Let's Play: One Way Heroics

Let's Play One Way Heroics by SmokingWOLF!

This is a first-impressions let's play of One Way Heroics and ohmigosh I never imagined I could like this sort of game! More more more? This is highly addictive, much like Slurm. I've just made a whole playlist for these. Warning: I'm having trouble with my sound. I'm fixing it, but.

Game content copyright SmokingWOLF.
SmokingWOLF
One Way Heroics

Music content copyright held by the following artists:
[BGM] soleil-musique
[BGM] WindSphere
[BGM] white music hall

Commentary content copyright Ana Mardoll.

Video under the cut, so as to prevent loading problems on the main page.

Let's Play: Knights of Pen and Paper

Let's Play Knights of Pen and Paper by Behold Studios!

This is a first-impressions "let's play" of Knights of Pen and Paper! I probably won't continue this one; I love the art, I love the concept, it just didn't grab my interest.

Game content copyright Behold Studios.
Behold Studios
Knights of Pen and Paper

Commentary content copyright Ana Mardoll.

Video under the cut, so as to prevent loading problems on the main page.

Self-Promotion: Poison Kiss on Kindle

I already have a pre-announcement up, but this post is to officially announce that my newest book, Poison Kiss, is available on Amazon Kindle (here!) (or, if you prefer, other various Amazon territories: US, UK, DE, FR, ES, IT, NL, JP, BR, GP, MX, AU, IN) and is soon-to-be available elsewhere. I'm going to use this post to promote it and pin a few places, so here we go!


Rose awakens in a fairytale land, stripped of her memories and any sense of self she might once have possessed. Facing a short life of brutal servitude as one of the May Queen's executioners, she chooses instead a reckless dash for freedom alongside her sister-captive, Lavender. Yet even if the two women manage to flee the otherworld to return earthside, they may never be safe from the reach of cruel faeries who seek to use them as pawns in a deadly game.

When a strange silver man calling himself Clarent unexpectedly dumps out onto the doorstep of their apartment, Rose and Lavender will work together with a diverse community of survivors in order to stay alive and free. Through the magical dangers that assault them on all sides, Rose must navigate the struggles brought on by her painful past while contending with the difficulty of forging an intimate relationship with the two people who love her most when her very body is lethal.


Frequently Asked Questions!

Why does the Kindle preview have garbage formatting?

I am sorry about that. There is a known problem with the rendering of the preview page; the Amazon site-maintenance elves were given socks by Jeff Bezos some years back, left the office, and were never heard from again. Here's a picture of what it will actually look like on your Kindle, and I've tested the formatting extensively across multiple Kindle platforms.


When will your book be available on other electronic platforms?

The plan is to have it up on the other major bookselling sites in three months. Barnes & Noble (Nook) is first because they aren't too terribly hard to upload to, but anything I do through Smashwords (Apple, Kobo, etc.) is a nightmare. Smashwords still prefers its authors to upload a Word document instead of a nice clean epub file and that's a big headache. I may need to get professional help for that part.

When will your book be available in paper format?

Possibly never? A paper version will depend heavily on demand, since the upfront costs are pretty high. (Including special page formatting + more artwork for the back cover.) If enough people show interest, I could maybe hold a Kickstarter. I will definitely keep my mind on the possibility!

Will there be an audio book version?

That's the current plan! I'm vetting voice actresses and keeping my ear open. (I would use my Pulchritude narrator but while her voice is like a golden bell, I am looking for an American actress this time.) If you are a woman of color (preferably black or Jewish or both, but I am open to others) who has experience with voice performance and is interested in working for indie wages, please let me know?

Is this book part of a series?

Yes! I have already started the next one; I hope it will be out in a year.

Is this book related to Pulchritude?

No! This is a brand-new series set in modern-day Texas with paranormal magical elements.

Okay, setting the product page description aside, tell me what you like about your novel, Ana.

I'm so glad you asked, imaginary voice in my head!

Poison Kiss is a paranormal romance story with three main characters I adore, but it's also about a community of survivors banding together to protect each other. I love stories about communities; there's nothing wrong with lone-wolf characters, but I've always been more interested in the dynamics of cooperation and coordination--and especially in situations where everyone brings a wide variety of talents and powers into the mix. That interest is probably why I liked Xanth so much as a kid, and why I'll always hold a soft spot in my heart for X-Men.

I'm also thrilled by how diverse this fictional community is. There are eighteen named community members in this book, and precisely none of them are [white + cis + straight + male]. And I didn't even do that on purpose! There's a lot of women of different ages, ethnicities, and body types. There's genderqueer folks and a trans man. There's gay, lesbian, and bisexual people, many of whom are polyamorous. The protagonist, Rose, is a bisexual polyamorous biracial black Jewish woman who is a rape survivor (as part of her backstory; mentioned but not shown directly on-page) who lives with depression and post traumatic stress disorder. Yet this isn't a story which is capital-a About her identities; she just happens to be attracted to girls (just like I am!) while paranormal fantasy shit is going down around her (just like I would be!).

I don't know if I can read a novel that doesn't have a white cis straight man in it, Ana.

There is a white cis dude! He's just not straight. There's also a cis straight man who isn't white. Maybe you can sorta average them out and round up!

You mentioned 'rape survivor'. Is this book going to trigger people?

I hope not! I don't think so? The setting and backdrop of the story is admittedly grim, as this is a story about humans who have been kidnapped by cruel and mercurial faeries to serve as labor, entertainment, and food. At the same time, there's a deliberate fluffiness to the tone that I've worked hard to cultivate and maintain. I've always felt like it should be possible to write about grimdark subjects in a manner that isn't super triggering, and I hope that I've achieved that here. As a rape survivor myself, I want to see protagonists who are like me and deal with the same challenges without the story needing to be A Very Special Episode about sexual assault.

As we are nearing a holiday gift-giving time, I would like to buy this book for my doting silver-haired grandpapa, but I am not sure if he would like it. Is there swears?

There are indeed some swears, I do apologize. There is also a M/F/F sex scene that was hilariously difficult for my shy self to write and edit, but which is probably the most tame M/F/F sex scene anyone has ever created. Though it did spawn a delightfully lively conversation regarding the appropriate words for 'clitoris'. Kristy kept me from using anything egregiously awful, for which I think we can all be grateful.

Does this have a happy ending? You've broken my heart before, Ana.

I know, and I'm sorry. This book does indeed have a better ending than Pulchritude, or I wouldn't call it capital-R Romance.

Is there anything I can do to help promote your work? 

Um, it sounds trite but... buy my book? If you've done that already and want to go above and beyond, I love it when people find time to read my books. (No small task, I know; I, too, have a terrifyingly long To-Be-Read list.) And if you've read it and you liked it and wanted to review my book on Amazon or elsewhere, that would be amazing because it really does make a difference for new readers who haven't heard of me before.

Other than that... be kind to yourself and know that I love ya'll.

Open Thread: Remnants of the Old City


Portland was once a city of cobblestone.  Some areas have been left that way for historical or aesthetic purposes, but mostly you only see it when a road needs to be resurfaced.  Resurfacing a road properly, you see, requires stripping off the old surface to make a level thing from which to start and to prevent the road from growing thicker and thicker each time the surface needs to be redone. Between when the old surface is stripped and the new one laid down, the cobblestone and the trolley tracks come out to play.

Sometimes, though, the old city forces itself in to the present on its own.  Thus Calvinism the above.

-

Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

Self-Promotion: Pre-Announcement Announcement

So. Okay. Deep breath.

I have published a book! (Okay, yes, another one.)

I wanted to hold off on the announcement until I had a chance to check the Kindle upload, (and I've ALREADY uploaded a minor correction that Amazon has to stew at for 72 hours (lolsob)) so unless you just need it RIGHT NOW, I recommend waiting until Monday (DON'T WORRY I'LL REMIND YOU) to buy. (Though, I mean, it's a minor added sentence and also you probably have updates automatically enabled, so it's OKAY to go ahead.)

BUT if you are in need of a book on Thanksgiving (and I FEEL YOU SO HARD if you do), this MASTERPIECE exists:


Also, I will totally have a BIGGER AND BETTER announcement later, including how to get non-kindle versions. It's just that I have to do everything in tiny little ripple waves (while also making a mac-and-cheese dish to take to Thanksgiving.) :)

---
Update: Oh, wow, my final edit is already live (THANKS AMAZON!) and therefore you can buy my awesome book now and read it while eating turkey and pie. 

Open Thread: Impressions of Leaves


And then chris the cynic remembered it was Friday.

I considered various names for this.  "Leafprints" sounded too much like an intentional process ("What are you doing?" "Making prints of leaves") and "Echoes of Leaves" might be mixing the visual and auditory in a way that's a bit over poetical.  Don't remember the other contenders.

-

Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

Repost: By The Power Of Jell-O!

[Ana's Note: By popular demand, this is a re-post of an old deconstruction, partly to have content while I struggle with my ongoing disability challenges and partly so that newcomers can comment on old conversations.

The original post is here. I have not edited the content. I do have stronger feelings now (as opposed to then) about the use of food in this series and the way in which Good English Fare is contrasted with foreign fripperies.]



Narnia Recap: Edmund has followed Lucy into the wardrobe and found himself lost and alone in the magical land of Narnia. Edmund calls for Lucy, but thanks to Narnia Time, she has been in the world long enough to leave the immediate area of the portal. A woman riding in an expensive sleigh pulls up and introduces herself to Edmund as the Queen of Narnia; she demands to know what Edmund is.

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, Chapter 4: Turkish Delight

   "My poor child," she said in quite a different voice, "how cold you look! Come and sit with me here on the sledge and I will put my mantle round you and we will talk."
Edmund did not like this arrangement at all but he dared not disobey; he stepped onto the sledge and sat at her feet, and she put a fold of her fur mantle round him and tucked it well in. [...]
   The Queen took from somewhere among her wrappings a very small bottle which looked as if it were made of copper. Then, holding out her arm, she let one drop fall from it onto the snow beside the sledge. Edmund saw the drop for a second in mid-air, shining like a diamond. But the moment it touched the snow there was a hissing sound and there stood a jeweled cup full of something that steamed. [...]
   "It is dull, Son of Adam, to drink without eating," said the Queen presently. "What would you like best to eat?"
   "Turkish Delight, please, your Majesty," said Edmund.
   The Queen let another drop fall from her bottle onto the snow, and instantly there appeared a round box, tied with green silk ribbon, which, when opened, turned out to contain several pounds of the best Turkish Delight. Each piece was sweet and light to the very center and Edmund had never tasted anything more delicious. He was quite warm now, and very comfortable.

Open Thread: Iridescent Tiles


Behind the soda machine at a fast food place are wondrous tiles that shimmer in various bright shiny colors as you move.  They never look the same way twice.

-

Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

Open Thread: Orange


Orange leaves, easy to find at this point in time and space, also some red and yellow.

-

Saturday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us , so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

Narnia: A Fine Race for Their Lives

[Narnia Content Note: Racism, Violence, PTSD]

Narnia Recap: Shasta and Bree have escaped into the night.

Obligatory note about racism, intent, and Lewis is here.

The Horse and His Boy, Chapter 2: A Wayside Adventure

Chapter 2 is one of those chapters that isn't precisely wrong but isn't right at all for me. The thing is, we finally get to meet Aravis (yay!), we get a very decent point about human/Animal interactions (yay!), and the narrative keeps up a much faster pace than in previous books (yay!). The problems are that the means by which Lewis and Aslan choose to introduce Aravis is basically the worst most assholish way (boo!), the human/Animal interactions stuff is fraught with sexism (boo!), and the narrative... isn't my cup of tea.

I give this chapter a B- and we move on.

No?

Okay, okay. ;) Let's go through it together.

   IT WAS NEARLY NOON ON THE FOLLOWING day when Shasta was wakened by something warm and soft moving over his face. He opened his eyes and found himself staring into the long face of a horse; its nose and lips were almost touching his. He remembered the exciting events of the previous night and sat up. But as he did so he groaned.
   “Ow, Bree,” he gasped. “I’m so sore. All over. I can hardly move.”
   “Good morning, small one,” said Bree. “I was afraid you might feel a bit stiff. It can’t be the falls. You didn’t have more than a dozen or so, and it was all lovely, soft springy turf that must have been almost a pleasure to fall on. And the only one that might have been nasty was broken by that gorse bush. No: it’s the riding itself that comes hard at first. What about breakfast? I’ve had mine.”

This isn't awful? I've always read it in an Unreliable Narrator voice, where Bree just flat out doesn't understand that falls hurt. So he's being wrong and insensitive here by acting like Shasta's falls must have been "a pleasure", but he's still gentle and trying. It's sorta sweet, and I will straight-up admit that it's a lot better done (imo) than the Puddleglum stuff. I deem this passage: Adequate.

Review: She Walks in Shadows

She Walks in ShadowsShe Walks in Shadows
by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

She Walks in Shadows / B014NLK4EI

SWiS out of Innsmouth Free Press is an all-woman Lovecraftian anthology of original stories and art, and it is a lovely addition to any library. I read it over Halloween, dragging myself out of a particularly nasty reading slump, and was delightfully terrified by several of the stories. (I never before thought I would be terrified of corn, ya'll. Corn.)

Let's get the warnings and shopper-caveats out of the way first.

1. As with any anthology, some of the stories are great and some of them are not as shiny. I read all of the stories for my review, but would caution most folks to go in with a mentality that if a particular story isn't working for you, skip it. Come back to it later if you must, or not at all if you prefer. It's fine. Don't force yourself to read something you don't enjoy; there's no book report after.

2. If you're coming straight from a Lovecraft "short story" reading binge, these new stories will feel VERY short indeed; it's interesting how the standard length for the genre has changed over time. In some cases, the shorter length seems detrimental to the story; there's not room to indulgently spread out in the same way HPL could and did in order to really build suspense and weave terror into the mundane. In other cases, the story itself doesn't suffer from its brevity but the reader may—"BUT WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!" was regularly shouted at my kindle. Again, this is standard for anthologies, but something to be aware of; I wish and hope that some of these authors can be commissioned again for fuller stories in this genre.

3. Speaking of HPL, these stories aren't just forays into the "weird tales" genre; most of them are straight-up Lovecraftian in that they reference ~actual~ HPL characters. If you aren't familiar with the lore, I believe you can still keep up (I did, even though there are a few HPL stories I've yet to read); if you ARE familiar with the lore, there is always the risk that tie-in mentions may feel a bit... twee? This is going to be super subjective to the reader, but I wanted to mention it. (And I do question the editorial decision to place both of the Asenath stories NEXT to each other; that was weird and jarring and one of those moments where you're reminded that all this is make-believe, which is detrimental to the atmosphere, in my opinion.)

4. On a more delicate topic: Trigger warnings. I don't really know how to warn for a book without treading into spoiler territory, but I don't think it's too far out of line to state that this is a VERY DARK horror anthology. Children (both born and unborn), pets, women, and old ladies fare particularly badly in many of the stories, and sometimes in graphic ways. Several of the stories deal with domestic abuse. As a survivor myself, I found the stories to be vibrantly terrifying and I enjoyed them, but do be aware of your triggers and practice self-care wherever you can. (Also, to fellow survivors: please remember that you are brave and amazing and wonderful. <3) 


Now for good things!

5. I won't review each of the stories individually, but quite a few of them rocked my world and left me wanting to cower under the covers. Violet Is The Color of Your Energy was horrifying in that special queasy-pit-in-your-stomach kind of way. De Deabus Minoribus Exterioris Theomagicae is ~amazing~ and I really need Jilly Dreadful to be commissioned to write all the things. Lavinia's Wood was a great pitch of creepy Lovecraftian evil. Chosen made me weep, as did Bitter Perfume and Eight Seconds, although I really wanted the latter two to be longer. The Eye of Juno was wonderful. And Provenance needs to be a full length novel and a movie and everything, because it was just so so good and wonderfully captures that Lovecraftian feeling of living out a mundane existence under a shadow of inescapable horror.

6. Wow, these stories are incredibly diverse, by the way! There are a lot of stories here about women of color, which is a very welcome addition to the Lovecraftian canon; another story includes a character who is either a gorgeous trans boy or a very dashing butch lesbian—either way, all the love to nu-Asenath in The Thing on The Cheerleading Squad. Older women are included here, as are women with various disabilities (including a woman who uses a wheelchair!). All of these characters are beautifully well-rounded and it's really wonderful to see an anthology which includes a wide variety of men and women, rather than sticking to the cis white men Lovecraft favored.

Caveat to #6: I am a white cis woman and there are going to be things that fly under my radar or which I find questionable yet am not qualified to comment on. One of the early stories uses the N-word in reference to the HPL cat; yes, the cat is a reference that readers will recognize, but I don't know that the actual word needed to be used. One of the stories is set within the framework of a plantation and which I am not qualified to review; another is about a white explorer who marries a much younger native guide. One of the stories talks about blonde hair and blue eyes as markers of a specific type of supernatural ancestry. In short, there are places where the authors are engaging with the world lore that we have courtesy of HPL, his rampant racism included, but I'm not always sure when that engagement is successful or not. I don't think this is a mark against the anthology but (again!) it's something to be aware of going into your purchase and it's something to be aware of regarding my own review.

Bottom-line: Should you buy this anthology? I'm glad I did! I definitely recommend it for the kindle price if you (a) like the weird tales genre, (b) don't mind Lovecraftian characters being name-dropped in your stories, and (c) won't be triggered by the deliciously horrific content herein. Also, supporting lady-authors and artists (especially diverse ones!) and independent press is always a good idea in my book.

~ Ana Mardoll


--- TABLE OF CONTENTS ---

Ammutseba Rising | Ann K. Schwader
Turn On the Light | Penelope Love
Bring the Moon to Me | Amelia Gorman
Violet is the Color of Your Energy | Nadia Bulkin
De Deabus Minoribus Exterioris Theomagicae | Jilly Dreadful
Lavinia's Wood | Angela Slatter
The Adventurer's Wife | Premee Mohamed
Lockbox | E. Catherine Tobler
Hairwork | Gemma Files
The Thing on The Cheerleading Squad | Molly Tanzer
Body to Body to Body | Selena Chambers
Magna Mater | Arinn Dembo
Chosen | Lyndsey Holder
Bitter Perfume | Laura Blackwell
Eight Seconds | Pandora Hope
The Eye of Juno | Eugenie Mora
Cthulhu of the Dead Sea | Inkeri Kontro
Notes Found in a Decommissioned Asylum, December 1961 | Sharon Mock
The Cypress God | Rodopi Sisamis
When She Quickens | Mary Turzillo
Queen of a New America | Wendy N. Wagner
The Opera Singer | Priya Sridhar
Shub-Niggurath's Witnesses | Valerie Valdes
Provenance | Benjanun Sriduangkaew
The Head of T'la-yub | Nelly Geraldine GarcĂ­a-Rosas (translated by Silvia Moreno-Garcia)

Open Thread: This time of year


Did I mention that I found my camera?  Anyway assuming I scheduled this right this will go up on All Souls Day, the last day of Allhallowtide.  The pumpkins are, of course, for the first day: Halloween.  Kind of difficult to talk about that without getting into fraught territory because of religious history, so just focus on the pretty carved gourds that were somewhere in the general vicinity of my neighborhood whenever I took that picture.

-

Monday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s behind us because my mind blanked last week, so give us something new to explore as we hop into our time machines and use all that weekendy time this was supposed to come before!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

Fundraising: Monthly Donation Reminder and Thank You

For those of you who have requested it, here is a monthly reminder to donate to Ramblings here and/or make sure to renew donation subscriptions that have lapsed. (Subscriptions can be canceled through Paypal at any time.) I want to reiterate that I don't want anyone to donate if that donation would create financial hardship for them! But if you can afford to donate, every little bit helps.

If you enjoy the open threads that Chris the Cynic posts for us, please consider donating to at Stealing Commas here. The open threads take a lot of spoons to write and format, and I am eternally grateful to Chris for donating time and attention in order to help our community grow and thrive. 

This is also my monthly heart-felt thank you to all of you who do donate now or in the past; I cannot strongly enough express my appreciation for those who have the ability to contribute and make the choice to donate to support this space. Thank you, thank you, thank you. When I started blogging in 2011, I never truly believed I would last this long. I love you all.

Cup Of Coffee by Petr Kratochvil