Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Caress of Twilight--chapter 30

And we hit the halfway point for the next Exiles book. I'm going to see if I can't hammer out another K or two of words (4k so far today). But even better news is...THE FIRE. IS. ON.

Good writing always makes me feel this awesome. And sexy.
Yes, folks. I am finally excited about what I'm writing at the halfway point. This is usually a signal that the editing job is going to be an ungodly mess but I do not care, it is heating up and thus will be done soon. Ish. And then we get to start editing the next Starbleached book and/or the next Gray Prince book too.

All in all...I have accomplished Things today, my loyal blog readers. Things.


And now I'm telling myself "It can't get any worse. It can't get any worse. She's already fucked Kitto." Because I don't remember this part of the book very well. And then...oh, fuck I can't remember if she screws sage or not, and...and the sooner I read a couple chapters, the sooner I can get the next part of the story done. Right.

Wait. WHAT? When did THIS happen? When...no. No. It is not worth my time and energy to re-read this thing and try to figure out if LKH fucked up or if my reading comprehension is that bad. But I don't remember anybody saying "Merry has to stay home indefinately".

And she's hiding behind her wards.

Folks, one of the sad truths to western writing (IDK about other cultures) is heroes are by their very nature reactive. Something has to happen to make your good guy character move. If your character is active, as in they move first, they are at best an anti-hero. At worst, they're a villian protaagonist, which is always fun when intentional (Jaqueline Cary's Banewrecker does such a fantastic job of villian protagonists; she basically turns Sauron et al into misunderstood, sympathetic characters. She also turns Gandalf into an ass, but that's not all that hard to do. It's like making Sherlock a misogynist. It's right there in the text.)

(And speaking of Mr. Holmes, Mary Russel, anyone? Also that squee sound you heard about midnight? That was me realizing there is a Mary Russel novel that I haven't gotten to read yet. SQUEE!)

Laurel K. Hamilton is at no risk of making her protagonists into villian characters. Oh yes, they are horrible, horrible people, but they are not constructed that way. BOTH Merry Gentry and Antia Blake are constructed to appear as heroines. They react to what somebody else does. Often to the point of being the last person on earth to react at all. The fact that their behavior has no chance of living up to the title doesn't change it. Laurel is trying desperately to convince you that Anita and Merry are the good guys. And because their behavior can't live up to it and LKH for whatever reason is not willing to curtail the rape, sexism, bigotry and not-child fucking (Kitto is unforgivable) that makes her protagonists into terrible wastes of tree (...whole forests have died for Merry Gentry. FORESTS.) she's falling back on the psychological cues to convince us.

Which is why Merry Gentry never does jack shit. 

Seriously. In a better novel Merry would be trying to track the Nameless, or the Elder Gods ghosts, or trying to fix it so that Maeve Reed can have her child safely. What is she doing instead? Hiding behind her fucking wards. Because heroes don't act, they react, and to make up for Merry being a horrible person in every imaginable way, LKH only has her react when the bad guy is literally on her fucking doorstep. 

In short? LKH's attempt at psychological manipulation re: active/reactive characters? It's not working.

So instead of us getting an actual account of actual events, we get an account of what Merry Gentry did when her boyfriends confined her to the house.

Somehow this does not involve fucking.

Instead, Merry gets another invite from the important Seelie secretary, which she also declines because the Unseelie court is having a ball on the same night. Oh, don't you just hate that. Hey, wasn't there a murder going on a few pages back?

Jeremy had been pissed enough [About the Gray agency being barred from the crime scene--CW]that he told Teresa not to tell them what she’d seen, but Teresa is all about helping her fellow man. She went dutifully from the hospital to the police station and finally found a detective who would take her report.
And that puts Jeremy on my shit-list too. Mass murder in the double digits kind of makes any personal grudges you happen to hold petty and irrelivant. Just saying. I also like how Theresa is kind of shit on in this passage for doing the right thing and talking to the cops.

Now, it's time for me to admit that I garbled the spelling of a cop's name a couple reviews back, because I am not perfect and I am usually writing these things after work and/or after a couple of beers or a mixed drink (...I like booze, and it's hard to maintain not drinking when my boss has a habit of shoving liquor in my face. As a side note, if you ever get a chance to try jalapino-laced tequila, do it, it is the best thing ever.). I transcribed "Peterson's" name as "Pearson". (Also note: The font in this e-book more than sucks)

Now, with my fuck-up admitted, let's see how well he comes off this time:

Peterson had come in about then and thrown the report in the trash can in front of Teresa. Usually the police wait until someone’s left the room before doing that.
You know, there's always this thin veneer of "Cops are so awesome" in most of these books. I'm not getting that here. This "Peterson is an idiot" thing is getting old.

Meanwhile, we get an accounting of Galen and Sage being sterotypical male, and I mean that male-ness that doesn't actually exist outside of reality TV. At one point Galen almost causally kills Sage, and there is a confrontation that doesn't go anywhere.

This is like reading about somebody being home sick with the flu. Only it's not like that because I've read a lot of books that make confinement to quarters actually work. Anybody here read Catching Fire? Anybody remember the couple of chapters after Katniss broke her ankle? Confined to bedrest? Remember how Collins not only made that interesting, but also relivant to the plot (because that's when she figures out about Important Plot Point that I'm not spoiling for those of you who HAVEN'T read Hunger Games, AND WHY HAVEN'T YOU?!?)? This isn't even Merry being out of comission because she's hurt. It's her being confined to quarters because something might try to hurt her.  IT WOULD NOT BE HARD TO MAKE THIS INTERESTING.

He smiled, obviously happy. “Since you asked nicely.” He grabbed his tiny crotch through the filmy skirt he wore. “The cure is trapped here, where Queen Niceven laid it.”
That's not what I meant.

And yes. Merry acts all shocked and shamed, as if this were not explicitly stated last chapter.

And then we get a debate about if a blow job counts as intercourse. I think. It's not really clear.

Merry calls Niceven via the mirror (...do mirrors come with a good long distance deal? If you break the contract to go to a better carrier does it come with seven years bad luck?) and rouses her out of bed. She demands a cure for Galen that doesn't involve having sex with a barbie doll. Niceven says why, he's a wonderful lover, and Merry is all like "Sex with ME is a privelage".

He means all the words, Laurel. All of them
And then, probably because that "hotdog down a hallway" metaphore would be literal for Sage, Sage turns into a real, full sized man, and Merry objects because he could get her with child and could become king, and I STILL do not understand why nobody understands the concept of condoms in this universe. Spermicidal lube, at least. It's like we're allowed cars and planes and forensic science, but not reproductive medicine. THIS ENTIRE PLOT COULD BE RESOLVED BY PATIENCE AND A PETRI DISH. 

Finally, and you have no idea how long it takes for them to agree, Sage and Merry agree on a kiss. Which they do, and Sage's lips are like, you guessed it, eating fruit.

It's too much to hope for lip gloss, isn't it?

Also? the word "Heat" no longer looks like a word. No. You don't want to know.

 Merry has the cure and she kisses Galen, and oh my fucking god, here we go again:

Our lips touched and it was as if the heat were hungry for him. Our lips sealed together, so that no drop of heat would be lost. Lips, tongue, even teeth fed at each other’s mouths. The heat filled my mouth almost like liquid. I could feel the warm, sweet thickness of it like warm honey, warm syrup that filled my mouth and spilled into Galen. He drank at my mouth, drank the magic down.

I swear to god LKH writes by throwing a cookbook, a thesaurs and a list of synonyms for genitals into a blender and pushing "stiff whip". It's the only possible explination for this. Either that, or all of her novels are being ghost written by Pat Monahan.

If I see the words "hefty bag" in any of these books, I have only one recommendation: 

It's not that I hate Train. I just have a low tolerance for whiny bullshit.
Niceven assures Merry that Galen will be healed, Merry and Galen are all kids in a candy store over the looming return of the penis, and Frost is staring on in envy because he loves Merry and wants her all to himself.

Remind me again why these circumstances are supposed to be romantic?

And then the chapter ends.


  1. "Our lips touched and it was as if the heat were hungry for him."
    These words. Make. No. Sense.
    I thought words were supposed to mean something :(.
    The best I can break it down is that her lust is heightened by the kiss, but what she's saying is that the lust needs him, which are two synonyms. It's like saying that the cold froze.
    I swear, sometimes reading these books seems like staring into the abyss.

    1. I think what she is *trying* to say is that the spell (which is, of course, embodied by the orgasm) is leaving her body and entering Galen's.

      Which is why food based metaphores for both magic and sex DO NOT WORK WELL.

      (...I could actually go with "the cold froze", but I think that is because I am from South Texas, and while we do have cold--40F is MISERABLE with 90% humidity--having things acutally freeze either requires human intervention or is a once-in-a-lifetime thing worthy of note. We had snow in 04, and we are STILL publishing books of photos of said snow EVERY. FUCKING. YEAR. We are two christmases away from TEN YEARS OF SNOW BOOKS and there is no end in sight.)

      ...so far the abyss hasn't looked back. And I probably won't be here to tell you when it does, because I think that'll be Cthululu. Or the second coming of Christ. Whichever comes first.

    2. I hear you. I'm Canadian (enough said, I think)
      I still cant get the image of Sage as a douchey frat boy out of my head. Just a tiny fairy in a fedora saying "Yeah, I got your cure. Right here. *grabs crotch* BOOM"

      Also... I'm sorry to do this, but now all I can picture is Lau-Anit-I mean Merry's lust as the cookie monster. What has been seen can never be unseen.

    3. I got to go to Canada for Christmas a couple years ago. (*waves at Ian*). I remember looking down at the ground beside the runway and thinking "Why is there sand all over everything?" And then I realized it was snow with grass poking out of it and I got excited, and then my friends apologized for there being no snow and I was like "LOOK AT THE GROUND THAT WHITE STUFF THAT IS SNOW", and then they took me out to Lake Louise and I was like "THIS IS WHY THEY PUT SHITTY PLASTIC SHREDDED STUFF IN THE DEPARTMENT STORES AT CHRISTMAS THEY ARE TRYING TO MAKE IT LOOK LIKE THIS" and I spent the entire trip pretty much fangirling the snow.

      Cookie Monster: ...yeah, I think one of these damn books opens with a sex/dream scene involving bloody cookies. So I actually think that's cannon. (And it totally made my day...)

    4. "Cookie Monster: ...yeah, I think one of these damn books opens with a sex/dream scene involving bloody cookies. So I actually think that's cannon. (And it totally made my day...)"
      Mistral's Kiss, as summarized here: http://helen-keeble.livejournal.com/28618.html

      And that is a charitable summary. :P

      Also, the Anita series has one poor sap who was literally nicknamed Cookie Monster. What, exactly, does LKH have in for cookies?

  2. I don't understand. At all. But I'm glad you're excited about writing! That's the best feeling.

    Yeah, I've tried hard to make my protagonists active, but ultimately they are still reactive. They wouldn't be doing any of what they do if not for the monsters coming into their town. But at least they go after them! There's a good rant on that here, btw

    1. That's a good rant, but I'd balance it with a couple things.

      Reactive characters are how western audiences "read" heroic characters. Superheroes sit around and wait for a crime, and usually have some great wound that they are reacting to in choosing to be a superhero. Superman is the exception, but there's websites dedicated to how much of a dick he is. Another clue that reactive characters are the only "good" characters in western eyes is how, when a writer needs to defuse sympathy for a victim (...and that's a rant all on its own) they do something that makes the crime a reactive crime--the villian is responding to something the victim did, even if the villian has no way of knowing and/or acting on the knowledge of how awful the victim is (See: EVERY. SLASHER. MOVIE. EVER.)

      The problem with heroics is it requires an evil of slightly greater strength to fight. The evil has to exist first, and THAT is the first move. The closest we get to truly active heroes are the Lord of the Rings bunch, because Sauron never does anything onscreen to justify the destruction of the Ring. Gandalf makes the first onscreen move by pushing Frodo et al in the direction of Mt. Doom, but nobody would be doing anything if Sauron didn't exist first. (cont...)

    2. (In case you can't tell, this is a favorite subject of mine. Anyway...)

      You can have your protagonist go looking for trouble to fix, but there's still an active/reactive paradigm that personally, I like less than the more common trouble-on-my-doorstep one. Not only do you not have the white pieces, you don't have the chessboard. You're letting the bad guy set up his position while your hero/heroine wanders around trying to find them, and unless you pull an eleventh hour love interest out of the ether, your hero/heroine won't have much of a personal stake in things. Anything you do to make your hero's actions justified and personal in the eyes of the reader takes them from an active character to more of a reactive one. (IE if you have the bad guy's guards kill someone in front of them, the hero is now reacting to the death, not actively persuing the bad guy for his own ends.)

      We see the same issue IRL--crime prevention, IRL heroics, the things we celebrate as "good" are all reactive behaviors. We don't actually prevent crime, we react when it occurs and we take steps to prevent it from happening again. But if nobody ever stole or murdered, we probably would not have police. If there were no fires, there would be no firemen.

      In short (TOO LATE) having a purely reactive hero protagonist is like injecting yourself with a vacciene for a disease that doesn't exist: It's pointless, and it risks turning your audience against the hero character. Nobody likes a bully, and if your villian is reacting to your hero's actions and has not acted against the hero/the hero's family/people under the hero's protections in a manner that justifies moving against them, your hero is a bully.

      Or, to create the most tangled metaphore on earth, if you cut into somebody with no provocation, you're evil. If you cut into somebody because they have a tumor, you're a surgeon and you're saving their life. The tumor gets the white pieces.

  3. "Lips, tongue, even teeth fed at each other’s mouths. The heat filled my mouth almost like liquid. I could feel the warm, sweet thickness of it like warm honey, warm syrup that filled my mouth and spilled into Galen."

    It sounds like he's a drooler. Eew, ick.

  4. An update from a previous post - Random House just seems to get worse and worse: http://whatever.scalzi.com/2013/03/06/note-to-sff-writers-random-houses-hydra-imprint-has-appallingly-bad-contract-terms/

    More thoughts on active protagonists when I have time to be thoughty.

  5. Random thoughtery...

    Stories of people with limited power setting out to challenge the status quo are acceptable. Akira Kurosawa's 'Ikiru' is about a man trying to create a legacy by pushing for the construction of a small park. But a story of someone who holds power setting out to challenge the status quo would basically boil down to watching someone strong kick down the structures other people depend on.

    Superman used to be proactive. He went out looking for trouble. He destroyed slums, overthrew corrupt governments, hunted down greedy executives... And people were terrified of him. The modern version of Superman would be even more terrifying if he were still proactive.

    Most of the time you don't need a proactive protagonist, because most of the time you don't need a protagonist at all. 9999 times out of 10000 society just works on a day to day basis. You only need a vampire hunter/madman in a bat costume/cop for that one time that things get out of control.

    You could go the outsider route. Have a proactive minority protagonist who actively works to hunt down people who pose a threat to their group. You could write about a woman who tracks MRA forums and reddit comments, seeking out potential stalkers and rapists to stop them before they hurt anyone. As satisfying as that would be (Seriously), good luck selling that woman as a hero to the general public.