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December 2014
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Yuletide Ravensblood Vignette

To save us all from Satan’s power
When we are gone astray.

Raven didn’t believe in a being of absolute evil, but evil itself he believed in. Had lived with it, had lived under William, for far too long.

And still, somehow, had found his way back to the light. He believed in evil, yes, but he believed in redemption as well.

He was not religious, and he had no particular sentimental attachment to Christmas carols. There had been little enough comfort and joy growing up a Ravenscroft. Neither Cassandra nor Ana were Christian, but apparently Ana’s mother had been, which explained the Christmas carols playing softly from the stereo as he and Cassandra sat on Ana’s sofa, sipping the sweet spice of mulled wine after a particularly fine Yule eve meal, listening to Ana reminisce about when she and Cassandra’s father were young. The charmed lights on the Yule tree glimmered softly, sparking glints of silver from the draped tinsel.

Cassandra leaned against him, warm and soft at his side. Three-quarters of a year since she decided to give them another chance at a relationship, and it still seemed new and fragile, though she’d moved back in with him six months ago when the lease on her flat came up for renewal. A little over a year ago he was still a bad memory she was trying to live down.

Ana kept any misgivings she might have had to herself. Surely she must have misgivings—the last time he had been in a relationship with Cassandra, he had entered into it under false pretenses and, had she not been so clever and so strong-willed, it would have cost her her life. Though Raven had put that time past him, there were some things for which he’d never forgive himself.

Ana had orchestrated a means for him to win a pardon and return to society, but that didn’t necessarily mean she anticipated his return to Cassandra’s life. Yet she gave him a genuine smile as she refilled his glass, a smile that had to be for his benefit alone. Cassandra, snuggled against his shoulder, couldn’t see. For the first time in his life, he felt entirely safe and welcome and at peace. For the first time, he believed in the promise of the returning sun.

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

A/N: I closed with a different song snippet in the upcoming audio version because it worked better musically.

 

For more on the solstice, check out my guest blog today over at Here Be Magic!

 

Samhain-kitty checking in

Samhain-kitty here. I found writer-person’s old, intermittently-working laptop, so I can update her blog while she’s off doing whatever it is she does. Which, at the moment, involves recording an audio version of a Yuletide Ravensblood vignette. With music. And did I mention she’s doing outlining and prewrite on two new novels, while waiting for the edits to come back on the two that are coming out next year? (Any bets on whether the house is going to be cleaned in time for Yule?)

Anyway, I sneaked a peak at the manuscript for Raven’s Wing. There are no cats. Not a one. Not even the brief cameos that turned up in Ravensblood.

Worse yet there is a dog. A dog that looks like it could be the big brother of her friends’ black pit bull. The one she comes home smelling like after she’s been gone for huge blocks of time. (I’ve seen the beast on Facebook. I know she’s seeing other animals behind my back.)

OK, so the dog has a fairly brief mention, but still. . .
I may have to take some time to get over my righteous indignation before I can give an honest opinion of anything else in the book.

In the meantime, she has been updating Brother to the Wolf every weekend. For those of you who missed it, that’s the pagan-themed medieval fantasy novel she’s been putting up chapter-by-chapter on Wattpad. It’s not bad, if you can ignore the fact that there are dogs. (The arrows on the title line will let you toggle between chapters.)

http://www.wattpad.com/75796703-brother-to-the-wolf

Holding Up the Mirror: Wars and Why Fiction Matters

My guest blog at Here Be Magic is up! Includes links to songs I mentioned because I’m just that sort of blogger. http://www.herebemagic.blogspot.com/2014/11/holding-up-mirror-wars-and-why-fiction.html

WTF? Review of Doctor Who: Death in Heaven (SPOILERS)

SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS!
****READ AT YOUR OWN RISK*****

OK, I’ve been watching Doctor Who a long time, so when I say that this was the worst episode of the new series, and very possibly the worst ever, old or new, that’s saying something.

It has nothing to do with Capaldi. I think he’s a fabulous actor and makes a great Doctor. Up to this point, (and with the exception of Robots of Sherwood) I loved this season. I thought it was deep, thoughtful and very character-driven.

I have to admit that the Master’s gender change threw me for a loop. Yes, I know the possibility is cannon, but the Master was/is my favorite villain, and his previous incarnations seemed so aggressively masculine. But I decided that the problem may well be my own latent hetero-normative blinkers, and decided to give it a chance. After all, I’ve often said that they’ve always found the right Master to match the various incarnations of the Doctor. Pertwee and Delgado. Davison and Ainley. Tennant and Simm. (Yes, I know Ainley worked with other Doctors, but I’ve always considered him the Fifth Doctor’s Master. Even if it was fun to watch Ainley’s Master and the Sixth Doctor bicker, especially with commentary provided by the Rani.) I could easily see Missy and Twelve play well against each other, especially when they allowed her to be all dark and elegantly sinister, rather than just comic-book crazy.

As a very minor point, I think it’s somewhat silly, though, to have the Master change her name just because she has changed genders. After all, our society has finally progressed enough to finally call women in the acting professions ‘actors’, not ‘actresses.’ You would think that a society as advanced and as gender-fluid as the Time Lords would call a master a master, regardless of gender. During my very brief stint working in college theater, I greatly resented being called ‘Prop Mistress’ rather than ‘Props Master.’

I do think it’s kind of a cop-out that the first time they allow the Master and the Doctor to kiss is after the gender change. If they are going to give a nod to the fans’ suspicions of unresolved sexual tension between those two, damn it they should be brave enough to do it without the gender change. They have, after all, slipped into cannon the possibility that the Doctor plays for both teams. (From The Time of the Doctor: CLARA: So, I may have accidentally invented a boyfriend.
DOCTOR: Yeah, I did that once and there’s no easy way to get rid of an android.)

I was also a bit disappointed that, after the Master’s seeming reform at The End of Time that he’s back to being purely evil and more than slightly deranged. I know he will never be all sweetness and light, and we wouldn’t want him to be. But I could think of other, better ways to go with this character (filed under Reasons They Should Let Me Write for Doctor Who).

Anyway, by the time Death in Heaven showed, I had gotten over the surprise and was ready to give the new scenario the benefit of the doubt and enjoy the finale.

It had its good points. A lot of emotional poignancy, with Danny’s love for Clara overcoming his cyber conditioning, with both the Doctor and Missy seeming almost nostalgic for their former friendship. A bit of hitting the Doctor below the belt emotionally (they do that a lot this season) both with Missy’s ‘gift’ of an army and her comments that she and he are alike, as well as Danny hitting him (again) with the comparison between him and other ‘generals’ that fight from behind the lines.

It had bad points that I might have forgiven the way I forgave the rubber monsters and occasionally stilted dialogue of the original series. Making the Doctor the emergency ‘President of the World’ felt over-the-top to the point of farce, unnecessary to the plot, and far more unlikely than time-travelling police boxes and oversized dinosaurs in the Thames put together. (When in the history of humanity have the leaders of the entire world been able to agree on anything?) Flying cybermen? And that whole thing with liquidy-stuff making instant cybermen out of corpses? Were the writers vacationing in Amsterdam during the story conferences?
But then we reached the moment that made me wonder whether, despite his assertions of prior fandom, if Moffat had ever watched the old series. Or, for that matter, the new series. Because the Doctor Does. Not. Kill. In. Cold. Blood. Not even with provocation. Not even to save millions of lives in the future. He couldn’t even kill Davros. Didn’t want to destroy the Daleks at their genesis, knowing for certain what would happen if he didn’t.

The end of the Time War was not in cold blood. There was a battle raging, and it was an act of war.

The end of Planet of Fire might be the closest he came to cold blood. And yes, he did stand by and watch the Master burn, though the emotional difficulty of it was evident thanks to Davison’s brilliant acting. But he did what he did to prevent the Master from emerging as an eminently powerful super-being. He was not merely appointing himself as executioner for past and imagined future crimes.

This point is further supported by the end of Last of the Time Lords, when the Doctor stops Francine from killing him and says instead that he will take custody of him. When Lucy shoots him, the Doctor cradles him in his arms and begs him to regenerate. This is the Doctor we know and love. The man who believes in mercy and values life.
The Doctor we know does not shoot an unarmed person who is not an imminent threat to keep his companion’s hands free of blood. The Doctor we know stops his companion from killing and explains why killing in cold blood is wrong. Yes, it was the Brig who killed Missy in the end. But the Doctor did not protest and seemed about to do the deed himself.

Yes, this Doctor is more emotionally vulnerable to Clara than any other Doctor has been toward any other companion in the history of the series. In some ways, that opens possibilities for interesting narrative depth. But when the Doctor becomes so weak as to not stand up against cold-blooded murder, especially of someone he once called friend, someone who fairly recently (on the Time Lord sense of recently) saved his life at peril to his own, this ceases to be the Doctor at all.

My Schedule for Orycon 2014

Friday, 11/7
2 pm– Buy Your Unconscious Mind a Drink How to get your creative mind to talk to you. (Moderator)

5 pm—Getting Your First Professional Sale An author can struggle for months or years before achieving their first success, but even after writing their opus, they can be tripped up by a process which is both entirely new to them and yet critical to their success. This panel describes what an author may experience as they revel in their first success. (Moderator)

Saturday 11/8
10 am—The Fine Art of Description What makes purple prose purple? Are adjectives and adverbs really evil? How do pro writers describe something in vivid detail in the fewest words, and when can writers expand those descriptions? (Panelist)

11 am—Hold on to Your Reader The wrong word choices can throw your reader right out of the story. Learn how to maintain suspension of disbelief. (Moderator)

1 pm– Featured Author at the NIWA table in the dealer’s room.  Informal meet and greet, Q&A and signing.  Signed copies of my book will be available for sale at the table all weekend.

3 pm—Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading Join members of Broad Universe–an organization dedicated to women in genre fiction–for a whole bunch of really short readings crammed into one hour. (Reading)

5 pm—Urban Fantasy Made Real Increasingly, stories are being placed in modern times or locales but with fantasy elements to them. Whether it is wesen in Portland or vampires in Washington, how does one effectively blend these very different elements? Alternatively, what are some examples of how NOT to accomplish this? (Moderator)

7pm—Speeding Up Your Output Fast writing is not necessarily bad writing, and more words per day equals more stories for your readers. Discuss methods for upping your daily word count without sacrificing quality or your life. (Panelist)

Sunday 11/9

12 pm—Feedback Workshop Bring your questions, manuscripts, critiques, etc. A hands-on workshop on how to apply the feedback you get from readers, editors, writer’s workshops, critique groups, etc. (Panelist)

1:30 PM—Reading

Masks

In honor of the coming holiday, I blogged about masks and disguises in fiction–what makes them so compelling? Guest blog at Here Be Magic! http://www.herebemagic.blogspot.com/2014/10/masks.html

Upcoming Novel!

Samhain-kitty here. Writer-person is off at an Irish music session, so she won’t notice me on the computer. Well, someone has to update this blog, right?

Anyway, The Wild Rose Press has agreed to publish writer-person’s novel Where Light Meets Shadow (formerly Bright and Dark). It must be good, to have overcome the flaw of having no cats in it at all. Not one. I tried to stop her, really I did.

I’m sure she’ll tell you more about it closer to publication date.  Unless she’s very busy going to sessions and ceilis and leaving the work to her poor neglected cat.

Help the magic continue! Crowdsource campaign on to fund Raven’s Wing

OK, the long-promised (or long-threatened) fund-raising campaign for Raven’s Wing is up at Indiegogo. The manuscript just needs a pass with the freelance editor. Funds left over will go to promotion.

If you can’t afford to give the green energy (and believe me, I understand broke), please help by spreading the word via Facebook/Twitter/blogs.

And do check out the trailer. My friends at Otter Crossing Music custom-arranged and performed the music as their donation to the cause, and it is stunning.

Campaign is here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/raven-s-wing-sequel-to-award-winning-urban-fantasy/x/6321575

Cool Stuff Series: Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Environs

So the manuscript for Raven’s Wing is awaiting crowdsource funding to pay for the final edit (look for the Indiegogo campaign soon), so it’s time to return to the Cool Stuff blog series.

Today’s Cool Stuff topic is Ashland/Oregon Shakespeare Festival/Anne Hathaway B&B and Garden Suites, which has been on my mind since I wrote a scene where Cass and Raven reminisce about their visit to the same.
Yes, I know it’s barely within the parameters I set, as Ashland is about a four-and-a-half hour drive from Portland, longer if you’re like me and get bored easily with driving and keep finding excuses to stop. You could day-trip it—I’ve known people who have—but for the full experience I highly recommend taking a couple days (hence the addition of my favorite B&B to the blog entry.)

If you live anywhere in the Pacific Northwest, you have undoubtedly heard of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, but unless you’ve actually gone, you probably don’t fully grok how truly amazing it is. Nine months of plays, three theaters, including the seasonally open replica of the Globe itself. Shakespeare’s plays are, of course, remarkable in and of themselves. The actors, the sets, the costuming, are all top class. As is the directing, even if I may have a differing opinion of some of the directors’ interpretations. (A Winter’s Tale a few years back was absolutely amazing, taking the play from its one-dimensional, nearly-folktale interpretation many English teachers give it and taking it up to the level of a multi-faceted, realistic psychological drama. An interpretation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice done as a romantic comedy, not so much. And I could have done without Puck in fishnet, although many theater-goers enjoyed him.)

They do a varied selection of modern plays, as well, presented with an equal level of quality.

I usually organize my visit around a couple plays I really want to see, and then add one or two more that fit into my schedule. Often I find myself liking the ‘extras’ I threw in the best, so don’t hesitate to add a play you’ve never heard of.

Do take the backstage tour. It’s totally worth it.

Also take some time to check out the quirky little stores in the shopping district well within walking distance of the theater. Don’t be surprised if store clerks and wait staff engage you in a knowledgeable conversation about the plays, the productions, and past seasons. It’s part of the magic of the place (and experiencing a whole town so thoroughly dedicated to a long-dead writer gives the rest of us some hope.) You might even pass on the street one of the actors from the previous night’s play.

Don’t forget to take a wander through Lithia Park, a 93-acre park just behind the OSF complex. It boasts a Japanese garden, a formal rose garden, a century-old bridge and two duck ponds, but best of all it has acres and acres of woods so old you feel like you could come across Oberon courting Titania around the next bend. Though this part of the park is largely undeveloped, you will come across the occasional bench where you can sit a while and contemplate Ashland Creek as it rushes on its way.

Now, as I mentioned, there’s far more to Ashland and OSF than you can possibly do justice to in one day. I recommend eschewing boring hotels in favor of one of the many lovely, unique B & Bs in the area. With no slight meant to the many fine establishments I have not had the privilege of trying, let me suggest my favorite Ashland home-away-from-home, Anne Hathaway’s B & B and garden suites. An easy walk from the theater, this historic lodging house has lovely and fragrant gardens, and is uniquely furnished with bits and bobs brought home from world travels. The hospitality is above and beyond all expectation. The three-course breakfast includes house-made scones or muffins (if you are very lucky, you may encounter their ginger scones or gingerbread muffins, but every offering is a treat). The breakfast is huge. . .I rarely eat
lunch when I’m staying there. They also set out a small, informal afternoon tea and an after-theater snack including port, sherry and/or Irish cream.
The hosts are fellow alum from Penn State’s English program, and so are able to spark intelligent table conversation about the plays. Although it sounds like a cliché, they really do make every effort to make guests feel welcome, comfortable, and completely at ease. Fellow eco-geeks will appreciate the house’s efforts to run a ‘green’ business.
I haven’t been back in a few years due to budgetary constraints, but when checking out their website to see if there were any changes to note, I was amused and pleased to discover the addition of a list of unusual discounts offered. Among those who may qualify: Penn State alumni (I perked up at that); Peace Corps volunteers, staff and parents; left-handers; classroom teachers; anyone born in 1941.

If you go, tell Deedie and David I said ‘hi’!

Doctor Who: Deep Breath– A (mostly) spoiler-free review

Author’s note: Trying to avoid spoilers as much as possible, but am hesitant to declare anything spoiler-free as some people would consider it a spoiler if you mention that there is a dragon in The Hobbit. (Oops, sorry. Let the cat out of the bag on that one)

So, first impressions: Deep Breath blew my mind. Possibly the best Doctor Who episode ever, and this is coming from an obsessive life-long fan.

Surface stuff: My steampunk self was squeeing non-stop– Victorian London, scary automatons, all sorts of gears and levers and a hot-air balloon.

Great checking in with the Paternoster gang. Especially loved Vastra and wife quibbling like any other married couple. Not sure if Strax’s descriptions of the various regenerations made it to the network version (I went to the theater), but hearing the Sontaran take on the first 11-plus regenerations was hysterical.

Also, the creepiest episode I have ever seen, and all without any on-screen gore. And much of it written over the head of the wee ones (At least, I sincerely hope the wee ones don’t get the implication of what the hot air balloon was made of.)

Lovely bit of clever ambiguity in the end, with one question never quite answered.

Lots of great inside jokes for fans, and lots of Scottish jokes as well. (More squee)

On to the deeper stuff, and oh, sweet gods, is there a lot of depth. Perhaps the first regeneration story to realistically address what it must be like for the companions/friends of the Doctor when, hey-ho, it’s a brand new and different him. Also explores the true nature of love, be it romantic or otherwise. (To quote the bard, which no one in the ep did, but should have: ‘love is not love that alters when it alteration finds’). With perhaps a slight meta-comment about the loyalty (or lack thereof) of certain groups of fans.

We meet a Doctor that at once harkens back to the tough, ready-for-action, maybe even a tiny bit ruthless Doctor of the Pertwee era, and yet is in some ways the most vulnerable of them all.

The first episode with a new Doctor is always a bit scary to die-hard fans. If this season continues as it began, I, for one, am ready to fall even more deeply, hopelessly in love with the series.