain just put it

You're welcome.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Narcissus in Chains--chapter 19

Okay. They had sex. So we're going to get to the point now, right?

I WAS NAKED again. It seemed to be a theme that night. The five of us lay in a heap, breathing hard, bodies tingling, with that rush that magic will leave behind sometimes— where you feel both tired and exhilarated at the same time— sort of like sex. did just have sex. Sex does not equal penetration.

Also, Anita ate a big chunk out of Jason's neck. This was not in any way, shape or form sexy or okay. Anita promptly runs to the bathroom and throws it up, and then starts freaking out yet again.

I think I'd be more okay with the whole "WE HAVE NO LIMITS GIVE IN TO YOUR DESIRES" thing this book has if Anita weren't collapsing every single time her own boundaries get pushed. This is not empowering and sexy. It's frightening and predictable and boring. Even more boring is the litany of injuries Anita both received and inflicted during the orgy. Also presented in a shocky, not-at-all-okay manner that I do not find sexy.

But Jean Claude brings Anita her tooth brush, so everything is okay.

And then there is more speculation about whether or not Anita will become a Wereleopard (She won't) and why she's happy that Nathanial bit her, and what Bella Morte is doing and...yeah, there's a plot somewhere in  here, right? Can we let it back into the room, maybe?

Nope. Instead Jean Claude postulates that leopards might be sexpire Anita's "animal to call".

This is kind of one of LKH's contributions to vampire lore. Powerful vampires can summon a shapeshifter of a certain type. Jean Claude's animal-to-call are wolves, I believe. This would be kind of cool, but after this point Anita collects animals-to-call like the crazy cat lady down the street. If you're hoarding animals, you have a mental illness. I don't even want to start approaching what it means if you're hoarding people.

Also we find out that Asher's bite is orgasmic and Jean Claude's isn't. they make dental Viagra?

And then Anita claims that what just happened wasn't sex, and Jean Claude stomps on her verbally until she agrees that yes it was.

Look, I agree with JC that it was sex, but for fuck's sake, the woman has endured more trauma in the last twenty four hours than most people do in a year, and she is NOT handling it very well. Dude. Back the fuck off. 

 And then we find out that a wolf, any wolf, can act in the magical vampire-necromancer-shapeshifter thing that got Anita into this mess in the first place. Thus justifying the absolute shit-storm of nonsense Richard is about to get showered with.

I do not view any of these characters as people. They are more like pistons in an engine to me. Things that make the story go vroom when supplied with enough crisis-fuel. My issue with this bullshit is we spent nine books getting attached to the Richard-Piston and now, because for whatever reason LKH might have, sand is getting dumped in the engine. I mean...does anybody here rememeber Charmed? Does anybody remember how they got rid of Pru when Shannen Doherty was a pain in the ass? They gave her a beautiful send-off, killed her in a blaze of glory, and then used that crisis to introduce a new character the viewers could accept.

I do not understand why LKH won't do the same thing, ever. Oh, I've heard her excuse (My characters are PEEEEEPOOOOLEEEEEEE) but I don't understand that mindset. They're not real. Major character death is a great crisis point to wrap a novel around. I just....I don't get it!

And then we find out that nobody has ever thrown Bella Morte out of their head the way Anita just did. I am sure this repetition will have some point in the future, but I really want to just skim the damn thing now.

And then Jean Claude tells her she needs to pick out a permanent sex partner so that when the ardeur rises she'll have someone to drain. And that it ought to be Nathanial.

Anita repeats that she can't have sex with Nathanial because he'll never say no and having sex with someone who consents to everything is rape. Hey, Robot Susan, how do you feel about that?

And then Anita freaks out more. And then we get an info-dump on Belle Morte's history. Because doing this before she tried to possess Anita would be bad. And Jean Claude apologizes for not warning Anita about Belle's head-jumping skills because he didn't think it would effect her.

You know, Edward Cullen was an asshole, but at least he told Bella some of what was happening before it bit her on the rear.

And then Jean Claude tells Anita that somewhere in the world there is a vampire who has a six-inch-wide, foot long penis. So basically this dude has half a floor tile for a dong.

Plot? Plot? Hello? Can you please make an appearance?

Now we have to establish rules about who Anita can sleep with. Jean Claude is basically like "One night stands only, nobody else you might love more than me." And just to cement his status as asshole of the year, he says this:

There are many things I would have told you today, if you had been in the mood for truth.

To translate this out of asshole speak, "if you weren't crying and pouting because you were just raped, posessed by a sex-power and worried because the man you love is going to kill one of your charges, I probably would have told you more about how to deal with the vampire sex power I've just cursed you with. But you're mad at me, so this is how I'm going to passive-aggressively punish you for thinking you're a person with feelings."

Fuck you, Jean Claude.

And then the book takes a left turn right into retrospectively hilarious:

“Please, don’t tell me that I’m going to turn into slut-girl.” 
He smiled. “I do not think you need to fear that. You are stronger willed than that.”

I promise I will not call Anita a slut. But given that she's throwing the S-word around after only having five lovers assigned her, it makes the later books kind of funny. I know there's way more than ten now, probably more than fifteen. If you have to use fingers AND toes to count your permanent lovers, you are not a slut, but you do probably have some kind of severe mental issue and probably need to go get therapy. If you can't have fifteen pet cats, you shouldn't have fifteen pet men.

And THEN we find out that Anita mind-raped a vampire several books back, and when she abandoned him Jean Claude locked him into a coffin topped with crosses. He's been locked in there for six months without food, water, or human contact. Anita freaks out, and Jean Claude just repeats that it was what he had to do to control him.

Because picking up a fucking phone six months ago was more work.

But he magnanimously decides to give her the vampire so she can nurse him back to health like a kitten.

Anita leaves the Circus of the Damned to go find where the plot went. On the way, she thinks about how she ignored most of her metaphysical lessons because witchcraft is too scary for her good-girl Christian ways.

Why is Christianity not equipped to deal with magic in this universe? Seriously? If it's real enough for Wiccans to heal wounded werewolves and zap undead baddies, it should be real enough for there to be some kind of Christian variation. And I'm trying to say this without exposing my bias.

The chapter ends with the strong implication that God wants Anita to choose Jean Claude and not Richard to be a permanent lover.

The plot has still not shown up.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Narcissus in Chains chapter 18

And once more, I have to get creative with my posting. Because all they do in this chapter is have sex.

I am the wrong audience for a sex scene, okay? I'm not offended by sex. I am bored by it. I think part of it is, well...I can't really relate to a sex scene. Maybe eventually I'll get it. As of now, though, I have NO IDEA why this would be stimulating for anybody.

And it doesn't help that we get sentences like this:

But the ardeur colored all of it, whether I was craving flesh, or blood, the sex was there in all of it.
LKH, I hate to break it to you, but not everybody has a vore fetish.

I think part of the appeal of vampire fiction, at least for me, is the usual "I have to fit in" sub-plot. A character has a natural instinct to kill, and must choose between surrender to their instincts and being a social outcast (and being murdered by the torch-wielding villagers) and supressing their instincts, suffering, and reaping the benefits of having a social life. And then you get the sub-sub-plot of finding that one person who understands the vampire well enough to indulge in some of their instincts, while still being safe.

Basically, it's a metaphore for sex and relationships. You don't do asocial shit, you get to have friends. You don't abuse potential love interests, eventually you get one that will stick around for a while.

That's why even Twilight had a little (VERY little) appeal to me, and of course I read P.N. Elrod's vampire mysteries like candy (First book: PI wakes up as a vampire, and must solve his own murder while his murderers--assuming vampires aren't real--continue to try to kill him. BEST. PLOT. EVER.) And why Anita Blake kept my interest for nine books. The subtext is about finding balance, I guess, and that's why we start with violent characters who slowly become un-violent, and peaceful characters who learn how to value swords, or a well-aimed left hook. It's not something you even need to be aware of as a writer, though if you ARE aware of it you can really fuck with the audience.

And I guess the reason this series became a turn off for me stopped being about finding balance and became pure indulgance without consequence. Which is bullshit.

“Ma petite, ma petite, I would change this if I could, but I cannot. We must make the best of what is given us.”
Yeah. Fuck you, Jean Claude.

Let's go ALL the way back to Guilty Pleasures and remind ourselves what the dynamics were back then. Richard did not exist. You had Anita Blake, necromancer and vamp killer, Edward the sociopath, Anita's various female friends which included Ronnie, The...uh, stripper dude whose name I can't remember, which is sad because he was the best damn character in the book. And in contrast to this simi-normal collection of humanity you had this backdrop of lawlessness that was the vampire community, and the amoral law of the shapeshifters--their rules were more about dominance games than morality. Anita's primary influience on the preternatural community was morality. She replaced Nickolaus with Jean Claude, the truely fucked up Alpha/Lupa of the werewolves with Richard. In Obsidian Butterfly she killed a bad vampire-god-thing but left the "not killing people" vampire-goddess-thing alone. Whenever someone did something amoral and wrong Anita was the one who stepped in. In a way Anita was the Bran of this universe. You do not fuck with Mercy's Bran, and you did not fuck with Anita. She was good, she was fair, and if you crossed the line into hurting people, she stepped in and killed your ass. She provided restraints that made the preternatural safe. In return, the preternatural gave her danger and excitement. She was finding balance, the preternatural community was finding balance, and a good time was had by all.

And that all went out the window in this book.

I turned and caught sight of myself in the standing mirror in the corner. My eyes had filled with pale brown fire, not the darkness of my own eyes, but hers. “No,” I said, softly. I felt her thousands of miles away. Her pleasure at my terror rolled through my body, raised my beast and sent me falling onto the bed. My hands strained for something to hold on to, some help, but there was nothing to fight; it was power and it was inside me.
Oh, by the way? that "her" thing caught me just as out of the blue as it did you. The "her" is Bella Morte, Jean Claude's sire's sire. Or something like that. She's the source of the ardeur. And she's just possessed Anita's body, so all we're going to see from her POV is curtain flutters and a thin glaze of non-con.

So even when it's consensual, in that she's gonna agree to do it, it's not gonna be consensual.

How does this book lose balance?

This whole scene here, for example. It's not about finding control, it's about losing control. It's about running right up to the end of the cliff and falling off. There are no limits anymore. Nothing is safe, nothing is sacred. It's whatever the author wants it to be.

Hands slid along my skin, a mouth closed on my mouth, and I couldn’t see who was right above me, kissing me. I could feel the weight of their body, another set of hands, but I could see nothing but a shining amber light.


We've gotten this idea in pop culture that limits are a bad thing. We think we want to be out of control, but in reality we just want a couple of the restraints vaguely loostened so we have a little more wriggle room. Limits and Boundaries keep people safe, both physically and emotionally, and it is a good thing to find the hard rules (IE Rape and murder are both bad) and the ones that can be flexed into a pretzel for the enjoyment of all participants. Vampires are sexy because they are dangerous. Vampires become sexy and attractive when the audience believes they could sex them up and not be hurt in the process. Vampires with limits, in other words. They'll break the skin, but they won't drain you dry.

Yay. Anita has flung Belle Morte out of her body using the power of orgy sex. Thrilling.

What you get without limits is basically the entire Anita Blake series from this point on. Rape. Murder. Rape again. Respect that only exists because you have a bigger threat/gun/beast/penis/power than the other guy. The only limits are the ones you create for yourself. And the sad thing is the series tries so hard to pass this off as a good thing. It's almost like reading an Ayn Rand book. You know, the parts where they try to pass off taking care of orphans and the elderly as bad things.

Anita has now insulted a very powerful vampire. And the chapter has ended. I can't even hope that Belle Morte shows up and bashes skulls in, because everybody in this bed is in the latest book.

The most telling thing about it is, nobody suffers concequences for their actions. Micah becomes Anita's primary love interest from here on out. Jean Claude is the Most Powerful Vampire for quite a long time. Richard, who continues to try to impose limitations on his pack, gets thrown aside for an endless progression of were-felines. Anita has so many live-in-lovers you lose count. I am not saying it's bad to have sex with multiple partners, but when you have enough men in your harem to qualify as a hoarder if they were cats, you have ISSUES. And none of them, except maybe Richard, have anything near what I would call a good life. The books don't seem fun from here on out.

In other words, there's a reason why we don't eat nine billion bon-bons in one sitting, kids. Technicolor vomit isn't fun to clean up. Most social rules we have? Exist for the same reason. 

And now that THAT boring chapter is out of the way...on with the parade of awful!

Narcissus in Chains--chapter 17

I'm going to say something that will probably be controversial and easy to take out of context, but I'm going to say it anyway. And no, it's not that Anita is a--

--whatever. Bear with me for a couple seconds, okay?

The Gor novels are better than this series.

That is not a compliment.

The Gor books are terrible. They are a waste of space. Trees died so those books could exist, and that means everyone involved in their publication should be brought up on some kind of crime against the plant kingdom. But John Norman, sick and twisted as he was, did want to make humanity better. His basic thesis was so wrong it was a literal hate crime, but his goal, in his own sick, twisted way, wasn't all that different from, say, Ayn Rand. He identified that something was "wrong" with the world and tried to fix it through his writing. He should be shot into space without oxygen, but he's a better writer in every possible category than Laurell K. Hamilton.

Yes. I just said that. See, I read ahead last night, and I have never been so throughly pissed off at a chapter in a book as I am right now. I said yesterday this book has surpassed all our abilities to feel shock and horror. I was fucking wrong.

I really hope the words "fuck you" don't irritate anybody, because you're going to be hearing them a lot. In the back of my head I expected the section to be one big, long, rolling, nasty sex scene. It is not. It takes literally FOREVER for us to get to the sex. And what happens between now and the sex is just...

In fairness, this whole book would make Applebloom puke
So lets just dive in, shall we?

When we last left our (gag) "heroes" they had all decided to feed Anita's lust demon by having JC feed on Jason and Asher feed on Nathanial and Anita feed on everybody, because apparently being bitten by vampires feels really good. I'm not criticizing that last little bit, by the way. That's legit lore. At least they're not sparkling. So now they all pile into bed, and a freaking miracle happens, boys and girls:

Somebody asks somebody else for their consent.

“Do you want Asher to feed from you?” 
“Oh, yes,” Nathaniel said,
Wow. Somebody in this book finally commits an act of human decency. I'm starting to get im--

My voice sounded as breathless as his when I said, “I’m not on birth control.”

Everyone froze. Jean-Claude peered over Jason’s shoulder. “What did you say, ma petite?”

 “I stopped taking the pill six months ago. I’ve only been on it for two weeks. No guarantee for another two to four weeks.”

 “You made love to the Nimir-Raj.”

 “He’s been fixed.” 
Asher said, “She did what?”

That's the rape scene he's referencing there. Now, to get it out of my system: 

There really aren't any words that aren't on macros that I can use right now. She did not make love to him, she did everything she could to get out of the situation, she didn't want it to happen in the first place, and now, boys and girls, the people she loves are shoving her face back into it at the drop of a hat. And the rape scene was still less than twenty-four hours ago.

Fuck you, Jean Claude.

So now we get an unbearably long scene in which everybody talks about how careless Anita is for not being on birth control and how awful it would be if there were surprise penis during this thing and she were to get preggers with an unwanted baby.

Because birth control is totally all about avoiding getting pregnant, and there is no other reason a woman would get on it, ever.

I can't speak for other women, but when I was on birth control I had no intention of having sex with anybody. I was on it because I read that it alleviated menstrual cramps. At the time, mine were fucking debilitating. There is pain, there is pain so big you cannot function, and then there is pain so big you pass out on the floor of a public bathroom. I've had infected teeth that haven't hurt that bad. And the pill worked.

And you know what else I "Love?" How it's totally the woman's job to take care of icky reproductive issues. What happened to keeping a rubber in your wallet, guys? 

And it's Anita who whines the whole time--and you have no idea how much I would like to not be using that word, but that's the only thing that fits--about how they said no sex and condoms just complicate things and she doesn't want her boys using condoms...and then the worst thing I have ever read commences. 

Jean Claude decides that everybody needs to wear condoms. And this is how he talks her into it.

“I think I can keep from fucking them.” I sounded angry, but it wasn’t anger that I felt, it was a seed of doubt. That hesitation made the anger worse. I always hid behind anger when I could.

 “And before this morning, you would have sworn even more strongly that you would not fuck a strange man you had just met.”

 The blush was so hot, it almost hurt. “I didn’t mean to.” That sounded weak even to me. “I couldn’t  .  .  .” 
You could not control yourself, ma petite, I know. But if you lose control again, would you not rather be safe?”

And now they are using her rape to manipulate her. Oh god, she's so wonton. Oh, god, she loses control around people. Oh, god, we have to remind her of this to keep her horrible uncontrolable female sex drive from making our lives miserable with an unwanted pregnancy.

Let me go turn off Robot Cyborg Susan for a second. This part isn't going to be funny.

This bullshit is why I called Anita a bitch earlier. And while I'll admit that it's wrong to use a gendered word as shorthand for "terrible waste of human skin" I stand by the underlying meaning of what I said: If you do this, you are a terrible waste of human skin. You do not identify the weakest point in someone's psyche and then use it to manipulate the other person and get what you want. It's like Jean Claude decided to tickle Anita's third degree burns to get her to lie down and be a sport about things. This shit is not okay. Not now. Not tomorrow. Not three million years from now. Not ever. If you are aware that someone else has a deep emotional wound, like from being cheated on OR BEING RAPED LESS THAN A DAY AGO, you do not use that wound as leverage to get what you want out of the other person.

And even if it's not rape--it totally is, but let's play devil's advocate here--it's still fucking wrong. She's upset that she made a mistake with a stranger, she's doubting herself, she's very fucked up inside. YOU DON'T USE SOMEONE ELSE'S PAIN AGAINST THEM. EVER.

In short, Fuck you, Jean Claude. Fuck you, Micah, and FUCK YOU Laurell K. Hamilton for passing this psychological fuckery off as something morally acceptable in ANY relationship.

Okay. Turning Susan back on.

Jean Claude does it again less than two paragraphs later. So he's brought up her lack of control twice, her "sex with a stranger" twice, AND SHE WAS FUCKING RAPED WHEN IT HAPPENED.

How could no one see what was wrong with this?

Finally, though, Anita agrees with everything Jean Claude said, because she can't argue with him.

 The problem with battling a manipulator is that they are convincing. They know how to twist your words and actions against you in ways you cannot easily fight. They're wrong, they know they're wrong, YOU know they're wrong, but they know how to make it look like they're right, and with a manipulator, the appearance is the only thing that matters. The result of arguing with a manipulator is usually you either storming off, voiceless and angry, or you agreeing even though every cell in your body is screaming they're wrong, simply because you can't think your way out of what they just said.  

You cannot argue with a manipulator, kids. You can only disengage, and then distance yourself from them. And if you have to confront them, have witnesses. 

Now can we just have disgusting five-way sex and get this scene over with?

No, we can't. Because we have to make this even worse. Anita says "Well, I can go to the lupanar anyway," And Jean Claude replies with the following:

He tried not to meet my gaze. His shields were back in place, and I couldn’t tell what he was feeling. “You would be attracted to all the men. You would  .  .  . I cannot guarantee what you would do, ma petite, or who you would do it with.”
There really aren't words anymore. Not only is Jean Claude slut-shaming, he's slut-shaming a rape victim.

But CW! I hear you saying. He might not know that it's a rape! LKH intended the rape scene to be loving intercourse. She herself never considered it to be a rape scene. How do we know that unfair manipulation and slut shaming are what Jean Claude is really doing? How do we know CW isn't interpreting this the wrong way?

Because this happens two paragraphs later:

“Let me spare you such degradation, ma petite. You are not as I was. You have never given yourself freely. I fear what you would do, or think of yourself, if you did these things. I do not think your sense of yourself would survive intact.”
In other words, my dear blog-readers,

  He knows, and so does LKH. It's right there in the text. The bolded part.

Jean Claude then goes on about how he was able to learn how to feed the ardeur from a distance, but it took him five years and he had to learn control all on his lonesome, and Anita is getting more and more horrified as she realizes she's going to have to live with uncontrollable lust for lust for the rest of her life (and no, that's not a typo) and then Jean Claude does it again: 

“If you had withstood the Nimir-Raj’s advances, then I would say that your strength of will might conquer it.
She was raped, you undead piece of shit. She did resist his advances. She just didn't try to claw his eyes out.

And then Jean Claude tells her that if she doesn't feed the ardeur, she'll start literally eating her friends.

And then Anita says "fine, but everybody needs to be wearing pants. I'll go get my underwear."

And then Jean Claude says "yes, but you might order them to take it all off, because you'll lose control of your mouth, too."

The chapter ends with Anita thinking that maybe just throwing in the towel and becoming a psychopath isn't such a bad idea after all.

This chapter was the worst part of the book that I've far. And I know it will probably get worse. I just don't want to think about what "worse" might mean for now. I'm going to go play a video game for an hour, and then paint until I have to go to work. Not noble, but shiny pretty video games should get the taste out of my mouth.