Narnia: The Arthurian Court

Content Note: Battlefield Medicine, Survivor Guilt, Secrets, Body Mismatch

Narnia Recap: Aslan has joined the battle against the White Witch.

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, Chapter 17: The Hunting of the White Stag

   THE BATTLE WAS ALL OVER A FEW MINUTES after their arrival. [...]
   "It was all Edmund's doing, Aslan," Peter was saying. "We'd have been beaten if it hadn't been for him. The Witch was turning our troops into stone right and left. But nothing would stop him. He fought his way through three ogres to where she was just turning one of your leopards into a statue. And when he reached her he had sense to bring his sword smashing down on her wand instead of trying to go for her directly and simply getting made a statue himself for his pains. That was the mistake all the rest were making. Once her wand was broken we began to have some chance -- if we hadn't lost so many already. He was terribly wounded. We must go and see him."

eReader: Device Comparison Site

An acquaintance on Mobile Read has put together what zie calls "the site I wish existed when I was choosing" an eReader. It's a device comparison site and it's actually pretty good, so I thought I'd reblog it here: ereaderlookup.

The value of a site like this is that most of us already know where to find the big names -- Kindle, Nook, Kobo, etc. -- but it can be quite a bit harder to comparison shop the third party devices. I've been looking at the Onyx Boox M92 for awhile because it has a 9.7" screen, (semi-) touch support, and handles epub and pdf formats, but it took awhile to find the device back before this site existed. So it's pretty cool.

The downside to a site like this is that since the big booksellers -- Amazon, B&N, Kobo, etc. -- largely use DRM, a lot of third-party devices aren't necessarily automatically compatible with these stores. So the site could probably still use a little work, but the creator is definitely interested in feedback, so there's that.

Recommends: Fiadhiglas on Winter and Death

January and February are hard months for me. I like December well enough, with its bright holidays and crisp weather, but once Christmas / Yule / what-have-you has passed, I'm tired of winter and ready for spring. And of course it doesn't work like that. That's why this post by Laiima / Fiadhiglas really resonated with me, because it talks about the difficulties of winter, and how the season is nevertheless necessary and useful if we can learn to embrace it.

Since we moved to Maryland in 2008, every winter I struggle with honoring the season. Winter is about death, about letting go, about lying fallow. But every year around this time, I feel overwhelmed with loss and grief and giving up on cherished hopes. Every year, I yearn for spring: new growth, new beginnings, new hopes. And yet, the time is not right for any of that.

Thank you, Laiima, for reminding me that I'm not the only one who struggles to get through winter, and that as a time of reflection and trimming of dead weight, it is nevertheless invaluable.

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Recommends threads are Open Threads where I highly encourage promotion and self-promotion and cross-linking. What have you read or written this week? Please share!

Twilight: Delicate Women, Territorial Men

Content Note: Fainting, Falling, Disordered Eating

Twilight Recap: Mike has reiterated his invitation that Bella join him this weekend down at the beach.

Twilight, Chapter 5: Blood Type

   "See you," I replied. He looked at me once more, his round face slightly pouting, and then as he walked slowly through the door, his shoulders slumped. A swell of sympathy washed over me. I pondered seeing his disappointed face again . . . in Gym.

Open Thread: This Is Graffiti


Normally, I'm not a fan of graffiti because I feel sorry for the people tasked with cleaning it up, but I observed this in our local neighborhood theater and had to share. In case you're not a Classic Gamer, the depiction is of the classic Mario box (for which there is probably a better name than that, but I don't know what). I was tickled and had to pull out the camera phone.

Open thread below! Possible topics: hilarious graffiti, classic gaming, the terminology for Mario boxes, and whether or not theaters are improved by the addition of same.

Tropes: Classism and Systemic Marginalization in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

[Content Note: Violence, Rape, Victimization, Serial Killers, Abusive Doctors]

I'd like to run a short series of posts on Stieg Larsson's "Millennium Trilogy", especially now that we're in the aftermath of the American remake of the Swedish movie. This is going to be a multi-part series over the next couple of weeks, so I apologize in advance to those of you who have zero interest in the novels.

This first post will cover some background on the series and the classism I think it seeks to address. The second post will cover some of the violence and rape in the series and my concerns over where the narrative framing may have unfortunate implications. The third post will cover vigilantism in the series and where that framing may or may not address victim-blaming.

Author Interview: Ken Kaufman on "Ramblefoot"

Ana: Today we have Ken Kaufman introducing their novel, Ramblefoot. I haven't read this book myself, but Ken was kind enough to agree to guest blog about their book to any readers who might be interested in the subject. Ken, how would you describe your novel to your prospective readers? In broad terms, what is your novel about?

Ken: It's the tale of a wolf named Raspail who's got everything stacked against him and yet he rises, through acts of greatness, to become this sort of Ghengis Kahn of wolves. You could say the book is about how he becomes a legend among wolves. This all happens during an epoch in wolf history when man is systematically killing off the wolf population pack by pack. So even though there are really no human characters in the story, mankind is an ominous and terrifying presence that is throwing wolf life off kilter.

Ana: What themes does your novel explore and what do you hope the reader will take away from the experience? Is there a particular feeling or experience that you hope to evoke in the reader? Essentially, do you hope your novel will mean to a reader?

Ken: One of Raspail's keys to greatness is that he thinks differently from other wolves. When he is made an outcast from his pack, he is so desperate for company that he befriends a raven named Poitu, who is also an outcast from raven society. Raspail learns how to communicate and partner with this bird, and he is influenced by the raven's logic. He becomes more resourceful and inventive, and this saves his ass time and time again. Think outside the box, I suppose, is the theme here. And that's also what I tasked myself with while conceiving and writing Ramblefoot -- to make an animal book that isn't for little kids, yet is one that reminds you of the books you loved as a kid. I aimed to make a novel so engrossing you can't wait to escape into that book and feel like you've left the modern world of man and entered a whole other world with different stakes and different codes of conduct. And the wolf is just human enough that it is not such a stretch to fold the reader's world into his. It is a world that is quite enjoyable explore.

Ana: What prompted you to write this novel and did you have a specific inspiration in mind? Were you influenced by a certain author or work that inspired you to add your voice to this genre? Besides the boatloads of money and rockstar fame, what motivated you to write this book?

Ken: Call of the Wild. Jungle Book. Watership Down. These are some of the greatest books ever written. As a story-teller with a huge fondness for animals, I naturally gravitated back to what I loved as a child. I got excited about taking a stab at reinvigorating the dusty genre of animal fiction. But I didn't want to be prudish in my portrayal. I wanted to write an animal book with an R rating, not because I love gory violence, but because nature has an R rating. There is a lot of fighting, pissing, and vomiting in nature. There is humping, biting, and trash-talking in nature. And I wanted to write about all of it. There is a wolf sex scene -- and it is romantic, because wolves can only mate once a year! So I didn't filter out any of nature's "obscenities", and this makes Ramblefoot different from classic animal fiction. In my mind you can't say this is vulgar, or that is too vulgar. It's nature. That's why I couldn't get it published. And ironically, it is what people are really responding to in the reviews I have gotten.

Ana: If you could compare your novel to any other existing works, which ones would it be and why? If the one thing you could say to a prospective reader was, "If you like X, you'll love my book!", which work would be invoked so that a reader could judge whether or not your novel is their cup of tea?

Ken: There is really very little to compare Ramblefoot to. A friend of mine described it as "Watership Down, except from the POV of the wolves eating the rabbits." I guess if a reader likes fantasy books like Game of Thrones and Tolkien they would be happy they picked up Ramblefoot. Or speculative fiction like Neal Stephenson. But unlike most fantasy, Ramblefoot is a world without mythical creatures, magic, or supernatural. It was a big challenge creating a world as bewitching as a mythological one. Fortunately, there are a lot of bizarre and fascinating aspects to wolf and raven culture. The natural world is way more intense and mysterious to me than the magical, there is so little we know. So to answer your question, you should pick up Ramblefoot if you want to enter a fantasy world where there are no elves, vampires, werewolves, magic stones, elves, dwarves... uhm, actually, there is a dwarf wolf.

Ana: Is this your first or only published work, or have you published other novels? If you have published other novels, how do they compare to this one? Do you have any more novels planned, either as a follow-up to this one, or as a completely different novel or genre?

Ken: I've been a screenwriter for twenty years. I wrote Space Cowboys, The Missing, Curious George, Muppets from Space, and the upcoming Expendables sequel. Ramblefoot is my first novel. There is way more here to explore, so I HOPE people like the book because I would love to spend the rest of my life writing a series based on Ramblefoot.

Ana: Where can readers obtain a copy of your novel for them to enjoy? How can they contact you with any thoughts or questions? And do you have a means by which they can "sign up" to be notified when your next novel comes available?

Ken: Right now you can get the e-book for $2.99 at Amazon. Paperbacks are also available here for $15.00.

Ana: Thank you, Ken. I understand you have the first chapter of your novel available as an excerpt for interested readers? And is there anything else you wish to add for our readers?

Ken: There is a facebook page for Ramblefoot, which I encourage your readers to "friend." If anyone wants to reach me, my email address is mckaufman@verizon.net.

Thanks for the interview, Ana!

Claymore: Standing On The Shoulders Of Jean

Content Note: Intense Torture, Strong Violence, NSFW Nudity

Claymore Recap: Clare in on a mission to help Jean, but she arrives too late. This is the last episode of the Riful arc.

Claymore, Episode 17: The Witch's Maw, Part 3

Clare arrives to find Jean awakened, and is shocked to hear Jean beg for her death. Her body has awakened, just as fully and obviously as Ophelia's had been... but her mind is still clearly her own. She's not swearing revenge or craving human innards, she just wants the same thing she's always wanted: to die human, as a good person, in full control of her faculties. And yet... by wanting that, isn't she still human, at least in the philosophical way that the Claymores use?

eReader: ePub Tools

Let's talk a little about eReaders today, specifically the ePub format (that pretty much all eReaders use except the Kindle) and some ePub modification tools that can make your life easier.

If you don't know what an ePub file is then a great place to start would be the Wikipedia write-up. My two-second non-techno-babble explanation would be that it's a eBook file that works on non-Kindle readers (B&N, Kobo, Sony, pretty much every third-party device currently on the market) and which is closely related to an HTML file. The ePub format differs from, say, PDF in that the ePub format contains text information and can be resized/reflowed easily on most eReaders.

If you publish an eBook, your readers are going to want and expect an ePub version.* (Or at least I will.)

* They will also want a Kindle (mobi) version, but once you have an ePub version getting a mobi version is pretty easy. 
More on that in another post.

So let's talk about some tools that I like, love, and use on a near-daily basis.

Sigil
Sigil is a free What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) editor for ePubs. It is incredibly powerful and is a super-sweet, super-easy to use program. Take it home to Mom and give it some good loving. I seriously use Sigil once a day. I love it so much.

Here is what you can do with Sigil. You can copy-and-paste text into the Book View (or type directly into it) and save it as an ePub. Once you get a little more comfy with ePub code (and you will, because a good ePub is a clean ePub and clean code is minimal code so basically "getting comfy with ePub code" means "learning what to strip out" which is fun in a tidying sort of way) you can switch back and forth to the Code View and tinker directly with the code. And if you mess the code up, like by leaving an end tag off, when you switch to Book View Sigil cleans that up for you. Thank you, Sigil, you're such a sweetheart!

You know what else you can do with Sigil? You can load in an HTML file and save it directly as an ePub. So clean, so neat. You can go through and create new chapters through a honking big HTML file by pressing CTRL+ENTER at the end of a line. You can do so many groovy things. If you are ever, ever, ever going to modify an ePub, you should download and install Sigil. If you are using ABBYY Fine Reader and 1DollarScan to convert paper book to PDFs to ePubs, you should be saving the Fine Reader output into HTML (not Word) and loading that into Sigil. Seriously, it's the difference between an hour's worth of clean-up and a day's.

dotEPUB
dotEPUB is a free plugin for Firefox and Chrome browsers. It lets you create an ePub file directly from a webpage with the press of a button. Super-useful if you like to save things for offline reading -- go to a site, press the dotEPUB button on your browser toolbar, save the file into Calibre, and away you go. Wheeeeee!

epubCreator
The one major downside to dotEPUB is that it's not quite smart enough to gobble up page links, so if the article you want to save is spread across multiple pages and there's not an all-on-one-page-for-printing option anywhere, you'll have to make multiple ePub files to save everything. But never fear! epubCreator is a not-free tool that can merge and concatenate ePub files into one. So far, based on my runs with the software, it works great with dotEPUB outputs if you open the files with Sigil first and save them once before conversion. (Sigil cleans up any nasty code artifacts. Who's a good software program? Sigil is a good software program! YES, YOU ARE.)

Modify ePub Calibre Plugin
This Calubre plugin by KiwiDude is worth mentioning because it's great for force-stripping out publisher dross like embedded fonts (no, I don't want to read things in serif font, thank you) and ridiculously huge margins. It's a powerful tool, but like all conversions should be handled with care. Make a copy of your original file before you start automatically stripping out code.

I think that's probably enough gushing out of my system for one post. I'm pretty fluent in most of these tools at this point -- especially Sigil -- and am happy to field questions in the comments.

Recommends: Jim Hines and Grrl Covers

Jim Hines seems like a nice guy. I'm not yet certain that his writing style totally meshes with my reading style, but he seems to be trying in Real Life to "get" my gender and I really appreciate that. So I can happily recommend Jim Hines' experiment to recreate sci-fi/fantasy covers and learning that, no, those Grrl Power! poses aren't particularly "natural" or "comfortable" for everyone. Thank, Jim Hines, I thought that was pretty awesome of you. And thank you, Ils, for your demonstration, too!

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Recommends threads are Open Threads where I highly encourage promotion and self-promotion and cross-linking. What have you read or written this week? Please share!

Twilight: Hunting Rapists, Condoning Rape Culture

Content Note: Rape Culture, Vigilantism

Twilight Recap: Bella and Edward have left the nurse's office and are outside talking to Mike.

Twilight, Chapter 5: Blood Type

   "It's not bleeding anymore," [Mike] muttered. "Are you going back to class?"
    "Are you kidding? I'd just have to turn around and come back."
   "Yeah, I guess. . . . So are you going this weekend? To the beach?" While he spoke, he flashed another glare toward Edward, who was standing against the cluttered counter, motionless as a sculpture, staring off into space.

Open Thread: ABNA Submissions

For those of you submitting a manuscript for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, be aware that you can start the submission process on the 23rd of this month. Information here.

Will you be submitting this year?

For myself, I'm not. I love ABNA, but I'd rather participate as a judge (assuming I'm asked again) where I think I do more good. I also very much doubt that I'd win with the novel I have right now, not because it's not The Best Novel Ever Written, but more because I've noticed that the ABNA contest dynamics seem to favor "real world fiction" or whatever the kids call it these days -- basically fiction that isn't set in a fictional representation of 1400s Italy with black people and fairies and princes-transmogrified-into-beasts.

And, for that matter, I'm on record as saying that I'd rather self-publish than take a shiny Big House Contract, and I still feel that way for me personally. We'll see if I feel any different next year -- I hope not, but you never know.

OPEN THREAD BELOW!

Deals: Neil Gaiman's American Gods

Neil Gaiman's American Gods is available today on the Nook for $1.99 in the US.

Tropes: The Replacement Wife

[Content Note: Cancer, Death]

Dear Publishers,

I couldn't help but notice that you have this book as an advance review copy on NetGalley:

Camille Hart, one of Manhattan’s most sought-after matchmakers, has survived more than her fair share of hardships. Her mother died when she was a young girl, leaving her and her sister with an absentee father. Now in her forties, she has already survived cancer once, though the battle revealed just how ill-equipped her husband Edward is to be a single parent. So when doctors tell Camille that her cancer is back -- and this time it’s terminal -- she decides to put her matchmaking expertise to the test for one final job. Seeking stability for her children and happiness for her husband, Camille sets out to find the perfect woman to replace her when she’s gone.

Now, I get that this is a romance novel, and that romance as a genre is not generally something that I, well, get. I also get that this is a short description that may not be even remotely accurate of the book's contents. In addition, I do not have small children, I am not married to someone who is ill-equipped to be a single parent, and I have never had terminal cancer.

So possibly this scenario is comforting in ways I do not immediately understand to people who are grappling with the guilt and fear of leaving their family behind due to an illness they cannot control. Indeed, now that I say all that, I think I read an erotic novel once that treated a similar subject from the perspective of a terminally ill Dom finding a replacement Dom for their sub, and while I thought the setup was similarly odd and not at all actually erotic because OMG SAD, I felt like the author handled the matter with sensitivity. So possibly there's a whole terminally-ill-replacement-romance sub-genre out there that I'm just not aware of, in which case you should take this letter with a grain of salt.

But having said all that, my initial visceral reaction to the the description of this book was one of profound sadness and anger. I literally felt my stomach turn on reading this. May I tell you why? I am going to do so now.

If I am diagnosed with a terminal illness tomorrow, I'm not sure precisely how I will spend my last days, but I am sure that finding someone for my Husband to bone will be pretty low on the bucket list. He is a big boy and managed to do pretty well with me, so I'm reasonably confident that he can take care of that department when I'm gone. He may even decide that he likes being single again (something that I doubt he would foresee in advance) and doesn't need to be in a constant, uninterrupted state of marriage. I also think that -- were I to make it a priority for me to do so -- I would spend more time recording and teaching the lessons I want my children to learn and less time trying to find a replica of me to take care of that for me in the future.

The Replacement Goldfish scenario seems like a high-risk low-return-on-investment plan, if you ask me, and it also seems to buy into a number of hurtful stereotypes about mothers and wives being replaceable widgets in the family machine, and that it is a woman's duty to serve her family (and never herself) right up to her dying breath. Hence my visceral oh, heck no reaction. And if you can forgive me saying so, when I read your book description and my first thought is "wow, that makes Twilight looks really feminist in comparison because at least Bella Swan wasn't interviewing Forks students looking for Edward's next soul mate in case the vampire-turning thing didn't work out," then you may be doing something wrong.

Is there honestly any reason why Camille Hart, one of Manhattan's most sought-after matchmakers, (and presumably therefore pretty loaded on the cash front) can't interview a few decent live-in nannies rather than spend the last days of her life scrambling to find a replacement for herself?

Something that is probably explained in your book, but I'll honestly never know. (Sorry.) Yours,
~ Ana

Tropes: The Bechdel Test

Ana's Note: This article originally ran as a Slacktiverse Special. This is a repost in case you missed it the first time.

The Bechdel Test, Bechdel-Wallace Test, or the Mo Movie Measure, is a sort of litmus test for female presence in movies and TV. The test is named for Alison Bechdel, creator of the comic strip Dykes To Watch Out For, who made it known to the world with this strip.

In order to pass, the film or show must meet the following criteria:

1. it includes at least two women* (some make the addendum that the women must be named characters)...
2. who have at least one conversation...
3. about something other than a man or men.

Most people who talk about Schrodinger's Cat do so with the understanding that the "experiment" is a thought experiment only. The concept of the Schrodinger's Cat is used to illustrate in the mind an aspect of quantum physics, namely how (if I understand correctly) an event at a purely quantum level could have a practical effect on the physical world. There's no real value, however, in going out and getting a cat and a box to put it in -- the "experiment" in question is in the mind, and not in the box.

Tropes: CSI Miami and Character Derailment

Dear CSI: Miami franchise,

I've been watching you since your debut episode, so I remember when Horatio Caine was a calm, quiet, gentle individual who looked unblinkingly into the cruel world because he wanted to be a living record for its victims. One of your weekly characters even pointed out that his name, Horatio, comes from a Shakespearean character whose job it is to remain alive after a brutal tragedy so that he can tell the story and keep its principle actors alive through the retelling.

Knowing all this, I'm curious as to what made you decide that the character needed to change into a blood-thirsty monster driven by a lust for violence and revenge? I kind of wrote a post on this, but somehow I don't get the impression that you are doing this as a clever deconstruction -- I kind of get the uncomfortable impression that you expect me to cheer every time Horatio tries to torture someone. Would it be at all possible for us to declare the last few seasons non-canon and start over?

Something I would really like, actually. Yours,
~ Ana

Author Interview: Sadie Hayes on "The Start-Up"

Ana: Today we have Sadie Hayes introducing their novel, The Start-Up. I haven't read this book myself, but Sadie was kind enough to agree to guest blog about their book to any readers who might be interested in the subject. Sadie, how would you describe your novel to your prospective readers? In broad terms, what is your novel about?

Sadie: Set against the fast-paced, winner-take-all world of Silicon Valley, where today’s software geek is tomorrow’s billionaire, The Start-Up chronicles the meteoric rise of Adam and Amelia Dory, a talented brother and sister team. With only each other to rely on, the na├»ve eighteen-year-olds must make their way through a treacherous world of money, power, and envy.

Ana: What themes does your novel explore and what do you hope the reader will take away from the experience? Is there a particular feeling or experience that you hope to evoke in the reader? Essentially, do you hope your novel will mean to a reader?

Sadie: At one level, this book is about exposing Silicon Valley -- the culture, the money, the power. It's not all about Zuckerberg and like buttons, or algorithms and free lunches at the Googleplex. There is a very real struggle between inspiration/creativity and money. Companies rise and fall, people rise and fall, and Silicon Valley is a tumultuous landscape of ego, envy and pride. At the level of the protagonist, the story is about naivete, inspiration and general good intentions. It has themes of the female entrepreneur in a male-driven world, and also the purity of creativity when most people are driven by fame and power.

Ana: What prompted you to write this novel and did you have a specific inspiration in mind? Were you influenced by a certain author or work that inspired you to add your voice to this genre? Besides the boatloads of money and rockstar fame, what motivated you to write this book?

Sadie: I've lived and worked in Silicon Valley for quite some time. As a woman, I've experienced both inspiration and discouragement. Furthermore, I've read countless books about Entrepreneurship, but never has the experience and world been truly captured… And I feel like fiction is the best way to educate the world on the ins and outs of Silicon Valley. More specifically, I was speaking with my publisher Backlit Fiction and they were looking for the next Gossip Girl -- some type of a world that is both exotic and accessible but one that also captures the spirit of the times. Silicon Vally and The Start-Up was the only way to go!

Ana: If you could compare your novel to any other existing works, which ones would it be and why? If the one thing you could say to a prospective reader was, "If you like X, you'll love my book!", which work would be invoked so that a reader could judge whether or not your novel is their cup of tea?

Sadie: I would say it's Gossip Girl set in Silicon Valley, or a sexy version of The Social Network.

Ana: Is this your first or only published work, or have you published other novels? If you have publishedother novels, how do they compare to this one? Do you have any more novels planned, either as a follow-up to this one, or as a completely different novel or genre?

Sadie: My third book in the Start-Up series is scheduled for early December. And I’m currently working on books 4, 5 and 6. This is my first creative work.

Ana: Where can readers obtain a copy of your novel for them to enjoy? How can they contact you with any thoughts or questions? And do you have a means by which they can "sign up" to be notified when your next novel comes available?

Sadie: The Start-Up series is available in ebook form on Amazon and B&N. Follow me on twitter @DigitalSadie or at www.Doreye.com to stay in contact with me and keep posted on upcoming releases!

Ana: Thank you, Sadie. I understand you have the first chapter of your novel available as an excerpt for interested readers? And is there anything else you wish to add for our readers?

Sadie: Yes! There are sneak previews of my three books available on www.Doreye.com (or www.TheStartUpBooks.com)! Would love readers to come check them out and discover the world of Silicon Valley. The Start-Up is a fun, important story for all young readers to experience.

Open Thread: SOPA / PIPA Blackout Day

This is a reminder that today is "blackout day" for many websites protesting the proposed USAmerican SOPA / PIPA bills. This site will not be engaging in the blackout because I already had an author interview scheduled today before the blackout was coordinated. However, I strongly oppose these bills as a major threat to free speech and a bypass around due process.

If you are a USAmerican, please consider writing your Senators and Representatives and asking them to oppose these bills.

Tropes: Law and Order and Contrasts

Dear Law & Order franchise,

When Jack McCoy used questionable legal tactics to prosecute people and corporations whose power, privilege, and position placed them infuriatingly above the law, I felt like you were successfully using a morally ambiguous character to point out a toxic imbalance in our society. For every Race Fail and Gender Fail episode -- and there were many, so very many -- I held on, feeling like your writers at the very least got that the law is meaningless if it doesn't apply to the most powerful in our society.

When Michael Cutter uses questionable legal tactics to steamroll impoverished people who appear to be (from an armchair diagnosis) mentally ill, I feel like you are using a jerk character who is less interested in trying to find some semblance of justice in a cruel world and more interested in pursuing a one-size-fits-all crusade to the top of the heap, disparity be damned. In addition to making the show hard to enjoy, I'm a little confused as to where the actual drama is supposed to be now -- should I weep for Goliath, that he must face a child with a sling?

Something I'm honestly curious about. Yours,
~ Ana

Narnia: Playful Animals, Platonic Allies

Content Note: Classist Language, War, Deformation, Disabilities

Narnia Recap: Aslan has been resurrected and has carried Susan and Lucy to the Witch's house. 

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, Chapter 16: What Happened With The Statues

   "WHAT AN EXTRAORDINARY PLACE!" cried Lucy. "All those stone animals -- and people too! It's -- it's like a museum."
   "Hush," said Susan, "Aslan's doing something."

Deals: Robin Hobb Dragon Book

The US Kindle Daily Deal today is a Robin Hobb dragon book! I've not read Robin Hobb! But Husband has and he likes all her books! Keep in mind that Husband tends to have equal-and-opposite tastes from me in all things fiction! So there's that! But still I thought I'd pass it along! With exclamation points!!

Open Thread: Classics and Me

Dear World,

I can no longer hold this inside: I've been re-reading some classics lately and been astonishingly disappointed at what feels like very dated literary techniques, particularly when it comes to characterization. It's not that I can't see how these books blazed a trail and laid foundations and whatnot, it's just that I can't read them and enjoy them because I am spoiled with newer, better written books now.

I feel horrible admitting that.

I tried to read Jules Verne's "Journey to the Center of the Earth" last year, having fond memories of the abridged version as a child. I was gobsmacked at how dreadful the writing was in the B&N Classics translation. There is almost no action, and the entire novel seems consumed with proving that no, really, this is totally possible. I don't care. Get on with it. The hired servant they bring along for the trip is a cavalcade of race/nationality fail, given that he's willing to go forth into certain doom even after it becomes clear that his employer is a suicidal stubborn fool, because he needs the money for his family. Pro-tip, Bob: if you die in the center of the earth, your family doesn't get the wages you've been lugging around. And the characters are criminally stupid, doing things like taking months worth of food, but only days worth of water because they're sure to find natural springs! And they climb down a precipice by doubling a rope, sliding down to a ledge, shaking down the rope, and continuing on. How are you going to get back up? Never mind, I don't care. Have a nice death, annoying characters. And lest you think me harsh, this is after the main protagonist forcibly detains and starves his household servants for a week because no one is allowed to eat until he works out the solution to a puzzle. Isn't he charming?

I also tried to re-read Mark Twain's "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" last year and while I think it works great as a parody of American values, I also think the reader is being asked to forgive a lot of turgid prose and questionable characterization on the part of the Arthurian characters. I got past that by deciding that they are parodies of the American view of Arthurian characters, but I had to strain my "benefit of the doubt" brain-muscle a few times. Ouch. I do love the concept, though. And the whole "Americans pollute the world because they worship industry at the cost of all other considerations" theme is something that resonates with me. So I guess that one was alright, but I didn't love it.

Now I'm listening to Ray Bradbury's "Something Wicked This Way Comes" and marveling at how apparently it was once considered appropriate narrative technique to "characterize" children by having the parent monologue at the reader about how one boy is reckless and the other boy is plucky for something like thirty minutes worth of spoken reading. Like, really? Just tell me that in one sentence and move on with the story, please, I believe you. Heck, name them that way, since I've already lost track of which one is the reckless one and which one is the plucky one because at the 20-minute monologue mark my brain decided to crawl out of my ears and whimper quietly around my feet.

Bah. I'm giving up and listening to "Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters" again instead. So clearly I fail classical appreciation studies. I'm not giving back my degree in English, though.

I had to get that off my chest. Yours,
~ Ana

Tropes: Back Tattoos and Living Paper

Dear Hollywood,

I would like to point out that when someone tattoos a map or vital research on someone else's back -- usually a woman, more often than not their daughter -- you are basically having the woman submit to a relatively painful procedure in order to carry information that she will never be able to use for herself, at least not without the help of another person and/or an awful lot of mirrors. And I'm not saying that I wouldn't submit to a procedure like that if I thought it was truly necessary, but I am saying I wish you would acknowledge within the text that the woman agreeing to be Living Parchment Paper MacGuffin seems to be getting the seriously short end of the stick in this arrangement.

Something to think about. Yours,
~ Ana

Recommends: Literary First Sentences

As part of an experimental "Ana should link out to the larger internet from time to time", I'd like to do a weekly Sunday reblog of something that caught my eye over the week and/or the occasional self-promotion. (This also saves ya'll from random OMG MUST REBLOG NOW impulses when they grip me.)

Self-promotions will be limited in number and marked as such; Recommends will be reblogs and the like. Readers are not just encouraged to post recommendations and self-promotions, they are highly encouraged to do so. Don't be shy -- tell us what you've been writing / reading this week!

We'll see how well this works out, seeing that it's caught between the tension of "can't write the posts in advance so Real Life can interfere" and "what if I miss something awesome and I hurt feelings". (I follow all the blogs on the Blog Bounce, but I get out-of-date frequently.)

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So in the spirit of blog bouncing and reblogging and sharing, have you seen this:

Kit Whitfield on Five Children and It by Edith Nesbit

I love Kit's one-sentence deconstructions. They combine all the awesomeness of a deconstruction with the freedom to move to a new book the next week. They're in-depth and thought-provoking, and each and every one of them makes me want to dash off and read (or re-read, as the case may be) the book in question. So they're actually horrible for my To-Read list, but in a lovely, lovely way. *grins*

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Recommends threads are Open Threads where I highly encourage promotion and self-promotion and cross-linking. What have you read or written this week? Please share!

Twilight: Bad Thoughts... Bad People?

Content Note: Death, Murder

Twilight Recap: Bella has been carried by Edward to the nurse's office after nearly fainting in Biology class.

Twilight, Chapter 5: Blood Type

   "You were right," I moaned, letting my eyes close.
   "I usually am -- but about what in particular this time?"
   "Ditching is healthy." I practiced breathing evenly.

I quote this exchange for two reasons.

Open Thread: Propaganda and the Theories that Drive It

Something came to me this week in email that I'd like to share with the rest of the blog. The video below has to do with the current political situation in Hungary, of which there is a huge link round-up here.

Email quoted below.

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Description of video below the cut, in case you want to watch without the translation first.



Feminism: Why Your Well-Intentioned Advice Was Called 'Victim-Blaming'

Ana's Note: This post was initially written in response to the If I Were A Poor Black Kid article in Forbes, and then edited to be applied more broadly. Please feel free to circulate as appropriate.

[Content Note: Rape, Racism, Victim-Blaming]

Hi! Welcome.

I know why you're here. You wrote something, or said something, that was entirely well-intentioned and meant to be helpful, meaningful advice to a group that you fully realized and recognized as unfairly oppressed, and then someone told you that what you said or wrote was "victim-blaming". And now you're confused, and possibly a little hurt.

Author Interview: Ada Avery on "Star Child"

Ana: Today we have Ada Avery introducing their novel, "Star Child". I haven't read this book myself, but Ada was kind enough to agree to guest blog about their book to any readers who might be interested in Paranormal Thrillers. Ada, how would you describe your novel to your prospective readers? In broad terms, what is your novel about?

Ada: "Star Child" is the story of a street-wise, single mom who finds help from a troubled ex-Marine when mysterious Men in Black kidnap her seven-year-old daughter. A government-alien conspiracy to replace humans with genetically altered hybrids is discovered. This story is a fast-paced paranormal thriller with suspense and action.

Ana: What themes does your novel explore and what do you hope the reader will take away from the experience? Is there a particular feeling or experience that you hope to evoke in the reader? Essentially, do you hope your novel will mean to a reader?

Ada: The strange and creepy phenomenon of children with black eyes. Also, memory-erasing drugs to treat mental ailments and post-traumatic stress disorder and the whole ethical dilemma. The troubled characters in the story are unable to move on in their lives because of traumatic events and relationship baggage. So if their memories are erased, will they be able to put the past behind them?

Ana: What prompted you to write this novel and did you have a specific inspiration in mind? Were you influenced by a certain author or work that inspired you to add your voice to this genre? Besides the boatloads of money and rockstar fame, what motivated you to write this book?

Ada: Throughout my life, I've always been fascinated by unexplained mysteries, legends or unusual, true stories. UFOs, Bigfoot, Aliens, Ghosts, Crop Circles. Since I was a child, I have experienced paranormal events myself. When I read the story about American journalist Brian Bethel’s encounter of children with black eyes, it really intrigued me.

I have so much respect for Stephen King. His work was initially rejected and he has gone through so much on a personal level but never gave up. Today, he is a bestselling, award-winning author of horror, suspense, science fiction and fantasy. His books have sold more than 350 million copies and many of them have been adapted into feature films and television movies.

Ana: If you could compare your novel to any other existing works, which ones would it be and why? If the one thing you could say to a prospective reader was, "If you like X, you'll love my book!", which work would be invoked so that a reader could judge whether or not your novel is their cup of tea?

Ada: I would say my style of writing is maybe in the vein of Stephen King or M. Knight Shalayman. I create characters that are culturally-diverse and speak believable, gritty dialogue. My endings are somewhat unpredictable because in real life, not all stories have a happy ending. I think readers will be able to relate to the interesting characters and and feel connected.

Ana: Is this your first or only published work, or have you published other novels? If you have published other novels, how do they compare to this one? Do you have any more novels planned, either as a follow-up to this one, or as a completely different novel or genre?

Ada: Star Child is my first published ebook. The self-published paperback will be released on Amazon in early 2012. I have also written a dark, historical epic similar to Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. I am always inspired by a great romance that endures some sort of personal tragedy or dark historical event.

Ana: Where can readers obtain a copy of your novel for them to enjoy? How can they contact you with any thoughts or questions? And do you have a means by which they can "sign up" to be notified when your next novel comes available?

Ada: Star Child is available at Amazon.com for 99 cents. You can also go to my official website to leave a comment in my Guestbook or learn more about me or you can email me at ada.avery11@gmail.com. I am also on Facebook.

Ana: Thank you, Ada. I understand you have the first chapter of your novel available as an excerpt for interested readers? And is there anything else you wish to add for our readers?

Ada: I appreciate and respect all comments and reviews from my readers. If you enjoy Star Child, I ask that readers please email their friends, family and co-workers and mention the ebook on all their blogs and social media. I would like to eventually publish all my ebooks as a paperback by demand through Lightening Source (a partner of Amazon) and then sell the rights to the original screenplays.

Here is the link to read the first chapter from "Star Child" on Amazon; Click on the "Look Inside" located on the book cover.

Deals: Settlers of Catan

This is a real book in the real world and I am buying it for Husband right now.


(For those not in the "Euro Game" phenomena, this is a board game.)

Open Thread: Ellipses

I just got my manuscript from my editor, who is awesome, but is also Irish. So I'm keeping an eye on UK English / US English differences and one thing that leaped out at me was... ellipses!!

I notice that she's changed my ellipses from this... to this ... like, with a space between the preceding word and the ellipses. I did not know that! Funny enough, Wikipedia says that I'm also supposed to be using spaces between the dots. Like . . . this.

What are you used to? I'm genuinely curious now.

Claymore: Fighting Evil, Becoming Evil

Content Note: Intense Torture, Strong Violence, Sexualized Violence

Claymore Recap: Clare has stumbled into a hunt for an Awakened Being and now hopes to rescue the captive Claymore. This is the second episode of the Riful arc.

Claymore, Episode 16: The Witch's Maw, Part 2

Reaching back into Episode 15, we follow Clare on the road as she walks towards the nest of the Awakened Being. She is accosted by a group of low-level yoma and her suspicion is piqued: yoma rarely fight in such a coordinated style, and they've clearly been studying Claymore and learning their tactics. This is surprisingly organized of them.

Reblog: Chris' Universal Lord's Prayer

If you haven't read Chris the Cynic's post on the Lord's Prayer and its universality, you are missing out on so many layers of awesome. It's insightful wrapped in hilarious and dipped in awesome-sauce, almost like how I imagine a banana wrapped in bacon and then fried in butter and doused in chocolate would taste. Hypothetically.

Twilight: Doctors, Nurses, and Patients

Content Note: Medical Professionals, Classism, Privilege, Mockery

Twilight Recap: Bella is being carried by Edward to the nurse's office after nearly fainting in Biology class.

Twilight, Chapter 5: Blood Type

   "So you faint at the sight of blood?" he asked. This seemed to entertain him.
   I didn't answer. I closed my eyes again and fought the nausea with all my strength, clamping my lips together.
   "And not even your own blood," he continued, enjoying himself.

Open Thread: I Get It Now!

I have always been confused by Carly Simon's song "You're So Vain", as the lyrics seemed contradictory to me. As you will no doubt remember, the song goes:

You're so vain, 
you probably think this song is about you.

This always confused me because the song is about him, and surely him recognizing it as such wouldn't be a symptom of vanity so much as awareness of the identifying details in the song (apricot scarves, horses, etc.). (This is, of course, assuming that the identifying details are genuine and not made up -- if they are made up and he still recognizes the song as about him, that still strikes me as a kind of awareness, just not the same kind.)

However! I finally realized tonight that the trick lies in seeing that the song may be "about" him, but it is not "About" him. Capital-About. The song is About her hurt and pain after being abused by him, and her disgust at his own ego and self-importance. For him to miss all that and just think the song is about himself, his apricot scarf, his horse, his incredible awesomeness, and -- oh yeah -- some girl he dated, is to totally miss the forest for all those pretty trees.

Right? Please tell me I've finally cracked the code. It's been bugging me for years.

(I also don't understand "Come On Down To My Boat, Baby". Is she really "tied to the dock / and can't get free"?? I mean there's a line about "cut that rope", so... o.O)

OPEN THREAD BELOW! Which songs baffle you?

Disability: No, You Probably Aren't (and other thoughts on the Zombie Apocalypse)

[Content Note: Disabilities, Violence, Zombies, Apocalypses, Pregnancy/Abortion]

Are you prepared for the zombie apocalypse?

You don't have to answer that, because I can already tell you that, no, you probably aren't. Oh, you may know in a loose, vaguely defined sense what you need to do and have and be in order to be prepared for the zombie apocalypse, but this isn't G.I. Joe and knowing isn't half the battle. It's not even a quarter of the battle.

Of course, be fair, it's possible that you've been training night and day for the collapse of civilization. It's possible that you have been blessed with genes that ensure you never get sick and never need so much as a flu shot. It's possible that you're capable of walking for miles and sprinting over moderate distances to safety without pulling a muscle or straining yourself or tripping and breaking a leg. It's possible that you're a crack shot with your weapon of choice and additionally well trained in physical combat and escaping holds.

Open Thread: Research Question

Alright, you wonderful people, I need help with something.

I'm writing a secondary character right now set in our Real World, and I want them to have a "go to the office every day" job that revolves around editing other people's writing in exchange for money. I'd also like at least some of the editing to be basic typo-checking stuff that the character could charitably outsource to a working-from-home pregnant teen -- either above or below the table, but I'd prefer above.

Having had zero experience as a professional editor, I'm not sure what kind of job -- if any -- exists to fill this literary gap. Suggestions/help welcome.

Author Interview: Piso Mojado on "If You Like To Laugh"

Ana: Today we have Piso Mojado introducing his volume of verse, "If You Like to Laugh". I haven't read this book myself, but Piso was kind enough to agree to guest blog about his book to any readers who might be interested in the subject. Piso, how would you describe your novel to your prospective readers? In broad terms, what is your novel about?

Piso: "If You Like to Laugh" is a book of mostly light verse in which I've included some poems that also address some thought-provoking themes. For instance, this is the complete text of my tribute to "Michelle":

The bush drags behind her,
Covers her steps in the snow.
Does she feel where she came from
No person should know?

Silent as daybreak,
But a smile in her eyes
She hints every second
Lives a second, then dies.

Is she being a schoolgirl,
Or feeling the Whole,
Precociously proving
A child's sense of her soul?

I recall being seven
And hiking the wood.
I'd have walked with no footsteps
If only I could.

Michelle would be trackless.
Perhaps I should be, too.
Is it a weakness of humans
To leave nothing brand new?
I want to supply my readers with a diverse variety of humor. If "serious humorist" is not an oxymoron, then I would like this description to define my goal.

Ana: What does your novel explore and what do you hope the reader will take away from the experience? Is there a particular feeling or experience that you hope to evoke in the reader? Essentially, what do you hope your novel will mean to a reader?

Piso: If someone reads any one of my books and walks away from the experience feeling better than when she or he began the volume, then I feel I have succeeded as an artist. I have four volumes of verse entitled "If You Like To Laugh" and, in a phrase, this summarizes the type of reader I hope to attract. I do believe there are many levels of meaning in much of what I write and this increases the humor.

I write very clean humor. I never use obscenities or sexual double entendres, and I'm not interested in any kind of cruel humor or "us-versus-them" humor, even when I write satire. I would recommend my books to any age group from junior high school reader to senior citizen. I am sometimes tempted to add random sixes to some of my books, though. If anyone asks their significance, I'll explain there is none. I've been told, though, that meaningless six really boosts book sales.

My volumes are very accessible, although sometimes a book will include a verse that requires, for instance, an acquaintance with a well-known Shakespearean quote. I began writing these books in the mid-1990's. They took a great deal of editing to get them to the kind of polish I myself demand. The poem might be easy to understand, but I hope no one regards anything I write as simple.

Ana: What prompted you to write this novel and did you have a specific inspiration in mind? Were you influenced by a certain author or work that inspired you to add your voice to this genre? Besides the boatloads of money and rockstar fame, what motivated you to write the book?

Piso: I wanted the applause. Before I converted my books to formats for the various e-readers, such as those of Apple, Barnes and Noble, Sony, Amazon Books, Diesel, Scrollmotion, I did months of research. I knew I should have very modest expectations for the number of readers I would interest. That did not deter me at all. I worked two full-time jobs and one part-time job simultaneously not long ago. I'm not dependent on my ebook earnings. It would be nice to sell a million copies of "If You Like To Laugh", though.

What authors influenced me? I did at one time begin advertisements for some of my ebooks with "Dostoevsky, Hemingway, Frost...and now Piso Mojado!" None of your blog readers should take that boast at face value. Which of these famous historical authors depends on the yellow-and-black "Piso Mojado" signs posted every time a floor is mopped in America? Would Shakespeare solicit such publicity?

Ana: If you could compare your novel to any other existing works, which ones would it be and why? If the one thing you could say to a prospective reader was, "If you like X, you'll love my work!", which work would be invoked so that a reader could judge whether or not your novel is their cup of tea?

Piso: I don't know anyone that writes my type of books. One person compared me to Robert Frost; another told me he enjoyed my verse, but that it was "quirky" Each of the four volumes in the "If You Like To Laugh" series addresses at least nineteen subjects each. There's no unifying theme in any of my "If You Like To Laugh" books, and I planned them that way. I know of no one that writes that way. I'm the Jackson Pollack of the humor genre. If you really want to devastate a serious writer, though, compare them to me in your review.

Ana: Is this your first or only published work, or have you published other novels? If you have published other novels, how do they compare to this one? Do you have any more novels planned, either as a follow-up to this one, or as a completely different novel or genre?

Piso: I am fascinated by the tragedy of Doctor Ignaz Semmelweis. I do not have the time right now to even do the research for this book, let alone write and rewrite and rewrite this novel. I have several humorous short stories planned, and perhaps a fifth volume in the "If You Like To Laugh" series. I've just published a trio of "canine-centric" stories: "The dog that moo-ed", "The dog who sighed", and "The dog who cried, 'Woof"". I would really love to have feedback on these books.

Ana: Where can readers obtain a copy of your novel for them to enjoy? How can they contact you with any thoughts or questions? And do you have a means by which they can "sign up" to be notified when your next novel becomes available?

Piso: My ebooks and estories are available at estores for Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple, Sony, Diesel, Scrollmotion, and other e-retailers. I have sites at Goodreads, and Facebook. These four "If you like to laugh" Amazon links are very helpful because (in America) you can quickly "Look inside" to decide if you like my writing style.

"If You Like To Laugh, Volume 1"
"If You Like To Laugh, Volume 2"
"If You Like To Laugh, Volume 3"
"If You Like To Laugh, Volume 4"

Ana: Thank you, Piso. Is there anything you wish to add for our readers?

Piso: Several times in the years when I followed the self-addressed-stamped-envelope path for lesser-known authors, I received rejection notices for books that weren't mine. I joke that once I received one of Samuel Clement's works. That time, I returned the book with the note, "This time the rumors about my death are correct."

I want to thank you and your readers for encouraging the brave new world of e-publishing.

Metapost: Daily Deals for UK Folks!

Hey, all! So now there's an affiliate link at the bottom of the page to Amazon UK Daily Deals. w00t!

In theory, I'm an affiliate of Amazon UK now. I'm not quite sure how that affects my taxes, but that's something to work out with the lawyer. In the meantime, click to your hearts' content!

Narnia: The Resurrection of Aslan

Content Note: Death, Bondage, Scarring from Cat Scratches, Roughhousing

Narnia Recap: Aslan has been executed by the White Witch at the Stone Table. 

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, Chapter 15: Deep Magic From Before The Dawn Of Time

Well, you know what this Narnia deconstruction has been missing? Me being positive about the text, that's what. Brace yourselves, because I don't think I have anything negative to say about this chapter.

Deals: Left Behind

ALERT! ALERT! ALERT!

Left Behind is free in the US Kindle store.

Deals: Southern Biscuits

I've no idea if this book is any good, but it's been $9 and on my wish list for forever and it's today dropped to $1.99. I can confirm that it has color pictures in it.


I hope the recipes are as tasty as the picture looks.