Thursday, October 23, 2014

Stroke of Midnight chapter 14, Elsie chapter 11


 Well, these guys are because Merry's kept them waiting for-fucking-ever. Oh, she blames the brass, but she's the one who had to investigate brownies going boggart and protest being wrapped in troll fur.

Merry tries to sort through the dick-measuring contest between the local boys and the feds. Apparently the Fairy reservations fall under the same rules as the Native American reservations.

...and that means it falls under fed jurisdiction.

...which is probably correct (comparison between Shiny Sparklepoo fairies and a demographic that sometimes doesn't even get running water aside) but that would mean we wouldn't have to deal with the BULLSHIT pissing contest. So somehow an overworked St. Louis crime lab is better equipped to handle an investigation than the FBI.


 LKH elects to make the FBI total morons.

Marquez argued , as I’d expected him to. “You are not an officer of any kind, Princess. No offense, but this investigation needs more than just a private detective in charge of it.”

...and yet he somehow manages to score a valid point. The FBI have more resources to focus than St. Louis PD. They don't have to deal with crack-house murders. They don't have to work traffic stops. And also? Given the way cops in the St. Louis area have behaved over the last couple months? They're probably not nearly that fucking racist.

 Merry reminds Marquez that she's a goddamn princess.

He asks her if he hurt her feelings.

Merry calls the goddamn wife of the president of the goddamn United States I am not making that up I swear to fucking God.

  The First Lady chews Marquez out. He agrees to co-operate.

...I have to admit, that's kind of fucking cool.

The First Lady then gushes over Merry for a few minutes, and then we move on to the rest of the chapter.

...which ends shortly after the lead cop laughs his ass off over the feds getting shown the door by the First Lady.

I really do hate this book.

On to Elsie.

This was published as a series. The version I read originally cut out very large chunks of the next part because it concerns Elsie being happy, and there's nothing to be gained from watching Elsie being least from the POV of the IDIOTS who decided this should be given to modern children.

There is a LONG, LONG passage about how Horace doesn't really love Jesus. Now, anybody with two braincells to rub together would notice that Horace is a horrible fuck of a human being and that Jesus probably doesn't want to have much to do with him. But Elsie's big concern is that Horace isn't Saved. Her evidence that he isn't Saved? He doesn't give two shits about the Sabbath.

There are many, many theological arguements I can bring concerning that. Suffice to say that Paul addressed it (Romans 14) and the jist of that is that you have to live according to your conscience, but that God is big enough to work with you and if you need to reschedule to Wednesday, he'll be cool with that.

But that kind of flexibility is anathema to these idiots, so Elsie decides her dad isn't saved because her theological teaching doesn't allow for one single fucking mistake, EVER. Great

And thus it was with Elsie. She knew now that her father was not a Christian; that he had no real love for Jesus, none of the true fear of God before his eyes. She saw that if he permitted her to read to him from God's word, as he sometimes did, it was not that he felt any pleasure in listening, but only to please her; she had no reason to suppose he ever prayed, and though he went regularly to church, it was because he considered it proper and respectable to do so, and not that he cared to worship God, or to learn His will.

I have been on the receiving end of this attitude multiple times. I've also handed it out, but in my defense that shit stopped when I was eighteen and smart enough to know better. So we don't all worship God the same way. My way happens to involve self-created rituals and lots of cool incense. Other people use old rituals and lots of cool incense. Other people use neither of those. You know what? The Faith is bigger than having to adhere to a code of conduct. According to basic theology, that was the entire point of the Cross. It's that you DON'T have to play these stupid games anymore. It's that you're able to minister to people on your holy days because they NEED it. You're able to break out of the mold and do what you need to do for others. Not by works but by faith means that you don't need to worry about the nitty gritty legalism of your conduct, and you just need to focus on wheither or not what you do is helpful to the faith or helpful to others. You know that God's got you covered if you fuck up, so it's perfectly alright to jump off the cliff, so to speak, to catch somebody else.

"He could see no necessity for a change of heart; he did not believe in the doctrine of total depravity, not he; no indeed, he thought the world much better than many people would have us believe."
Yes. The legalistic religion of an 18th century Calvinist would go that route.

Elsie lifted her eyes timidly to the gentleman's face as she replied, "I was just thinking, sir, of what our Saviour said to Nicodemus: 'Verily, verily I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.' 'Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.'"

2. The conversation between Christ and Nicodemus is really, really complicated, and it's not the kind of thing you trot out during an ANTEBELLUM SOUTH DINNER PARTY.

And of course Elsie "Saves" a random stranger at Daddy's party, but she doesn't manage to save Horace because Plot.

Elsie finally manages to go to bed, and then this happens:

Her questioner followed her with an admiring glance, then turning to her father, exclaimed warmly, "She is a remarkably intelligent child, Dinsmore! one that any father might be proud of. I was astonished at her answers."
I wish I didn't know this.

In the 1980s there was a man named Joel Steinberg. His common law wife was named Hedda Nusbaum. Depending on who you talked to they either had an intense S/m relationship OR he was an abusive shithead who abused her on a regular basis (Either case left Hedda horribly disfigured by the abuse she received.) They (Illegally)adopted a kid named Lisa. Lisa was known for being intelligant and rather un-child-like. She was that way because nobody around her was willing to tolerate a child. Lisa Steinberg existed to be an accessory and an emotional crutch for her "parents". She was never allowed to be a child.

Childhood is a very important thing for children to have. All the things that annoy us adults are actually a child practicing things that will be very necessary to adult life. Sabotaging that process by demanding that a child show "wisdom beyond their years" means that they won't learn the very basic building blocks we all need to ensure our social survival.

Elsie is a BADLY neglected child who is expected to pass up her developmental years for the pleasure of the adults around her.

Also, Lisa Steinberg? Died. She was beaten to death by her "father", and then left alone on the floor of a bathroom by her "mother".

So no. I find nothing adorable or admirable about precious Elsie Dinsmore. I see something very sad, very dangerous, and very VERY troubling.

She opened at the third chapter of John's Gospel and read it through. At the sixteenth verse, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life," she paused, and asked, "Was not that a wonderful gift, papa? and wonderful love that prompted it?"

I had that verse memorized by the time I was six. With exactly that language, because the Sunday Schools, Vacation Bible Schools, homeschooling curriculum AND motherfucking private schools ALL used the KJV 1611 version of the bible.

You wanna know what this is like to Christian audiences? You really want to know? If this novel were erotica? This? This is missionary position sex. This is something that everybody could do with their eyes closed through a hole in the sheets. This is a key stop on the goddamn Roman Road. This is not new information to ANYBODY who would still be reading this series.

Don't get me wrong. I like that verse. I'd like it a lot better if I didn't see it a MINIMUM of once a day. I see it so much that it has lost ALL MEANING to me. There is a lovely, beautiful idea encapuslated in those words and I can't see it anymore because it gets shoved in my face EVERY. SINGLE. FUCKING. MINUTE.

The chapter ends with Elsie sobbing because Horace doesn't understand she's trying to SAVE HIS SOUL.

Editing, Free Books, and Other things

First up: Free Book. This Found Thing. Get it. Read it. Enjoy it (if possible)

Second: I'm beginning to understand why people don't talk about it when other people abuse them. You have the fear of reprisal, which sucks...and then you get the people who won't stop talking about the thing. EVER. Guys, I am not and do not want to be "That writer that RH stalked" or "That rape victim" ect ect. It's a thing that happened, but it's not my identity. And that is the part that is getting very, very exhausting.

One thing that I dislike is when a victim's story becomes a part of their aggressor's narrative. It erases the identity of the victim, while simultaneously hooking everything about their life to their abuser, forever. I strongly admire people like Malala Yusafzai and Elizabeth Smart, because they both managed to rip their stories out of their abuser's hands and make it about them, their recovery, and about building up other girls like them so that shit like that never happens again. And that's what the point of stuff like this ought to be. It shouldn't be about how terrible Person X is--that should be a part of the story, dear GOD yes, but that shouldn't be the point of the story. The point should be this is what this behavior does, this is how people survive, and this is what we need to stop. 

It's not about them, guys. It's not about the people that hurt us. It's about us, and making ourselves and our lives have value above and beyond what other people do to us. There's a line in James Alan Gardner's Vigilant, "Live in the Real and name the lies". I believe a big lie is that the people who harm us have power over us. They don't. They can hurt us, but hurting isn't power. They only get power if we surrender it.

Don't let them get away with it, by all means, but don't let them and what they've done become so much of your life that you don't have room for anything else.

Meanwhile, I am editing books. I am back on the horse, somewhat. Should be able to start talking release dates for the next part of Ivory Scars, Iron Bars very soon. Like, within the next week soon.

So be well, my lovelies. Have a great weekend.

...and, uh, buy books. Mine. If you like. :D

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Free Book Day

So. In the interests of cleaning a bad taste out of everybody's mouth (and using KDP free days I've been ignoring for ages) FREE BOOK DAYS!

This Found Thing will be free from tomorrow to Sunday.

That is all.

Stroke of Midnight chapter 13, Elsie chapter 10

We finally get upstairs to the cops and start walking towards them. They're not visible yet, but there's there. We are firmly assured that they are there and that we are walking towards them.

However, we have to derail our movement towards plot so that somebody can try to kill Merry with cold feelings.

I focused on the fight to lift one foot, then the next, and struggle through drifts that the taller sidhe walked through effortlessly . It was undignified for a princess to fall on her face , but it took effort to keep from doing it. I suppose that struggling through the snow wasn’t exactly dignified either, but that I could do nothing about.

So they find a spell that makes people cold, and it's hurting Biddy more than Merry because Biddy is half human and Merry is only a fourth human. Which makes very little sense given how much people hate Merry for being mortal, but I guess we have to give Merry somebody to rescue again.

And oh, goody, it's contageous so if they go anywhere near the police it'll start to kill them. NO. LET'S NOT DO PLOT. I DON'T SEE ANY REASON WHY WE SHOULD FOLLOW THE VERY INTERESTING PLOT WE"VE BEEN PROMISED SINCE THE BEGINNING.

So now the men fight among themselves because some of them are Cel's men. I don't care. Plot. Plot is over there. You're almost there.

Seriously. I've never read any author this allergic to following through on plot plans.

Doyle burns the spell away. It's a non-issue. He decides to chase the spell on Biddy back to whoever casts it, so him and a couple random guards decide to follow it.

Rhys makes a dumb joke comparing badges to balls. It's not that clever. The chapter ends.

Meanwhile, over in Elsie...

This is not the most fucked up chapter in the series. This is not even one of the top five most fucked up things in the series. But guys? This chapter is disturbing.

It's Sunday and Horace has friends over.  One of them looks for Elsie.

"Yes, Miss Adelaide; I was looking for little Miss Elsie. Travilla has given me so very glowing an account of her precocious musical talent, that I have conceived a great desire to hear her play and sing."

Mrs. Dinsmore, ever the shit-stirrer, decides to stir the shit.

"No, she will not," persisted Mrs. Dinsmore, in the same cold, quiet tone; "she will tell you she is wiser than her father, and that it would be a sin to obey him in this. Believe me, she will most assuredly defy your authority; so you had better take my advice and let her alone—thus sparing yourself the mortification of exhibiting before your guests your inability to govern your child."
Horace sends for her anyway.

"Thank you," he said, haughtily, "but I prefer convincing you that that inability lies wholly in your own imagination; and I am quite at a loss to understand upon what you found your opinion, as Elsie has never yet made the very slightest resistance to my authority."

He then remembers too late that Elsie doesn't like doing things on Sunday, but he thinks "Well, we were going to have that confrontation anyway." and sets himself up to make Elsie do what he tells her.

So before she even gets in the room, Elsie has been set up to fail. And yes, indeed, she says that it wouldn't be right to sing or play the song he wants on the Sabbath. He starts pushing her. The other guests start getting uncomfortable and try to laugh it off and let the kid off the hook--because, you know, they're decent human beings--and Horace ignores them. It's got nothing to do with right or wrong here. It's about Horace getting what Horace wants out of a little kid.

She begins to cry. He tells her that she's going to sit at the piano until she obeys. She accepts this. That she's going to sit there until the next day, when it'll be okay for her to play the song. That this is the way her life is. To be an obediant, good little girl, she has to submit to this.

We get several paragraphs of how torturous and horrible it is for a little kid to be made to sit on a chair for a while, and we are expected to believe that it really is that horrible. Then Edward Travilla, who is a Christian and one of the good guys, tries to suggest that she just comply and get it over with. Elsie replies.

"O Mr. Travilla!" she said, looking up at him in great surprise, "surely you know that there is no such thing as a little sin; and don't you remember about the man who picked up sticks on the Sabbath day?"

Yeah, he got stoned to death. However, in the New Testament, there's a story where Jesus and his deciples thresh wheat by hand so they can eat something, get thumped for it by the Pharasees, and Jesus thumps back. Every single thing here is completely unnecessary, this is a theological point that got resolved an incredibly long time ago, and I have no idea why Martha Finley thought it was a good idea to frame it as an issue between an eight year old and her abusive asshole of a father.

 "Never, Travilla," he answered, with stern decision. "This is the first time she has rebelled against my authority, and if I let her conquer now, she will think she is always to have her own way. No; cost what it may, I must subdue her; she will have to learn that my will is law."

And why the fuck do these people keep framing child discipline as something akin to horse breaking? Even horse trainers agree that breaking the animal's spirit is a bad move, and children are not animals. 

 Travilla tries to get Adelaide to intervene. Adelaide points out that there's nothing anybody can do about it, Horace won't change his mind.

Elsie sits there at the piano until she fucking passes out from the stress. 

 Guys, if Elsie passes out because she had to sit in a chair, there's medical issues involved. And what the fuck kind of message is this? If you have a religious conflict between yourself and your parents, the only way to resolve it is to resist until you put yourself in physical danger? How does the bible study address this chapter? At what point does a parent read this and go "Yes, let's absolutely expose our kids to this notion."

Horace is...immediately and oddly repentant.

It was some time ere consciousness returned,
 STOP. A bump on the head with extended unconsciousness is BAD.  This is an active emergancy in a time when "Doctor" means "bleed patient."

"Never mind, daughter," he said, "you have been ill; but you are better now, so don't think any more about it."

DON'T THINK ABOUT...dude. On YOUR ORDERS, she sat on a chair until she fucking fainted, hit her head, and stayed unconsious for a WHILE. This is DIRECTLY YOUR FAULT and you are telling YOUR VICTIM to forget what YOU DID.

Horace, probably realizing that he's gone too far, the way abusers usually do, takes Elsie upstairs and puts her to bed. He even lets her say her prayers first!

The next day he tells her she nearly died. Which...yeah, she nearly did. Elsie asks him if he would be so sorry.

Yeah, it's weak, but it's the first fucking time this kid has shown any fire whatsoever, and I'll take what I can get.

Horace says of course he'd be upset.

"Sorry, darling! do you not know that you are more precious to me than all my wealth, all my friends and relatives put together? Yes, I would rather part with everything else than lose this one little girl," he said, kissing her again and again.

This is what abusers do when they realize they've gone too far. They act very, very, very sorry. In part because they do know they fucked up, and in part because they don't want their victims to get away. Horace does not realize that he has actually done anything wrong. And note how he values Elsie: She's a thing to value. Not another person that he may or may not get to agree with.

And now it's time for RELIGIOUS MASTURBATION.

"Because, Mr. Travilla, the Bible says, 'If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema, maranatha,' accursed from God. Oh! sir, think how dreadful! You cannot be saved unless you love Jesus, and believe on Him. 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.' That is what God says in his word."

Look, I share these beliefs and even I agree that putting responsibility for an adult's spiritual wellbeing is a little much for a fucking eight year old. 

 This also gets very, VERY creepy in light of Elsie's relationship with Travilla later on in the series.

So Elsie sings her song now that it's not Sunday anymore, and everybody thinks she's very special. End of chapter.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Stroke of Midnight chapter 11-12, Elsie chapter 9

The smell Doyle found was blood. His sword is bleeding. His sword is bleeding because Rhys can't talk through a magical weapon, so he had to make Doyle's sword bleed until it formed words on the floor.

I have absolutely no idea, and I think hallucinogenics were involved.

Anyway, Rhys wants more people because there's a lot of cops and a lot of feds and they're having a lot of dick measuring contests because inter-office cooperation is a little much in an LKH novel.  Nobody will talk to Rhys because of the bleeding sword thing, so Doyle and Merry have to come up and sort things out.

They agree to do something about the feds. Its never very clear. And that's the end of the chapter.

Next chapter:  Merry balks at wearing a fur coat because it was made from an animal. Then she finds out it was made from a troll, which is worse. Everyone rolls their eyes. Doyle assaults her.

I'm serious.

Doyle grabbed my arm. His grip was bruising, and his face held the anger that his hand pressed against my flesh. “You are a princess of the Unseelie Court. You will rule us someday. You cannot show this much weakness, not if you expect to survive!”

Dude. Her problem is that you killed a person and are wearing its skin. I mean, this?
This is not a good thing. Merry has a chance to make these idiots be something that isn't murder-rapy.

Doyle keeps it up, too:

Doyle jerked me close to his body, and I felt the creeping line of energy as his power began to unfold. He snarled into my face, “Won’t wear the skins of our honored enemies. The police await us, our men stand in the cold, and you don’t like your coat! Such delicate sensibilities for someone who just fucked a stranger on the floor in front of us all.”

Fucking is consensual (which is unusual in LKH's worlds). Murder is not. Merry understands the difference.

Oh, but the real problem is that he is envious of Merry!

He looked up, and grabbed Frost’s arm, much as he’d grabbed mine, almost pleading. “I cannot go back to what I was here. I cannot stand at her side and watch another take her. I am not that strong, or that good.”

I...actually understand this. Not the Merry thing, but the "I cannot go back to living here" bit. Remember the cultervention back in Danse Macabre? This is another moment like that. This is a person realizing hey, this is an INCREDIBLY shitty place I'm in and I need to not ever be here again.

And of course it's getting explained away as having to do with sex. The Ring, they say, has chosen Mistral as her mate. Because she "Rode the Storm". And all the other men are being pissy. Merry points out that this is the first time she's screwed with the Ring on, and the other men calm down really fast.

Please don't decide to fuck, please don't decide to fuck, please don't--oh, hell, you're going to, aren't you.


They make out. Then they talk about how all the guards are abused. Then they talk about how much they love each other. Then more talk about abused guards. They tell Merry that her cousin Cel threatened to rape her as soon as he gets out of his cell. Where he's being tortured with unslaked sexual desire.

I hate this book.

Merry agrees to wear the damn fur. She makes a mirror appear and them disappear. It's treated as earth shatteringly important. Merry gets women added onto her guards and this is also important for some reason. FINALLY, though, they all make it out to the snow to greet the cops.

On to Elsie.

Elsie is happy. This is an unusual development in this novel. Elise is happy because Horace isn't treating her like shit. For some reason the carrige ride knocked a screw loose and he's forgotten how to abuse his daughter.

She felt grateful for all the kindness she received, and liked to visit with her papa; but her happiest days were spent at home on those rare occasions when they were free from visitors, and she could sit for hours on his knee, or by his side, talking or reading to him, or working at her embroidery, or knitting and listening while he read.

This book thinks that subtle is a kind of fruit, so we know they're gearing up for something. It's all "Elsie isn't scared of Daddy anymore, do you get it? ELSIE'S NOT SCARED OF DAD." 

It lasts for a week.

It was Sabbath afternoon
Alright. Let's stop there for a second. Elsie's two guardians--the calvinist scottish maid and Chloe--are of the "You can't do secular stuff on Sunday" variaty. It was a common-ish thread in Christianity back then, but it's not so common anymore. And remember: Nobody else in this household is devout.

This will not end well. 

It was Sabbath afternoon—the first Sabbath after their return—and Elsie was in her own room alone with the books she loved best—her Bible, hymnbook, and "Pilgrim's Progress."

I have read Pilgrim's Progress, and I repeat my earlier comments about functional illiteracy.

 She had spent a very happy hour in self-examination, reading and prayer, and was singing to herself in a low tone her favorite hymn, "I lay my sins on Jesus," while turning over the leaves of her Bible to find the story of Elijah, which she had promised to read to Chloe that afternoon, when a child's footsteps were heard coming down the hall, the handle of the door was turned hastily, and then, as it refused to yield, Enna's voice called out in a fretful, imperious tone, "Open this door, Elsie Dinsmore. I want in, I say."
And we've dragged in Enna, who is this series' special whipping post. When they want to make a point about something, they drag in Enna. No bullshit, by the time she exits the series she has severe brain damage and her daughter has been crippled because Enna made the kid wear high heels.

"I told you I wanted to come in," replied Enna, saucily, "and now you've got to tell me a story to amuse me; mamma says so, because you know I've got a cold, and she won't let me go out."

Sane response: "No"

Elsie's response:
"Well, Enna," said Elsie, patiently, "I am going to read a very beautiful story to mammy, and you are quite welcome to sit here and listen."

But Enna doesn't want a bible story, she wants a fairy tale that Elsie told Henry Carrington. Elsie refuses because it's Sunday and fairy tales aren't for Sundays. Well, Enna goes and gets her mother and father, and they both start shouting at Elsie that she has to tell the fairy-tale because Sunday isn't different from any other day.

"Do you dare to contradict me, you impertinent little hussy?" cried the old gentleman, interrupting her in the middle of her sentence; and catching her by the arm, he shook her violently; then picking her up and setting her down hard upon a chair, he said, "Now, miss, sit you there until your father comes home, then we will see what he thinks of such impertinence; and if he doesn't give you the complete whipping you deserve, I miss my guess."

So Horace, with his usual asshattry, sends the kid down to his study to wait for punishment. And Elsie panicks because she's lost his love all over again. Well, that screw is still loose because instead of beating her, he *gasp!* Listens to both sides of the story and decides whose is more likely. And he sides with Elsie! this actual improvement? Character development? ARE THINGS FINALLY IMPROVING FOR OUR LITTLE GIRL?

 He makes her apologize to her grandfather, then takes her upstairs and "punishes" her by making her read the Bible, he lets her eat a good supper, he stands up for her against Enna...sir, who are you and what have you done with Horace?

Oh, he's still there. He tells her that her religion had better not ever get in the way of his instruction. She begs him not to ever make her do something wrong...aaaand then this happens.

"I never intend to bid you do wrong, but, on the contrary, wish you always to do right. But then, daughter, I must be the judge of what is wrong or right for you; you must remember that you are only a very little girl, and not yet capable of judging for yourself,

Yeah. That, right there, is straight out of the "Stay At Home Daughters" textbook. You cannot and should not tell your children that they can't make decisions for themselves. Elsie realizes that she's going to have to eventually choose between obeying her religion or obeying her father.

End of chapter.

Fine. FINE. Thoughts on the Requires Only That You Hate drama

Edit: 3/12/2015: I think six months of being harassed by her peers is kinda more than enough.

She apologized. It's over here.

Do I buy it? I think she is genuinely sorry that the entire internet collapsed on her head the minute she got outed. I DO doubt that that post got put up on the 15th, seeing as how I've checked her blog multiple times over the last week and I've seen her "OH COME ON MANGA THAT GOES ON FOREVER" post front and center. But whatever. There's a certain amount of panic in these situations and you make really, really, REALLY stupid decisions. Back dating a post to look like you apologized earlier than you did is a moot issue. If she did or didn't...yeah, I don't really care.

She did, however, do two really, really important things: She apologized for hurting people, and she owned that this is what she actually did. She didn't dodge the issue. Good for her.

I'm still going to be incredibly wary.

Guys, I've been in and watched abusive relationships my entire life. I've been manipulated by relatives, my mother's last two marriages were to incredibly nasty narcissists. When they get called on their shit, they always back peddle, say they're sorry you're so sensative, and butter you up for a few days or weeks so you don't leave.

And every instinct I've got? Is kind of going "Hey, this might be genuine". Because it's not "I'm sorry you're so sensative" It's "I was wrong. I did wrong things. I didn't want to admit it."

Hey, RH? Been there. Done that. Got the T-shirt. It really sucks. And it really sucks to get told that you've been a shit-head by the entire fucking internet.

That said...I also know how incredibly easy it is for abusive personalities to lie their way out of a jam. Because I've seen it happen over, and over, and over, and OVER IRL. It creates an intensely damaging cycle that allows the abuser to continue to abuse their victims of choice.

So if this really is a genuine apology from RH...good for you, girl. Please understand that it's gonna take the rest of us a really, REALLY long time to trust you, but that's because a lot of us have been badly hurt by you and we don't want that to happen again. If you stop being toxic--I mean, call us out on our shit. Don't stop doing that. Just...stop suggesting we die in the process--it'll happen eventually.

I also understand how you could have resorted to the language that you did; it got you approval and applause from your chosen circle, and that can be a heady and dangerous drug. I believe that's the same dynamic that keeps homophobia alive in Christian circles--it's not that we actually believe that being gay is wrong, it's that saying it keeps us in with the "in" crowd and we are terrified of losing that place in the sun. It's the driving dynamic behind most cults. It's the fuel behind most hateful rhetoric. It's not something that's easy to fight, especially when you want to belong.

The next step for you is to start. Start caring about how your words affect other people. Start thinking about how you can use your words to make a positive change in everybody. You are still in a very powerful position. I don't think you should give up your Requires Hate persona--it's too useful. But you need to make it, and your other professional persona, genuine. Start being open about your past and start talking openly about what needs to change. When we fuck up we have two alternatives. We can bury our mistakes or we can talk about them, study them, build on them, and use them to try to change the system that encouraged us to make those errors in the first place.

Hell, I'll lend you Robot Susan B. Anthony for a while.

And for the love of God stop being friends with the asshole that outed you. Talk about your toxic relationships...

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Stroke of Midnight chapter 10, Elsie chapter 7-8

So after bonding with a long lost relative over wanton violence, Rhys's sword starts ringing.

Like a phone. His sword is a phone.

A HIGH, RINGING SOUND CAME. WE ALL LOOKED AROUND THE room, but there was nothing to account for the sound. It came again. It was as if the finest crystal goblet were being struck with metal, so that it made that high, ringing, bell- like tone only the best crystal makes. Rhys was unsheathing his short sword. “I left Crystall in charge outside with the police.” He held the naked blade up before his face. “You rang?”
It turns out that the cops are having--what else?--a gigantic pissing contest about who is in charge of the crime scene. Because expecting people to be professional is apparently too much fucking work.

“Everything,” Crystall said. “They seem to have no clear hierarchy. It is like a game of too many princes.”
You know, if anybody ever says that LKH likes cops, I'm going to point them at this passage. Anyhoo, Rhys heads off to talk to the cops. Not three seconds later, Merry sees something moving behind a curtain. Apparently nobody searched the kitchen for live bodies.

Merry tips Doyle off and he makes a big deal of questioning Onilwyn, while keeping his eye on the magic curtain.

I am now praying that this random person will be neither the killer nor a sudden witness that can resolve the plot with one conversation, but I ain't holding out too much hope.

Galen finds two fairies hiding in an unrelated part of the kitchen. They were hiding from Maggie.  We spend a few paragraphs sexualizing the fairies because of course we do. We waste a few more paragraphs trying to get the fairies out of the cabinet. They're scared of the guards, and the guards have to be scary because we don't know if they're the killers or not. Meanwhile there's still something hiding in the curtain under the fucking sink.

And then the guards step in front of Merry and shit happens. Let me repeat this: random characters step in front of the viewpoint character in a first person narration so that she can't see the action. It turns out to be a non-event. It's a hob named Harry, who was romantic with the murdered Fae woman and figures Onilwyn did it. Only he didn't see a thing, so it's a moot point.

It also takes about three pages for him to say "No, I didn't see anything."

They ask Onilwyn why he came down to the kitchen. Apparently he didn't want to watch Merry have sex and came down to poke around the crime scene.

That sounds perfectly sane and reasonable.

Everyone acts like he just admitted to flossing his teeth with the dead fairy's intestine. 

“You didn’t hit him hard enough, Merry,” Galen said, and my gentle knight had a decidedly ungentle look on his face.
They all figure that the dead woman, Beatrice, had a sidhe lover who was also a guard and thus risking death to sleep with her. Everyone asks who would risk death for anything less than sidhe flesh. She's also doing Harry. So it's your standard love triangle with the predictable result. Onilwyn insists he came back to investigate the crime scene because it'll earn favor with Merry and boost his chances of sleeping with her. Because it's all about Merry.

The chapter ends with Doyle wondering what stinks.

I think it's this book.

Meanwhile, over in Elsie...

Elsie is severely depressed, and hasn't gotten good grades this month. Yep, it's time for Daddie Dearest to pile it on some more.

The book also goes out of its way to make it clear that everybody hates Elsie. Mrs. Day is very satisfied that she can finally give Elsie a bad report, everyone else is relatively gleeful--it's to the point of cartoon villainy now.

He demands that Elsie explain why her studies have slumped. Elsie doesn't know, because she's fucking eight, and is so depressed she can barely function. Horace continues to scream at her.

"You don't know? Very well, then, I think you could not be very ill without knowing it, and so you seem to have no excuse at all to offer? However, I will not inflict any punishment upon you this time, as you seem to be really sorry, and have promised to do better; but beware how you let me see such a report as this, or hear such complaints of idleness again, unless you wish to be severely punished; and I warn you that unless your next copy-book presents a better appearance than this, I certainly shall punish you.
He tells her that her next set of lessons had better be done perfectly. Then he demands that she leave.

Her biggest worry is that Arthur will keep bullying her when her back is turned, to the point of making her mess up on purpose.

Adelaide writes a letter to Rose Allison, the nice Christian lady from the beginning of the book. Elsie tells Adelaide everything that's happening, hoping that she'll write to Rose. Instead, Adelaide decides to spend her afternoons in the school room so that Arthur can't do anything to Elsie.

Elsie then knits a purse for Horace and sneaks into his room to give it to him. He catches her and shouts at her. She gives him the purse. He asks her why she's so afraid of him, and she falls over sobbing and begs him to love her. He says that he does--and that if she loves him she'll stop being afraid of him.

She's afraid of you because you keep treating her like crap, you dumb shit.

Near the end of the month, Mrs. Day sabotages all of Elsie's lessons on purpose. Elsie speaks up for herself. Mrs. Day takes her up to Horace, who threatens to spank her, and then decides that she'll sit in his office all day and have only bread and water for dinner. She isn't very hungry, so Horace stands over her and demands that she eat.

When he leaves, he runs into Adelaide, who tells him that Mrs. Day is abusing his daughter. Horace insists that can't be true, and that if it is it's Elsie's fault for not speaking up in her own defense. He makes her sit in the office all day and finally sends her back to her room. End of chapter.

Next chapter, it's report day. Elsie has one bad mark, due to Mrs. Day's preformance, and an absolutely perfect copybook. Perfect handwriting, no ink blots. She's very proud, so she puts it in her desk and leaves the room.

Arthur goes in the room, figures he can get back at Elsie for the episode with his grandfather's watch, and fucks up her copybook on purpose. So when she gets sent up to Horace, he says he'll have to punish her for the bad work. She insists that she didn't do it, her book was perfect, but OF COURSE Horace doesn't believe her. He drags her out of the room, promising to punish her for the mistakes in her schoolwork AND for lying.

Lora proves that the entire family is aware of how shitty Horace is and demands that Arthur tell his brother the truth. Arthur refuses to do so. She decides to run up and tell Horace anyway, and then this happens:

She was just in time; he had a small riding whip in his hand, and Elsie stood beside him pale as death, too much frightened even to cry, and trembling so that she could scarcely stand.

Horace is about to horse whip his daughter. HORSE WHIP.

Lora points out the obvious:

1. Elsie never, ever, ever lies.
2. She saw Elsie's work the day before and she KNOWS that it's perfect
3. Arthur hates Elsie's guts and has been gunning for her ever since the watch episode.

Horace decides there might maybe be something to this and puts the whip away. Then he bullies Elsie into telling him what really happened between herself and Mrs. Day. She doesn't want to, but eventually complies.

"Elsie," he said when she had done, "if I had known all this at the time, I should not have punished you at all. Why did you not tell me, my daughter, how you have been ill treated and provoked?"

BECAUSE SHE DOESN'T TRUST YOU NUMBNUTS. And she did tell you and you did not believe her. You didn't believe her two minutes ago with her copybook, you didn't believe her with the episode with the candy, you've been needlessly cruel with no reason and not ten seconds ago you were about to HORSE WHIP HER.

Then we spend a few minutes of Horace fondling Elsie while thinking about how much she looks like his dead wife.

Elsie admits that she hopes to see her mother in heaven, and that she loves Jesus more than she loves Horace. Horace is taken aback by this. He then manipulates an incredibly half-assed accusation out of Elsie, confirming that Arthur was being a little shit and fucked with her book. He sends her to dinner and then hunts down Arthur.

And while the most obvious solution to Elsie's woes is clear

Horace just goes to talk to his brother..

"You'll get no dinner to-day, I can tell you," replied his brother. "I am going to lock you into your bedroom, and keep you there until your father comes home; and then if he doesn't give you the flogging you deserve, I will; for I intend you shall have your deserts for once in your life.
Yep. That's Horace. Violence and food deprivation. And satisfying as it is to watch Arthur get the snot beat out of him, it's no cooler to beat him than Elsie. All you do when you hit a kid is teach them that adults can hurt. It doesn't actually instil any real values in the kid.

The chapter ends with Arthur getting horse-whipped instead of Elsie.

I hate everything about this book.


Friday, October 17, 2014

Stroke of Midnight--chapter 9, Elsie chapter 6

So after "Riding the Storm" and getting Nicca shacked up with another woman literally named Biddy, the men go to get cleaned up.

I'm now waiting for Merry to go take a goddamned shower. I suspect it will be a long wait.

She also takes pot shots at the cops being utterly useless in the Sithen. Frankly I'd much rather read this story from the POV of the cops.

 Onilwyn is missing. This character who has not been significant before is apparently one of Cel's people, and Merry's scared he's running off to talk to Andais.

We also find out that Merry and Mistral were screwing within a very short walk of the crime scene. Classy. And this is apparently where Onilwyn went, because he's in the kitchen right next to the bodies. Somebody chases him out of it by throwing pots and pans at him.

I am cringing for those poor crime scene techs. A crime scene isn't just the area immediately around the bodies. That kitchen is a part of it, the hallway is a part of it. For all we know Merry and Mistral were fucking on top of the bloody footprint or piece of pocket lint that could have solved the case.

We also discover that fairies, who are severely allergic to iron, are using cast iron skillets to cook with.

When you cook with something, you get bits of that something in the food. Small bits, but it builds up over time. So LKH now expects us to believe that fairy royalty are eating food prepared in their only bane.

Maggy May is the brownie cook giving Onilwyn the beat-down. Galen proclaims that she's "gone bogart", and Merry figures that Onilwyn tried to attack her and this is the result. Apparently when a brownie gets pissed enough to kill, they get kicked out of the Unseelie Court and have to go join the Sluagh. So now we have to do one of LKH's patented Emotional Rescues.

These really, really bother me. Frequently, these are real issues that people have a lot of trouble dealing with, and they're reduced to window dressing so the main character can look good. It's a nasty, awful message to send to people with issues--you can't rescue yourself! You have to have Uber-super ME do it!--and it's only there because LKH cannot write plot anymore.

Merry shocks the brownie out of killing Onilwyn by calling Maggie her aunt. Somehow Maggie is related to Merry--probably fairy incest--and this gives her the power to manipulate Maggie out of her probably entirely justified rage.

 And it works! We segue into a long conversation about fairy racism and why Merry can't acknowlege Maggie as her aunt, thus completely invalidating the emotional reactions of the other characters and making it all about Merry.

We do find out, eventually, that Onilwyn kicked one of Maggie's magic dogs.


We have a promise of a plot involving a forensic investigation of murdered fairies in the ever-shifting lair of bloody psychopaths, and instead we've decided to focus on the abuse of magic dogs.

Which...turns into a flashback about Merry's childhood and how special the magic dogs are to her. So she's just taken Onilwyn's concern for her abused puppies and made it all about Merry.

Onilwyn tries to shoot magic at Maggie. Merry hits him in the face with an iron skillet.

Blood flew from around the skillet, a bright surprised scarlet spray. He collapsed to his side, moaning softly. His nose looked like a squashed tomato, and there was so much blood it was hard to tell what other damage I’d done to his face.

The still uninvestigated crime scene is right outside the kitchen door. Which means the cops are going to comb through that room in the hopes that the killer might have gone in there to wash their hands and maybe shed a couple hair samples....and we're spraying blood around like it's confetti.

And then we suddenly Don't Like Onilwyn. Why?

It's not real clear, but I think Merry is implying that he beat and/or raped her as a child.

“No,” I said, and realized that the thought of letting Onilwyn touch me was repulsive. He’d been one of my main tormentors when I was a child. I still hated Cel and some of his cronies enough to feel nothing but a sense of utter satisfaction at the ruin of Onilwyn’s face. It wasn’t like he wouldn’t heal.

That's a real big deal. And pulling it directly out of your ass to justify your main character straight up pulverizing his nose with a frying pan is not how you address the issue.

We waste a paragraph focusing on one of the magic dogs.

Maggie decides that this display of wanton violence definitely makes Merry a family member and they giggle and hug each other.

Not exaggerating.

Hugs for no reason, just because were nice, and lately I wasn’t getting enough of them.

That's the end of the chapter. Merry brains the shit out of a guy who kicked a dog, and bonds with a family member over the blood.

And she still has not taken a shower.

And now, Elsie.

When we last left our abused child heroine, she was aching for the affection of her POS father because that's what kids do.

Today, she's going to church.

When you're in an abusive household, church is not that boring place where you have to sit and not wriggle. Church is safe. Your family has to behave itself for however long they're in it, they can't be shitty to you, and you get to dress up nice, look pretty, and be around other people who are nice to you. Having things outside the home is very, very important. You don't like losing them.

Horace almost refuses to let her go because he doesn't like the look of the horses.

Offering a treat and then taking it away, or threatening to take it away before giving it, is a standard abusive tactic. It creates a feeling of uncertainty in the victim, and it promotes further compliance. If Daddy takes the treat away when you didn't do anything wrong, what is he going to do if you actually misbehave? But he decides to let her go, AND he even allows her to sit next to him!

"Elsie, change seats with me," said Enna; "I want to sit beside Brother Horace." 
"No," replied Mr. Dinsmore, laying his hand on his little daughter's shoulder, "Elsie's place is by me, and she shall sit nowhere else."

That is so. very. creepy.

And of course the horses bolt on the way back from church, thus justifying Horace's latest tactic on his daughter. And this brings about the next very, very creepy stage in this father/daughter dynamic: Elsie is responsible for her father's spirituality.

No. Kids are not responsible for anything except being kids.

Horace holds her close and good god book stop being creepy

O! even in that moment of fearful peril, when death seemed just at hand, those words, and the affectionate clasp of her father's arm, sent a thrill of intense joy to the love-famished heart of the little girl.


And they get rescued when a passer-by grabs the horses' bridles and stops the coach. End of crisis.

Lora was also in the carrige with her. I can't remember if she was a sibling or a friend, but she's amazed by how calm Elsie was when the horses bolted. So Elsie gets to lead her friend to Jesus!

Yes. Evangelizing to your non-believer friends as a child is greatly encouraged in evangelical circles. Which doesn't usually amount to anything because the kids most encouraged don't have any non-believer friends. But it's an insane amount of responsibility to put on a kid. Throw in that most kids are functionally illiterate at the best of times AND that the preferred bible is the KJV 1611 (apparently Satan got hold of the bible in 1612) which puts it way, way, way out of an eight-year-old's comprehension level, and you've got kids desperately parroting words they don't understand because their parents told them their best friend will suffer forever if they don't.

I was thinking of this sweet verse. 'Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me;' and oh, Lora! it made me so happy to think that Jesus was there with me, and that if I were killed, I should only fall asleep, to wake up again in His arms; then how could I be afraid?"

Once. Just once. I want one of these fucking wastes of paper to latch on to something that hasn't been drilled into the ground. Quoting the twenty-third psalm in a book OBVIOUSLY aimed at American Protestant Christians is like singing "Take me out to the ball game" to the New York Yankees.

Lora then guilt trips her for not thinking about how everyone else would suffer because they aren't Christians. AND IT WORKS!

"But tell me, Elsie, did you not feel afraid for the rest of us? I'm sure you must know that we are not Christians; we don't even pretend to be."
Elsie blushed and looked down. "It all passed so quickly, you know, Lora, almost in a moment," she said, "so that I only had time to think of papa and myself; and I have prayed so much for him that I felt quite sure God would spare him until he should be prepared to die. It was very selfish, I know," she added with deep humility; "but it was only for a moment, and I can't tell you how thankful I was for all our spared lives."

This is not humility. This is the reflex of an abused child to make everything their fault. Because if everything is their fault they can change and make it stop.

Mercifully, we don't resort to the "Roman Road" AKA the set of verses that start in Romans that every student in Sunday School has to memorize. But the entire sequence is, effectively, religious masturbation. LOOK! SALVATION! IT SHOULD BE INTERESTING AND IF YOU DO NOT FIND IT SO YOU ARE A BAD BAD PERSON.

And then we go back to how Horace abuses his daughter.

"Ah! surely papa does love me," she murmured to herself over and over again; and when he met her at the table with a kind smile, and laying his hand caressingly on her head, asked in an affectionate tone, "How does my little daughter do this evening?" her cheeks flushed, and her eyes grew bright with happiness...But, after all, this occurrence produced but little change in Elsie's condition; her father treated her a little more affectionately for a day or two, and then gradually returned to his ordinary stern, cold manner; indeed, before the week was out, she was again in sad disgrace.

What causes this? Elsie finds a humming bird somebody stuck under a glass. She figures that Arthur was being a shit again and lets it go. Only to find out that Horace put it there!


"Come here to me this instant," he said, seating himself on the settee, from which Louise had risen on his entrance. "Come here and tell me what you mean by meddling with my affairs in this way.--"No, you never mean to be naughty, according to your own account," he said; "your badness is all accident; but nevertheless, I find you a very troublesome, mischievous child;..."Tell me what you did it for; was it pure love of mischief?...Which hand did it?"
Those last four words are enough to put terror into the heart of any kid who has ever seen a switch. You know exactly what is going to happen next. Fortunately, Horace does not spank his child's hand.


"I shall tie this hand up, Elsie," he said, proceeding to do so; "those who do not use their hands aright must be deprived of the use of them. There! let me see if that will keep it out of mischief. I shall tie you up hand and foot before long, if you continue such mischievous pranks. Now go to your room, and stay there until tea-time."
 I just...I can't. I can't even. Elise runs off again wondering why she can't stop being naughty, and then this happens:

Then an earnest, importunate prayer for help to do right, and wisdom to understand how to gain her father's love, went up from the almost despairing little heart to Him whose ear is ever open unto the cry of His suffering children.

This is not a book. It's emotional torture porn. And the weird thing is that so many christian books are like this.

Horace makes her come down to dinner and tell everybody exactly why he tied her up. Then he threatens to send her to bed without supper if she doesn't stop crying. YOU JUST EMBARRASSED YOUR KID IN FRONT OF HER WHOLE FAMILY WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU WANT HER TO DO, YOU UTTER LOATHESOME PIECE OF SHIT. And after dinner he makes her get a stool and sit down next to him. No books, no entertainment. She has to sit down and do absolutely nothing "to keep her out of trouble".

Cue the creepy shit.

"How handsome my papa is!" thought the little girl, gazing with affectionate admiration into his face. And then she sighed, and tears trembled in her eyes again. She admired her father, and loved him, "oh! so dearly," as she often whispered to herself; but would she ever meet with anything like a return of her fond affection? There was an aching void in her heart which nothing else could fill; must it always be thus? was her craving for affection never to be satisfied? "O, papa! my own papa, will you never love me?" mourned the sad little heart.

Remember, this book is being given to little girls right now. Elsie is being held up as a positive role model for girls to imitate. THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO THINK THIS IS ACTUALLY A GOOD THING FOR A LITTLE GIRL TO BE THINKING.

Guests arrive. Elsie tries to get away so they won't ask her about her hand. Horace makes her sit back down. Finally, after she falls asleep sitting up, he sends her to bed.

End of chapter.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

State of the CW

Okay. I *think* I have a day off tomorrow, so I'm going to try to pound out another review and the last couple of rounds of editing for the next chunk of Ivory Scars, Iron Bars. 

My job situation has gotten very complicated and very un-fun. I'm doing lots of office work now, with two other people who I think have come to hate my guts. I'm not entirely sure why. Probably part of the depression issues is the UNRELENTING PRESSURE TO DO SHIT. So I come home and look at the computer and get more UNRELENTING PRESSURE TO DO SHIT. And then decide to goof off doing something else. Which makes me more depressed because I'm not doing shit, and the vicious cycle has begun. 

I'm dealing with it. Not very well, but I'm dealing.

In other news, apparently a lot of interesting stuff happened over the last couple of days involving the Unnamed Friend (if you don't know who that is you are incredibly lucky) and it made my blog blow up. For some reason.

...Which has also left me feeling HIGHLY anxious and thankful that God invented anti-anxiety meds and that I have access to a really good one now. That was an incredibly shitty time in my life and it wasn't just because of the Unnamed Friend--in fact, and in retrospect, I reacted very badly specifically because the blog and the books were the only thing in my life that weren't shit, and I didn't appreciate having her muck around in it. However, from the tiny bit I've managed to gather, other people are mucking around in her shit and making her life miserable. Which means however bad I'm feeling right now? She's probably feeling worse.

That's not cool.

The ONLY thing I wanted in all of this was for her to go away and leave me alone, something she finally managed to do for a full year. I wish her lots of happiness and lots of success. She's a person like anybody else. She's not a real nice one, and she's definitely not somebody I'd ever want to be friends with--I'm kind of like a kicked puppy that way--but however deeply toxic she might be, she does not deserve to be treated like shit.

So guys? Knock it the fuck off. If you don't approve of her retoric and tactics stop using them. 

Sorry for being so harsh, but...yeah. Knock it off. 

As for the unnamed friend, on the tiny chance she'd ever read this: If you're in this corner of the internet it probably has something to do with my posts being plastered on nine million different critical sites, along with every other mistake you ever made.

I'm sorry.

 You do not deserve this shit. It's not cool to do it to anybody. I don't like you, but that is my shit, not yours. You don't know my story. I don't know yours. You don't know how your words affected me, and I don't know what mine did to you. I am sorry if I hurt you, and I forgive you for hurting me. I am sorry that you have to go through this, and I will do my best to make sure that I don't contribute any more than I already have. The one good thing you did teach me is, when shit like this happens it'll all feel better in a couple of days. So take care of yourself, do something that makes you happy, ignore the internet for a few days, and remind yourself that, all things considered, your life is pretty damn cool. 

Also: Please go back to leaving me alone.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Okay so I'm still not dead

I'm just...not really alive yet either.

So the short part of the story is...I really, really suck at staying on anti-depressants. Probably TMI, but that's probably 99.99999 percent of why I've let my duties to ya'll slide so far. When you are depressed you are officially Not Giving Shits. And you know you ought to be Giving Shits, so when you remember something you used to Give Shits about, that you've been ignoring because hey, Giving Shits is avoid it. Because you feel guilty. And the guilt isn't fun, so you avoid it longer, and eventually hit this death spiral of avoidance and depression that ends in something completely unproductive. Like Minecraft, or reading somebody else's books instead of writing your own.

Also: I've had a cold for about a week and a half now.

That's kind of the difference between being mentally ill and being physically ill. Depression is perceived as this nebulous feeling of unhappiness. You feel sad, and you don't want to do things because you feel sad, and that's stupid and lazy, because feelings don't rule the world. A cold, however, is an automatic three day trip to the nearest  bed or couch, especially if you have a fever of 102 (which I had this last week. It went away.)

But depression, as I've said many many times before, isn't even like having a cold. It's like having diabetes, or scurvy. You are literally missing chemicals your brain needs to function right. Mild depression means not feeling happy. Severe depression means not feeling anything. Except maybe guilt and a growing sense of dread because you know something is severely, severely fucked up inside of you, but you don't know what it is and you don't know why.

There's also pain involved. See that guilt and dread, and a bunch of other funhouse symptoms. My personal theory about that is that pain and unpleasant sensations exist to motivate us to seek help. That's why women feel like their insides are ripping open every time they give birth to a kid--the survival rate when a woman seeks help in childbirth is better than when she doesn't. The problem is that once you're talking about mental health issues? We stop offering help. Or if we do offer help, you first have to jump through flaming hoops while some government mook stands over in a corner grading your jumps. Do too well? You don't qualify. Do too poorly? Oops, sorry, we really needed that one more piece of paper to get you into the program so we could offer you help. If you're too mentally ill to make it, sucks to be you.


I am still writing and painting and doing all that wonderful stuff. I've been making an effort lately, and it's gone from feeling like lifting an entire dump truck full of bricks to maybe just the bricks. I will make announcements shortly and get back to reviewing and doing all that lovely stuff.

I love you guys, and I promise I will try to do a better job at being fun and entertaining.