Monday, November 17, 2014

Stroke of Midnight 16

What's this? Has a random countdown appeared? Yes. I am committing to a date, and that means lots of energy and work and all sorts of other wonderful things. 

Taking a brief break from Elsie to work on other projects, but I figured we might as well keep LKH going.

We have yet to have a single law enforcement officer see the body of the dead human. We are sixteen chapters into this book.

Meanwhile, we've managed to have a full blown sex scene and a lot of making out. So at least we know where the author's priorities lie.

It was almost as if the chalice didn’t want to leave me alone to solve the murders. The cup pulsed so hard that it made me gasp.
So apparently the cup is a lot like a penis. It's tumescent and it keeps getting in the way of the plot. The cup keeps sending orgasmic little thrills through Merry, and the guards who didn't see the cup are all like "WTF IS WRONG WITH HER" and the ones who did are like "NOTHING TO SEE HERE MOVE ALONG"

Meanwhile, Random Boy Toy A has eyes that are...special.

His eyes were not the three rings of color common among the sidhe, but a spiral painted in lines of color, with his pupil at the heart of the design. As a child I’d once asked him how he could see out of them, and he had smiled and replied that he did not know.
The same way you can see out of a spiral contact lens. In fact, probably better. 'cause his iris can contract and a colored contact can't. Also, I swear to god the first time I read that I went "he has heart shaped pupils" and I threw up in my mouth a little.

Everybody smells apples, and Merry brings the chalice out where everyone can see it, just as if we hadn't spent the last several chapters discussing how ABSOLUTELY IMPORTANT it is to keep the goddamn thing hidden. Everybody gasps. Ivy says that they should be making Merry queen and not "playing copper" even though I think he's about three hundred years too old for that slang to come casually. The cup pulsates again. Then this happens:

“You just want to fuck her ,” Dogmaela said, and she made it sound like a dirty thing. An unusual attitude among any fey.

LKH's special brand of slut shaming. It's slutty clothes, unless the main character is wearing them, or its dating multiple men, unless the main character is dating them, and generally any kind of sex at all, unless the main character is having it. It's less double standard and more "I have no self awareness whatsoever, pass the condoms".

I looked up at his face, so carefully arrogant. “Are you saying I should take time out of solving a double homicide to have sex?”


Everyone talks about how much they want to have sex. And whose desire to have sex is strongest. It's like a philosophical dick measuring contest. Then Amatheon and a couple of the others start down-talking Merry's mortal heritage because Prejudice Allegory, which is now incredibly squicky for me because this series is set in fucking St. Louis. So Merry gives Amatheon a hug, aaaaand we're having sex now.

I stood in the middle of a huge, barren plain. Amatheon was still pressed to my waist, his head buried against my body. I wasn’t certain that he knew anything had changed.

One of the bizzare side-effects of LKH's unwillingness to use either "penis" or "vagina" in her writing is I have no idea if this is actual sex or not. Merry becomes the stand-in for the Goddess again, and starts telling Amatheon that she (the Goddess) has never left them--even though they're making out in the middle of a barren plain, which doesn't exactly scream "Divine Blessings."

I understood then that if one tear felt so good to the land, then other body fluids would feel even better.

You have no idea how much dread this one sentence filled me with. Then it became clear that Amatheon wants to give his blood to the land, and not his semen.

...Dude. The cops are RIGHT THERE. Okay, they're upstairs, but they are here on campus, they'll be back real soon, and you are offering to let your princess take your blood. THIS IS NOT A SMART THING.

And then the Goddess tries to talk Merry into killing Amatheon.

Her voice came from my lips again. “He will not die as men die, but as the corn dies. To rise again, and feed his people.”

He's not motherfucking John Barleycorn. This is a bad idea. This is a very, very, very bad idea.

“But this is not real death. This is vision and dream.


“Will you leave the land barren?” the voice said, out of my mouth.
The bizzare thing about LKH's writing is she keeps having scenes like this, where the heroine knows that there's something wrong with this shit. Merry knows that human sacrifice isn't the smartest thing to do right now. Anita knows it's a bad idea to screw London/Richard/All the wereswans ever because the consent is iffy and it'll probably be a rape. But some higher power--Jean Claude, the Goddess, the MOAD--then talks the main character into it because Laurel K. Hamilton wants this to happen and screw anybody who says "UH HELLO, THERE ARE COPS UPSTAIRS."

And then the Goddess begins chewing Merry out for trying to investigate the murders instead of having sex.

Laurel, this is YOUR PLOT. Do you know what you do when you do not like your plot? THROW IT OUT AND START OVER. YOU are the writer. YOU get to make the plot be what you want it to be. Oh, and by the way? Airing out your issues over your writing IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FUCKING BOOK is not a very smart thing to do. You hate plot. Great. Write porn. Admit that you like writing porn and write fucking porn. You will not die. Bolts of lightening will not rain down from heaven and incinerate you. You can be honest with yourself and your audience. It's not gonna hurt you.

But DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT promise us a murder investigation plot a la early Anita and then bitch your character out for trying to follow through with it. If I want a bait and switch I'll go to a mega church during fundraiser week.

“I do not mean Cromm Cruach’s true name, I mean these deaths. They will be reborn, Child. Why do you mourn them so? Even true death is not an ending. Others can find your murderers and clues, but there are duties that only you can perform, Meredith, only you..” “And what exactly would those duties be?” She motioned at Amatheon . “Make my land live.”


“He is a willing sacrifice, Meredith . There is no evil here.”
I'd draw connections with "you can't rape the willing" and how utterly fucking stupid both these statements are, but I think I'd get eviscerated.

And then the Goddess sighs happily, because it was all a dream test.


On the other hand

That means that all of this--the tree shit, the stuff with the cup, the conversation with Amatheon and the Goddess--is a motherfucking non-event, and LKH has, once again, wasted our time.

Meanwhile, it's time for our dose of quasi-pagan pretentiousness! Courtesy of 20+ Kindle Highlighters, here we go:

“I did not stop speaking to my people, they stopped listening to me, and after a time, they could no longer hear my voice. But I never stopped speaking to them. In dreams, or that moment between waking and sleep, there is my voice. In a song, the touch of another’s hand in theirs, I am there. I am Goddess, I am everywhere, and in everything. I cannot leave, nor can you lose me. But you can leave me, and you can turn your back on me.”
Yes, folks. Goddess doesn't leave you, you leave Goddess.

Either LKH is talking about the unnamed Wiccan Lady (which is Oathbound material and not something you can easily find, which shows how seriously Wiccans take their Oathbound shit) in which case DAMN the Wiccan Lady is an awful lot like Protestant Jesus, or she's talking about that general, quasi-Celtic-and-Greek-with-a-pinch-of-Native-Culture, all-encompassing Goddess figure that certain brands of paganism (coughfluffybunnycough) like to embrace. In which case WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK. 

Even the Christian God "turns his face away", albeit from really awful bad shit. If you believe in religion than Deity is something that gets to decide shit. And your respective Gods are fully capable of deciding that you've screwed the pooch and they don't want to play anymore. In other words, this is dehumanizing Deity.  

And for the record, NO. "Goddess" is not an all-encompassing figure. Athena is not Diana is not Kali is not Pele is not the Virgin Mary. Grow up.

“Goddess,” he said. Her voice floated to us. “Yes, Child.” “Will I see you again?” Just her voice now, young and old at the same time. “In the face of every woman you meet.” And she was gone.
I need an "Even for Dummies" book because I have forgotten how to Even. I haven't been this flabberghasted since I accidentally watched the 700 Club.

This chapter is not done yet. Why is this chapter not done yet?

He smiled, a quick flash of real humor, that made his face less perfectly handsome, but more real, more precious to my sight. “My honor was never gone, because no one can take your honor from you, not without your letting it go. I was going to say that you have given me back my honor, but I understand now.” I smiled at him. “No one can take your honor, but you can give it away.” The smile wilted around the edges. “Yes. I let fear take my honor from me.”
Ah, because we have to get even more pretension out of the way. Okay. You did it. Can we get back to the plot now?

Right. More sex.
. “I want you to ride me, to press my naked body into the dirt. I want to watch your breasts dance above me. I want to feel your body slipped over mine like a sheath to a sword.

Every time she does this I keep thinking of that (albeit problematic) scene in American Gods where the Indian goddess-figure swallows a man with her vagina. THERE IS A REASON WE HAVE THE WORD PENIS.

I put my finger on his lips and stopped him. “Let’s make the grass grow.”
It's not quite "Ride the Storm" but it'll do.

I sat up and pressed my most intimate parts against his most intimate parts, and even through all our clothes, the sensation was amazing.
What? Did you suddenly forget how a thesaurus works? Did it die? It died, didn't it. You used the poor thing so much that when you finally needed it, it had shriveled up and died. Also, am I the only one having My Immortal-esque flashbacks? "He put his thing into my you-know-what and we did it for the first time."

The chapter ends with them taking off their clothes.

Monday, November 10, 2014

On Homeschooling and Growing Up: Real School

I kept getting in trouble for skipping school.

It's funny that I'm going to open this possible series about homeschooling by talking about the one time I did go to a normal school. But it set a standard in my mind. As I grew up and gained more autonomy, the episode with real school became more and more important. It's what turned Homeschooling into my choice, into something that I owned and defended every chance I got.

In retrospect that school probably wasn't normal. I had a very small class--7th and 8th grade put together, 13 students--and the curriculum was A Beka. A Beka is primarily aimed at conservative homeschooling groups; I was very familiar with the materials. I'd been using things like them for as long as I can remember. The American History books, for example, used the same photographs and paintings on the same pages in both the 4th grade and 6th grade textbooks. The most we ever learned about Native American cultures were the evangelical attempts of David Brainerd. George Whitfield got more space than George Washington. Civil rights were a footnote; Billy Graham was a chapter.

World History did not exist.

Paddles did.

Of course, the parents had to sign a permission slip. Most of them did. This was a very tight knit community. Most of them went to the same church I did, until that church had a doctrinal falling out and split up. Most of these kids had gone to this same school from first grade on up. Most of the parents agreed that the world might end the next election if we didn't get a Republican into the White House, but they disagreed on wheither or not the End of the World would be good or bad. Clinton was still president. I overheard several adults once have a serious conversation about how he fit all the criteria for the Antichrist.

 Every morning we would gather in the gymasium--which doubled as a church sanctuary on Sundays--and sing worship songs after the Pledge of Allegiance...and the Pledge to the Christian Flag, and the Pledge to the Bible. I was familiar with all three; I'd been doing Awanas AKA Christian Girl Scouts for as long as I could remember. A different class would get to come up to the front and hold up the big, hand-lettered song lyric cards up so that everyone could read them. These were songs that most of us knew by heart. Amazing Grace. Go tell it on the Mountain. As the Deer. I thought everyone knew these songs, because everyone I knew did. Contemporary Christian music was edgy. Pop music like Madonna and N'Sync was unheard of. Literally. No one listened to it. When we were allowed to bring outside novels to school they were the Left Behind series. C.S. Lewis was risky because there were talking animals and magic in them. My class memorized the entire book of James, one chapter at a time. When it came time to learn about evolution, our science teacher gave us a big speech about how this was a state mandated course and we didn't really need to pay attention. He followed it up with a special on how Mt. St. Helens disproved the whole thing because of petrified trees.

We got tested on that.

My brother and I were enrolled there because my mother wanted to have a job. Our homelife was chaotic and financially unpredictable, and Mom's tactic for solving this was to get a job. She did this several times that I can remember. Sometimes she would try to homeschool us while working. I'd be the one taking care of my brother and supervising both his lessons and my own. Mom would grade our work when she got home. But this was difficult and stressful and more often than not I'd wind up playing dolls upstairs, or digging in the side yard with my brother, or up the nearest tree with a science fiction novel. Sometimes I'd even get my brother wrapped up in a video game, then get on my bike and take off for the library. Then, bookbag balanced on the handlebars, I'd go down to the city park, hide my bike in the bushes and walk down to the riverbank. This time around, she decided to place us in school. I was very excited. It felt like a special treat. I'd get to be with other kids. I'd have all these great new books to read. But because her job started earlier than my dad's, it became his job to get me and my brother to school.

We were never on time. NEVER. I would be outside, sitting in the car fifteen minutes before we were supposed to leave; my father would come out ten minutes after. Then the rush to my classroom, hoping and praying to God that I'd get there and the class would still be there, that this time Assembly was a few minutes late. No luck. Shove the coat and lunch box into the cubby--everybody brought their lunch, the school served no food--and race down the hall. If I was lucky and Dad were quicker I'd make it in time for the Pledge to the Christian Flag or the Pledge to the Bible. More often than not we were on the third or fourth song, and I had to make my way to my class with my head down in shame. I was so awfully, horribly late. It was my fault for not making Dad get out to the car sooner. I'd have to be better tomorrow.

After a few months, though, Dad decided to stop taking us to school.

It wasn't an every day thing. He had a job, after all. But at least once a week, on Tuesday or Wednesday, sometimes on Friday, he'd decide we didn't need to go to school that day. We'd get in the car--I'd be nerviously drumming my fingers on the armrest, worried about being late--and when we got to the highway he'd turn left instead of right and we'd start driving. We'd end up in Weatherbury, or Grandbury, or Dublin, and he'd go to garage sales while we sat in the car. When our grades began to suffer, he'd take my brother to school and keep me out, and we'd be driving, driving, driving all day until it was time to pick my brother up and take us home. We'd go to lunch. He'd tell me how special I was. He'd introduce me to all his friends. I learned to bring books with me because I knew I'd get very bored. I'd ask nicely to listen to Christian radio; more often than not, we just played Rush Limbaugh.

By this time I hated school. I hated how boring the materials were. I hated that we were allowed to use calculators during math, that I wasn't allowed to learn how to calculate square roots longhand, that we spent two weeks on "practical" math, like learning how to read electric meters and how to divide recipes, but only spent one day on pi. I hated that we traded World History--something I'd never gotten to study--for Texas Government. I hated, hated, hated the bible study period. I hated the materials we had to study in language arts. The english teacher had an obsession with Spain, so when it came time to do research reports we were each assigned a different Provence. Some of the books we had to study were good--Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and Shiloh stand out as high points--but some of them were just teeth-grittingly awful. Johnny Tremaine should never be inflicted on an adult, much less a thirteen year old. Each day we had to read an assigned chapter, summerize what we'd just read, and then identify the parts of the sentences in our summery. This is a noun, this is a verb, this is an adjective. I'd been diagramming sentences since I was eight, so this was completely uninteresting. Finally, I stopped copying down the lessons altogether. I already knew this and I was sick of all of it. I just wanted to go back home to my homemade yarn dolls and the epic fantasy adventure we were having beneath my bed.

At that point, the English teacher pulled me out of class, sat me down, and gave me a long lecture on everything I was doing wrong. And the thing he focused on wasn't that I had stopped participating in the lessons, but that I was skipping school. And I sat there feeling deeply betrayed. I had not understood that Dad was pulling us out without permission from the school. I believed that a parent had every right to simply call in and say "So and so is sick today" and then just...not take us. I sat there, staring back at my teacher, and feeling like I'd just been tricked by all these adults. I'd been told my whole life the world worked a certain way. Now they were telling me it worked differently and that it was my fault I wasn't playing by the rules.

The next day, Dad wanted to keep me home again. I begged and pleaded no. I didn't explain about the talking to I'd gotten--I didn't want to get in trouble with him--so I just said that I really, really wanted to go to school that day. Please. I didn't want to skip it anymore. 

 He was very hurt. He didn't understand why I did not want to have fun with him anymore.

Now, as an adult, I understand: my brother and I existed for our parents, not for us. They saw school as warehousing kids, a place to get them out of their parent's hair for a few hours so they could go have jobs and whatnot. School was not a place for children. Education was something we got because the government said we had to do it, and because it'd be useful in some far off distant land where we'd be adults and our own people. When Dad decided that he didn't want to put his toys in the School box, he'd keep us out and spend the day amusing himself. When he didn't want to play with us, well, that's what school was for. And of course it all got dressed up in God's Will. We weren't going to evil public school--no hyperbole there, the public school system was the literal tool of Satan and my brother and I were so blessed not to be in it. No matter how bad things got at home, public school would be worse.

There is a part of me that understands how insane all of that sounds. There's another part that still thinks it is normal, that still cannot see what the problem was.

He cut down on the absenteeism, but he'd still do it. And now I'd sit in the car with high anxiety, knowing that the next day I'd be going to school and I'd probably get in trouble again. By then I wasn't allowed to go to recess anymore. I had to sit in class and do additional work to make up for the amount of school I'd skipped. I didn't care; the class had decided that they wanted to play basketball in the gym instead of going outside, and I was sick to death of basketball. I'd much rather sit in the classroom. When I finally got caught up, I still begged off. I didn't want to touch that goddamn ball ever again. I'd memorize bible verses until the class left, then sneak over to the bookcase and snag something interesting, like The Invisible Man or The Dark is Rising.

That's the only good thing I got out of that year of school: it introduced me to Susan Cooper.

When school ended, we moved. We'd been living up north near Dallas, and now we moved back south to just outside of Corpus Christi; that was when the wheels on the family bus really fell off. We went back to homeschooling. We'd learn out of old, battered college textbooks. I'd do research reports on whatever I wanted. I'd read the encyclopedia for fun. I never had to learn to spell. For maybe a year, things were stable. The one thing I knew, though, was that I did not ever want to go back to school. Mom was right--it was just a place to warehouse kids, where learning was limited by the slowest person in class, and where you were not allowed to study anything you wanted, but only what the teacher had assigned you.

After that, some years my mother would ask me if we wanted to enroll in real school or stay at home. I was always adamant. Homeschooling. Real school, I knew, would just be misery all over again.

A few weeks ago my mother and I were talking about the past, and my growing up and homeschooling, and I brought up how abysmal my lone experience with "real" school was. How I was often driven to frustrated tears in Math Class because I didn't understand, and I wanted to, and the rest of the class was just using their calculators when there was this whole wonderful thing we could have been learning about. How much I loathed reading the assigned books. And I mentioned how I got in trouble for absenteeism because Dad kept pulling us out of school.

She stared at me, amazed, because she never knew.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Stroke of Midnight chapter 15, Elsie chapter 12

So Frost makes a door into Fairie, and LKH forgets how sentences work.

It was the door to faerie, all humans go through smiling, but they don’t always come out that way.
Ah, the commas that die to provide LKH with run on sentences.

The police immediately get rolled by fairy magic even though the press didn't, so now Merry and Co. have to oil up the cops.


“The queen gave vials of oil to the guard as a precaution in case the reporters became befuddled by the magic that is intrinsic to the sithen, but it was merely a precaution. The main hallways of the sithen have not affected humans in this way for more than fifty years.”
And of course it's Merry bringing magic back. Also, there's a random guard who is tattooed with fur all over his body.

I am sure this is absolutely necessary to the narrative.

So they grease up the cops. One at a time. In detail. There's a point where one cop asks Merry for a cross instead of whatever sigil Merry intends to use, and Merry says a cross won't work because the faeries aren't evil.

“We aren’t evil, Carmichael, just other. Contrary to popular myth, holy symbols won’t stop our magic, any more than holding up a cross would stop a blizzard from harming you.”

Yeah, but a blizzard doesn't decide to threaten your life, decieve all your senses and potentially abuse you because it would find it entertaining. Also: turning your jacket inside out apparently works better than prayer.

So now the freshly oiled cops start lusting after the fairy men because this makes totally sense. All the men show off, and it takes three pages for them to get back to the plot. Then Galen heads off on his own and Merry has a premonition, so she sends a couple of other guys off with him. Doyle headed off on his own quite a while ago. Then the magic cup appears because why not, it's not like we wanted to actually GET TO THE GODDAMN PLOT.

One of the cops is still making cow-eyes at the men, and Merry has to explain what being elf-struck is to the cops. Who have to deal with them fairly regularly. Eventually they send that person back up topside, because that's the easiest way to resolve the problem. It's also implied that this episode fucked up that woman's life forever, but that's less important than making sure we all understand, Merry's men are PRETTY.

The chapter ends with one of them making the poor bewitched girl cry.

Meanwhile, in Elsie...We finally have a chapter that isn't completely worthless. Christmas is coming up, and Horace gives Elsie extra money so she can buy Christmas presents...after instructing her to keep track of every penny she spends, because "his little girl must not be lazy". He leaves. presents are bought. He comes back. This happens:

"Well, daughter," he said, passing his hand caressingly over her curls, "papa has brought you a present; will you have it now, or shall it be kept for Christmas?" "Keep it for Christmas, papa," she answered gayly. "Christmas is almost here, and besides, I don't want to look at anything but you to-night."

And then Elsie spends most of the rest of the chapter evangelizing to her father.

You know, a funny thing about growing up in an abusive situation is how quickly we normalize the adult's behaviors. It's a survival mechanism--we are dependant on our parents. They HAVE to be perfect in our eyes because otherwise the world might fall apart. It's the logic of a child. A couple weeks ago a child from one of homeschooling's superstar families came forward with her story. One of the things she said hit very, VERY close to home:

The life of abuse isn’t full of anger, getting thrown and smacked and bruised, and being yelled at and torn down. That’s only part of it. You also feel special and needed. You don’t feel like life is hell, even if it is, because you know how to force a smile. It feels good to damage your own health and wellbeing for your abusers, because you’re told that you’re doing what is right. You fight for acceptance and admonition, because you’re always getting small tastes of it, and it’s always just out of reach.
I don't know who Cynthia Jeub is, but that paragraph right there is something I've always wanted to say. People who are abused as children are often unaware of just how deep and profound the damage really is. We internalize it and repeat it and perpetuate it because we do not want to lose something we've always seen as a foundation. We do not want to face how shaky that foundation really is.

I've got some pretty out there variations in my version of Christianity--tarot cards, new agey things. This last week I finally understood why. It's because a part of getting positive attention from my parents, especially my father, was to repeat exactly what they believed exactly the way it was taught to me. I believe I took a more-than-slightly heretical path because it took my spirituality out of a toxic framework and put it into a place where I couldn't use it in my relationships with my parents. It made it into something that was mine.

Abusive situations are never a continual, ongoing ocean of misery. They do have positive moments. If they didn't, it wouldn't be so very hard to leave. Elsie is getting positive feedback now that she's conformed perfectly to her father's wishes. She's getting presents and affection. She's also gotten the message that if she wishes these things to continue, she is not allowed to have her own thoughts. The only reason her faith has a greater stranglehold on her than her father is that her version of God is exactly the same as her version of Dad, and she doesn't want God angry at her.

When you live with abuse you live for the sake of your abuser. In the process, you forget who you are. And if you're a child, you never get to learn.