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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Lane Robins' LiveJournal:

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    Monday, August 4th, 2014
    11:35 pm
    Oh Teen Wolf
    One of the particular joys of Teen Wolf is that at the end of nearly every single episode (I'm sure there must be one or two that are flawless), I end up with a perfect example of some type of writing error.  I could use Teen Wolf to teach an entire class on plotting, and the usual pitfalls.

    Tonight?  So many.  But my favorite mash-up of writerly no-nos comes from a throwaway sort of scene.  Dr. Deaton, the all around vet/druid/mystic guru of Beacon Hills approaches his door, but Halt! A shadowy figure approaches!  Dr. Deaton reminds us he is a bad ass by baton fighting with his opponent! Who turns out to be an old friend of his--Satomi, the werewolf.

    So these are two old friends and there was never any threat but they got to look tough.  Which means that this is FALSE TENSION with a side order of COOL FOR THE SAKE OF COOL.  There is no reason she couldn't have just approached him, saying "Hello, Deaton, I need your help" but then we wouldn't have had a fun little fight scene.

    The bigger sin is that the next scene these two characters are in reveals that Satomi came for help with a desperately ill werewolf who is on the very brink of death.  So, COOL FOR THE SAKE OF COOL runs up against urgency (The trope of EVERY MINUTE COUNTS!) and becomes really damn stupid.  This werewolf leader who cares desperately about her dying packmate decides instead of saying, "Hey Deaton, urgent medical call. I've got a dying werewolf who needs help." she's going to sneak up on him and they're going to play games.  Cool games.  To remind us they're bad ass.

    (You know what's bad ass?  Not playing games when your friend's life is on the line. Just saying.)

    It's especially egregious when Deaton then takes them all to the local hospital and the man dies just as the nurse is about to start work on him.  Apparently, seconds really mattered.  You know, maybe she should have given him a call before she showed up. It was after hours; she was lucky he was there in the first place.

    But it's all all right, because his autopsy reveals the truth and lets them figure out what's plaguing the more important characters.

    (It's not all right, because really, even nameless characters' deaths should be a clean part of the plot.)

    (I still love the show, god help me.)
    Monday, March 3rd, 2014
    8:12 pm
    Books read in February
    Not a whole lot read this month.  Just ran out of time and interest.  When it's this cold, mostly what I want to do is curl up and sleep during my free time.  Freaking winter.  One day, I'm going to get organized enough to flee south during February.  Of course, the year I choose to do that, we'll have another snowpocalypse, and all the airplanes will be grounded.  

    So I poked through a few books, and mostly was cranky about all of them.  February's that kind of month.  I'm extremely hard to please.

    I slowly picked my way through VICTORIAN MURDERS - Major Arthur Griffiths.  It's not really a book.  It's mostly just a listing of cases that a turn of the century police man dealt with or heard about.  I found it more interesting for the period tones than for the contents.

    UNFORGIVABLE – Laura Griffin.  A thriller that hit some of my least favorite notes--expert jeopardizing her job--but I liked it well enough to pick up a couple other of her books.

    TWISTED - Laura Griffin.  Another thriller.  This one I liked primarily for the heroine's struggle with her job, with gaining and keeping respect as a newbie to the FBI.  Was it realistic?  Nope.  But entertaining.

    THE CROSSING PLACES - Elly Griffiths.  An opener to the Ruth Galloway mysteries and I really didn't care for it much.  Part of that's just me: it's told in present tense and that's a very hard sell.  Part of it was just the writing: Griffiths kept telling me one thing about the heroine and showing me something different, which is irritating.  If it had been a closer POV, I'd have been able to tell myself the heroine was self-deluded, but....  So I won't be reading on.

    NEWT'S EMERALD - Garth Nix.  Fun little magical regency romance.  Definitely on the younger side of YA.  Probably my favorite of the month.

    DON'T READ THIS BOOK - ed by Chuck Wendig.  Sort of hit and miss collection--as anthologies tend to be.  I had some trouble with the premise: learned later it's part of a game of some sort? 

    FASHION VICTIM - GT Herren.  A mystery that was cute, but ended really abruptly and not quite satisfyingly.

    BITTER SPIRITS - Jenn Bennett.  I really really loved her Acadia Bell series, and this one sounded like a slam-dunk--1920's San Francisco, bootleggers, magic!  I couldn't finish it.  I wanted more magic, and a whole lot less romance.   I might give it another try some time, because frankly, I was judging it against two really amazingly fun books: BRIDE OF THE RAT GOD by Barbara Hambly, and Libba Bray's THE DIVINERS, both of which just hit every sweet spot I have.

    ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD - Kendare Blake.  A "blind date" book from the library.  They do such a cute thing in February--wrap up books in glossy red paper and give a generalized description of the book.  I was glad when I got home and took the paper off--I'd wanted to read this when it came out, and never quite got around to it.  Sadly, I didn't really get involved in it; the hero kind of left me cold.

    LONG LIVE THE QUEEN - Kate Locke.  book 3 in the Immortal Empire series, and, see note about crankiness above.  While I enjoyed books 1 & 2 a lot, this one started to wear out its welcome, not least because I'm beginning to side with the human revolutionaries.  I mean, talk about oppression: when your entire family, and your children and your children's children and so forth will still be under the exact same thumb?

    Like I said, cranky.

    But I have high hopes for March.  Martha Wells' new Emilie book is out tomorrow, as is Marie Brennan's second Lady Trent book, and Seanan McGuire's new Incryptid novel.   So starting out well.
    Tuesday, January 14th, 2014
    5:55 pm
    2013 in books, belatedly
    I read a lot of books this year—211 by my count, not including rereads or DNFs, in the genres of fantasy, urban fantasy, mystery, romance, biography, general nonfiction, horror, young adult, and general fiction.  Must master this insomnia nonsense.  Or maybe just not reward my brain with books for keeping me awake.

    I found five new to me authors and devoured their backlists:

    KATE GRIFFIN and her magical London series.  Her writing is amazing.  It seems sort of choppy and arbitrarily styled, then you fall into the prose, and come out murmuring We Sing Electric Blue Angels.  I’m going to have to dig up her Catherine Webb books.

    JORDAN L HAWK: Her Griffin & Whyborne series fit right into that sweet spot of romantic dark fantasy—investigators dealing with Lovecraftian style horrors in a very strange city.  I’m currently working my way through her shorter novellas (novelettes?) set in a modern world where there’s a police force created to deal with possessing spirits.

    KERRY GREENWOOD: Phryne Fisher series set in turn of the century Australia; and Corinna Chapman series set in a very modern Australia, both addictive.  Many many of the books read this year are hers.  She writes these slim, addictive novels that are perfect for quick, delightful reads.

    JOE HILL: I started with 20th Century Ghosts and that’s still my favorite of his works.  The others are all solid reads though.

    ROBERT JACKSON BENNETT: American Elsewhere is definitely his standout, but my god the man can write.  His settings crackle.

    I fell out of love with some writers too, as seems to happen: series burnout, characters changing in ways I don’t care for, characters not changing at all, or just too much familiarity.

    My faves of 2013 (read during, not published during) and not in any particular order other than the order I read them in.

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    Saturday, November 30th, 2013
    12:04 pm
    Learning new things
    is always a strange thing for me.  I am one of those people.  I expect to "get it" right away and when I don't.... life is bleak despair, clouds of green slime, and histrionics.  (Maybe I shouldn't use the Wizard Howl as my role model, huh.)

    But I've been wanting to put up e-shorts forever; some of the stories that I love, that have had nothing but positive responses, that have even sold... and had the magazine fold before publication.  So to goad myself into doing it, I had a friend make cover art for me.  And he did.  And they were so delightful that I had no recourse but to brave the wild world of (shudder) formatting for kindle.  (I will learn the others, but one thing at a time!)

    So, the long and short of it is--if you wanted to read some short fiction by yours truly--there are now options!

    Three pieces.  A contemporary fantasy.  A romantic fantasy.  A good old-fashioned space opera/mystery.

    A Soul Like Salt.  A lifetime spent as magical backup to her more powerful brother wasn't too bad. Until he died, and left her facing the devil all on her own.  The contemporary fantasy.

    Brewing Poison, Brewing Peace. Affectionately known as the "Pretty Poison Princess" among my beta readers.  Princess Delphine swore she would never use poisons again. Then she fell in love with a war-scarred soldier who escaped enemy hands. Then her father, Mad King Harrow, realized he could use her love against her. Hunted by a shape-shifting enemy, hounded by a mad king, Delphine must decide which is stronger: her desire to protect or her reluctance to kill.

    A Case in Perspective. A group of human artists on an alien planet vanishing in a single day. A group of alien aquaculturists denying their guilt. Fairman Agent and telepath Greg deWildt's job: find out the truth, even if it means being the lone human on a planet that's proven hostile to humankind.

    Sooner, rather than later, I hope to add a handful of novellas set in the Sylvie Shadows universe. 
    Sunday, October 20th, 2013
    11:03 pm
    So the other day I watched Super 8 for the first time.  (I am rarely, if ever, current on movies.  They are generally not my thing.)

    I can't remember the last time I watched a movie that started off so well, and made me so happy, and ended up making me so angry and nitpicky.

    The thin edge of the wedge?  Alice.

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    Friday, October 4th, 2013
    1:38 am
    September reading
    Just the top five.

    My absolute favorite is Paul Cornell's London Falling.  I admit, I bought it for a silly reason.  I figured anyone who could be that entertaining at the Hugos probably had something worth reading.  But oh boy did I love London Falling.  It was that familiar fantasy (mundanes stumbling into a fantastic secret underlayer to our world) but Cornell skipped that oh so common element--the mentor figure.  Instead, there are a handful of cops trying to navigate something they don't even have a vocabulary for.  I loved it.  Definitely recommend it.

    Niceville by Carsten Stroud.  Slow-paced, character dense, weird horror, predictable in places.  Still oddly fascinating.  I read it straight through.  I'll pick up the next book when I have a chance.

    Omens by Kelley Armstrong.  Such a strange book.  It's almost like two stories are shoe-horned into one novel with only a couple over-lapping characters.  It's a great premise: a debutante princess type finds out in one crappy evening that a) she's adopted and b) her real parents are occult-driven serial killers serving out life sentences.  There's a lot of very real world detail that I really loved about her trying to step out of that fractured life.  And at the same time, there's a series of characters that drive her toward a specific town.  The magic isn't seamless; it's kind of a clunker book in many ways.  But I loved loved loved the heroine (who isn't a sweet girl) and the mercenary lawyer she works with.  There's ritual magic, omen magic, and... sf thriller stuff.  It's just a delightful mess.  I can't wait for the next one.

    Stray Souls by Kate Griffin.  I'm reading these books all out of order, but god, do I love her voice and her creativity.  This is an urban fantasy spin off of an established world (the Matthew Swift novels) where a barista suddenly finds herself a shaman of London.  And the spirit of London is missing, and her dog is very very unhappy, and Matthew Swift is counting on her to solve everything.  It's a magical team assemble! kind of story and full of odd but entertaining characters.

    The Magpie Lord by KJ Charles.  A short but choice novel reminiscent of Ginn Hale's Wicked Gentlemen.  An alternate Victorian England with magic known.  It's about a young lord who's returned to England after his horrible father and brother die, and finds himself immediately cursed.  The only person to protect him is a man whose family was ruined by the lord's father.  So, scads of romantic conflict right from the start.  Really what sold me on this are the excellent characters and the nasty, creative bits of magic that are used as weapons.  Plus, magpies.
    Wednesday, September 4th, 2013
    10:41 pm
    As granny weatherwax would say
    I aten't dead.

    Just crazy busy.

    Or maybe just crazy.

    Rewriting a novel from scratch for a possible sale, trying to learn the ins and outs of e-formatting (and tearing out my hair), trying to get the Ghoulish Works collection together--a Shadows Inquiries Adjunct series of stories featuring Tierney "Tex" Wales, the Ghoul, and also a new horror/fantasy novel that I'm kind of in love with.   And I want it all done NOW NOW NOW.

    Real life, sadly, is not cooperating.

    Read some books (insomnia!  So very good for reading!) that I recommend.

    Hunger Games & Catching Fire: Suzanne Collins.  Yes, I'm terribly behind.  But hey!  They were good!  Better than I expected, even with the hype.  Oddly, I have very very little interest in MockingJay.

    The Secret of Abdul el Yezdi: Mark Hodder.  This one I definitely recommend, but only if you've read his previous outings in this world.  Book three ended so... brokenly that I thought it was a terribly sad ending for a series.  I was stunned when this book showed up, even more stunned with the tack he took.  But that's Hodder for you.  A wonderfully bold writer.

    The Alloy of Law: Brandon Sanderson.  I hadn't read any of the Mistborn trilogy, but this one stood alone quite well.  I loved it almost without reservation.

    Magic Rises: Ilona Andrews.  Another you can't read without the previous books, but this one was wonderful.  Their books keep getting better.

    Reread The Great Gatsby for the first time since 7th grade.  Strange how books change given your age/experience.  The writing was lovely; the characters drove me nuts.  And Nick is the arguably worst of the lot.

    The Little Stranger: Sarah Waters.  This book made me so ragey, not because it was poorly done; it's perfect.  But because holy heck was the narrator a terrible terrible man.  I loathed him so very much.  Which, I think, is the point!  Definitely a very feminist book.

    Filter House: Nisi Shawl.  Amazing short story collection.  If I start talking about one story, I'll start talking about them all.  Just go read it.

    The Glass God: Kate Griffin.  Read completely out of order--this is book 6?--in a series, but it was easily entered.  And while the end was a little soft, Griffin's voice is amazing.

    Falling London: Paul Cornell.  I admit it.  I bought this book after watching him emcee the Hugo Awards.  He just seemed like he might have a lot to say that would be entertaining, and I'd heard this book was getting lots, and as far as I'm concerned, well-earned good reviews.  It's urban fantasy (if you want to slap a label on it), the mundanes getting involved in magic.  What I loved most?  That no mentor popped up to explicate.  It's just four cops stumbling through a new world of magic.  I can't wait for the next one.

    I have also learned that I should not, no matter how fond I am of serial killer stories, watch Wire in the Blood before bed.
    Sunday, June 30th, 2013
    10:03 pm
    June Reading
    Mostly... this month was sort of meh.

    I read ALL THE MARIAH STEWART thriller books.  They're perfectly competent, really quite well-reasoned mysteries, with rational heroes and heroines.  But reading them one after another was a little too much of the same.  The cracks start to show.  The people are all very whitebread; characterization can be thin--several women like jogging; others like junk food.  I started to have wild imaginings just to shake things up, then was disappointed when they didn't happen.  So, each individual book is really readable, and if you like thrillers, quite enjoyable.  Just don't read them all in a row.  Will I still read her next one?  Probably.  They're like potato chips, and the characterization might be thin, but it does err on the side of very many competent women who talk to each other and have friends. (Sadly, this is a real rarity in romantic thrillers.)

    DEAD CERTAIN, DEAD EVEN, COLD TRUTH, HARD TRUTH, FINAL TRUTH, DARK TRUTH, LAST BREATH by Mariah Stewart.

    UNSEEN ACADEMICALS by Terry Pratchett.  Not my favorite of his books by a long shot.  But then I prefer Vimes & Granny Weatherwax to the wizards.

    THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF RANGERGIRL - Tim Pratt.  I'm working my way through all his books, enjoying most of them a lot.  This one... I think I was spoiled by Charles de Lint when it comes to quirky artistic communities getting involved in the supernatural.

    DOWNTIME by Tamara Allen.  Pacing issues made this a bit of a slog.  I really liked the characters, but it was a hard book to get through in the end.

    CAST IN SHADOW by Michelle Sagara.  A rough start to what everyone tells me is an enjoyable series.  I liked the characters and the world, but the action seemed to drag in a lot of weird places.  I'll still pick up the next one, because as I said, liked the characters and the world.

    THE RESURRECTIONIST - by EB Hudspeth.  A beautiful book, but... really disappointing over all.  It was chock full of missed opportunities, and the end result was something that felt, despite the gorgeous drawings, really very standard fare.  I bought it primarily because I really wanted Marie Brennan's A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS and was cruelly thwarted by sepia-toned print.  I CAN'T READ THAT!!!!  I haven't been able to read any of the Cherie Priest steampunk books either!  So freaking frustrating.  Especially because while I can buy the CP books in ebook format, I want the actual beautiful artwork that comes on the cover and the illustrations within the Natural History of Dragons.  Sigh.  Stupid eyes.

    BASIC BLACK by Terry Dowling.  A short story collection all about ghosts.  Like many themed, same author collections, this bogs down after a while, but the first three stories "The Daemon Street Ghost Trap", "Downloading", "The Bullet that Grows in the Gun", and the final one "Scaring the Train" are wonderful.  I also loved the recurring character who kept wandering through all these ghost stories.  RECOMMENDED.  

    HELL COP, three novellas by Astrid Amara, Nicole Kimberling, and Ginn Hale.  All fun fare.

    DEAD SPOTS by Melissa F Owen.  A random paranormal romance (light on the romance) that I picked up because Dear Author pointed out it was on sale.  I really enjoyed it!  In a world full of vampires and werewolves, the heroine is special because she's a null: she forces them to revert back to human while within ten feet of her.  She's sort of their employee, sort of their bogeyman.  Often romance heroines annoy me by the number of mistakes they make, but here, she's relatively new to the job, and dealing with a betrayal that makes her doubt everything.  It worked.  RECOMMENDED.

    EAST, WEST - Salman Rushdie.  Short stories and my first exposure to his writing (Yes, I'm terrible.  Let's move on.).  He's just excellent, isn't he?  RECOMMENDED.

    One DNF, a surprising one: I put down Nancy A Collins' RIGHT HAND OF MAGIC about 2/3 of the way through.  Still trying to parse why.
    Thursday, May 30th, 2013
    9:52 pm
    May Books
    A day early, who knew that was even possible for me?

    The top of the list, the ones I'd really recommend.

    My favorite of the month:
    THE MONSTERS OF TEMPLETON by Lauren Groff.  I didn't go into this with any expectations, but this really ended up as a really feel good read with a few notes of fantasy (a lake monster, a firestarter).  The gist of it is a young grad student comes home in defeat and to distract her from the disaster she's made of her life, she tells her that oh, by the way, the father I never told you about?  He's a local.  Willie starts taking her town apart searching through genealogy to make sense of the clue her mother gave her.  Should be dull, is actually entertaining as hell.  I really loved it.

    MECHANIQUE by Genevieve Valentine.  A strange read for me, not precisely what I'd think of as a novel or even a clear narrative story.  Despite that, it's fascinating and evocative.  Like KJ Parker who never really defines her worlds, Valentine just gives the reader a post-war society riddled with Government Men and a circus that is so much more than it seems.  Lots of character vignettes that somehow string themselves into a whole.  Lots of beautiful writing here.

    EMILIE & THE HOLLOW WORLD by Martha Wells.  YA  So. Much. Fun.  Old-fashioned adventure tale about a young girl who gets swept up with explorers who are going into the earth to see the world inside the world.  It reminds me of all the stories I devoured when I was a kid--atlantis, the lost world, mole men under the ground--all the good stuff.  And because it's Wells, the world-building really hangs together.

    THE QUEEN IS DEAD by Kate Locke.  This is the second book in The Immortal Empire series.  And again, it's just a romp to read.  It looks steampunk, but that's deceptive.  It's a modern setting just... a modern setting that hasn't changed significantly since Victoria's reign... because she never died.  It's a vampire's world, this one, and werewolves, and goblins.  Somehow instead of being too familiar or predictable, it's just a lot of fun.  I love Xandra Vardan, can't wait for the next one to come out in this series.

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    Currently reading: Anthony Huso's The Last Page, and Tim Pratt's Strange Adventures of Rangergirl.  Waiting for the opportunity to make a Topeka run and hit the B&N for Jenn Bennett's new Arcadia Bell book.  Came out two days ago!  WHY IS IT NOT IN MY HANDS?
    Tuesday, May 28th, 2013
    5:13 pm
    The Bletchley Circle
    I've mostly stopped watching British television, though I used to watch endless quantities of it.  Don't know why; but of late, it hasn't grabbed me.  Even Dr. Who & Sherlock have had the shiny well worn off by now.  (Yes, I know.  Blasphemy.)

    However, I was in the store the other day and saw a series for sale called The Bletchley Circle.  Well, I know about Bletchley, so I picked it up.  I can not think of a show more tailored to suit me.  Code cracking, murder mysteries, clever women being clever in a time period where they were supposed to be adjuncts to men.... I bought it right then.

    I just finished watching it (only three episodes!) and I loved it.  Overall, the tone was perfect all the way through as these women did their best to catch a serial killer when few people would listen to them, when even being right meant they were wrong.  There was only one bobbled moment (the heroine did something cliched) in the entire thing.

    There are all sorts of lovely moments but I think one of my favorites is the conversation between two women, both of whom worked in secret and sensitive divisions during the war.  Jean challenges Angela, and Angela says something like Oh, I had nothing to do with Electra.  I was clerical.  And Jean, wryly, says, Weren't we all.

    I can't tell if this is the opening to a series, if there will be more (PLEASE!), or if this was a one-shot kind of deal.  Either way, if you like clever women doing clever things and period murder mysteries, this is a really satisfying show.
    Tuesday, May 21st, 2013
    6:14 pm
    Argh, what a week
    So, last Wednesday, my father fell down a hill, bouncing and rolling.  Luckily, he never managed to hit his head; unluckily, he broke his femur in a particularly aggressive way.   Bad enough.  Worse, he's on a blood thinner, so a bad break turned scary very quickly as the muscle torn by the bone fracture began to bleed and bleed and bleed and bleed.  No blood outside his body, and yet there was the possibility of bleeding out.  Thankfully, the docs got that under control.  And even more thankfully, the fractured bone stopped short of nicking his femoral artery.  He's now out of the actual hospital and into a rapid recovery PT unit.*

    So it's been surgery and hospitals and trying to work around surgery and hospitals.  The floor that was supposed to go into my study had a glitch (they were short of wood and had to reorder) so what was supposed to be a three day shutdown of my study turned into the better part of two weeks.  I... failed to rise to the challenge of writing elsewhere.  It's been a long week of stress and stress migraines (such a wuss!) but today there is definitely a glimmer of light.

    Not only is Dad socked away in a place that will help him get back on his feet quickly, the study is done, and the mover came and put all my furniture back in place.  Yay!

    And then there's Oklahoma.  Holy hell.  Things are suddenly in perspective.


    *This amazes me, in a good way.  The day after surgery, they've got him up and using a walker; three days after surgery, he's headed for intensive PT.  I can't help but contrast this to the care one of my best friends got some 20 years ago, where post-surgery, she was encouraged to NOT move, stuck in traction.  And then her PT was a nightmare of trying to recover, not only from the injury, but from muscle atrophy.  Medicine does continue to improve. 
    Sunday, May 12th, 2013
    11:49 pm
    experimental cake
    Sadly, no pics, since I've never gotten into the habit of taking pics of food.  I love it when other people do, but when I see food that looks good... I eat it.  (If only I felt the same way about exercise equipment!  See it!  Use it!  Or in my case... See the treadmill!  Wander off and read a book!)

    So today I needed a cake for my mother (naturally), and the trick is, she doesn't really like sweets.  But it's just not a holiday without a cake.  My time was limited, and I wanted a recipe that was forgiving of adjustments, so I picked a basic butter pound cake.  I ended up with a spiced chocolate pound cake, flavored with unsweetened cocoa, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper.  It wasn't perfect; it came out drier than I liked, but the flavor was good.

    Since there's been a bit of interest, and since I need a blog post...

    Here's the recipe.  It's one of my favorites, partly because it's easy, partly because the loaves take to freezing very well.
    The basic pound cake recipe is in regular font; the additions I made are in italics.

    Butter pound cake:

    With room temp ingredients:
    mix together
    3 eggs*
    3 tablespoons milk (2% is fine)
    2 teaspoons vanilla

    set aside

    In your mixing bowl:
    1 and 1/2 cup sifted cake flour
    1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    3/4 cup sugar
    1 teaspoon cinnamon
    1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (you could use more, I bet.  This amount just gave off a little spark of heat.)


    Mix the dry ingredients together, then take a deep breath (do not think about the fat content) and add:
    13 Tablespoons softened butter
    1 tablespoon butter (to go with the cocoa powder.  Cocoa powder loves fats.)

    Mix until butter is covered in flours, etc, then add half the egg mixture.  Mix until thoroughly incorporated.  Turn the mixer to medium high and add the rest of the egg mixture in two batches.  Beat until fluffy.  (this is a very stiff and thick batter that tastes incredibly smooth and buttery.  Yes, I taste raw batters and doughs.  How else will I know if it's going right or wrong?)

    Spoon into three small loaf pans and bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.  Check for doneness.  My were very done in that time frame.  But sometimes pound cakes take up to an hour.

    *I will add another egg and another tablespoon of milk the next time I try this. The result this time around was tasty--rich, chocolatey, and subtly spicy--but with a very dry mouthfeel that I didn't like too much.  I compensated by serving it with generous helpings of whipped cream, grated chocolate, and cups of strong, dark coffee.  Even dry, it went over well enough that four of us ate two loaves in their entirety, and my mother absconded with the third loaf for her freezer.
    Tuesday, May 7th, 2013
    1:19 am
    First world problems
    I have been slowly replacing the carpet in my house with laminate flooring one room at a time (it's easier to clean, better for my breathing, and just nicer to look at than the standard issue sell-the-house carpet) and now we're down to the last room.

    My home office.

    Oh, the humanity.

    Moving all the furniture out of my bedroom, no sweat, I can sleep on a yoga mat, whatever, toss a few days worth of clothes into the bathroom, no biggie.  Clear off my desks so they can be moved to the garage for three whole days?!?!  Cue panic, dismay, the inability to plan/think/behave rationally.  But my DESK!  my COMPUTER!!!  It's all set up how I like it!!!!  This is taking so much time, how am I supposed to get any writing done?!?  Why oh why does the world hate me soooooooo....

    The whining is flat out embarrassing and I'm the one whining.  Ridiculous.  But change, even good change, can make me a little crazy.  (My horoscope today told me I needed to try to control more aspects of my life--I may have laughed like a maniac.  One phrase I hear a lot of is "control freak".)

    Of course, I might actually have something to whine about if the cats--always ready to demonstrate their own brand of "bravery"--manage to scale the Box Mountain that is looming in my bedroom.  The boxes hold the contents of my office--since there's an unsurprising amount of paper and books, I didn't want to pile them in the tending-toward-damp garage.  Even for three days.

    Did I mention the stairs?  There are stairs (whine whine whine).

    Still, I'm hoping the cats will not A) climb the boxes and leap onto me from a great height while I attempt to sleep or B) climb the boxes, play king of the mountain, and send them crashing to the floor squashing each other, the small dog, or myself.

    But hey, when all else fails, I can remind myself, at least I'm not the one moving the furniture this time.  Three desks, two of which must be disassembled to get out of the room, four filing cabinets (still full), a click-clack couch, and seven bookshelves.  Two right turn bends and a steep stairwell.

    It'll be... interesting.  More so for them, than me.  My job tomorrow is to be the control freak and tell them where to put things (there, no, that there!) and to wince in horrified anticipation as they go up and down the stairs.

    That's if I survive the night sleeping in the shadow of Box Mountain.  My bedroom is quite small.  These boxes are piled up less than ten inches from the side of my bed.  And Dean has already been exploring.
    chaos mtn
    Wednesday, May 1st, 2013
    10:45 pm
    and oh!
    My very short story "The Whale's Way" is out today from Penumbra!  In their Ocean issue.  3.99 for a whole bunch of Ocean-themed fantasy.  :)

    Penumbra eZine

    I'm really excited about this.  Maybe it's growing up in Miami, hanging out at RSMAS (The Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science), but I've always wanted to write stories about the ocean.  This is the first one that ever came out right.

    Have a teaser!

    From "The Whale's Way"

    Living underwater isn't without dangers.  Ten years ago, when I was fourteen, fifty miles east of us, habitat Ipo was ripped from the seabed in an unexpected quake.  The sea floor surged so strongly that it drove the habitat core right through the top of the flower, smashing through habitat and drowning its citizens before they had time to react.  For months, we watched hungry life chase past us on their way to the pick over Ipo's carcass.  Floor-hugging eels and swift sharks and other mid-water feeders; menhaden, mackerel, jacks, an endless silver storm of fish, their scales flashing in filtered sunlight like lightning. 

    We, part of the sea, fed on them, sent our fishers out to net what we could, bewildered by the unaccustomed bounty. 

    There have been other disasters, large and small; habitats like Mara, where the air filtration failed and their residents went mad with nitrogen narcosis or overdosed on oxygen and burned themselves out with a careless match, or when disease got loose on Mako, and sickened the entire colony, or when the hydroponics in Ariel took in a load of contaminated water, courtesy of a long-forgotten oil spill, and spoiled a month's worth of crops.

    By now, we control as many variables as we could; disasters are rare.  But you never can control the sea.  Not completely. 

    "Repeat.  Evacuating sections 17, 18, and 19.  Please proceed to docking station in Petal E for transport.  Two hours until departure."
    10:35 pm
    April books
    Just the highlights, 'cause I read an embarrassing amount of books.  Who knew insomnia was good for something?

    The Hits:

    American Elsewhere - Robert Jackson Bennett.  Snagged this through library holds and will buy myself a copy.  It wasn't crazy original--it's kind of the culmination of every strange small town from King to Barker and so forth, but the execution is spot on.  Loved every page I read, and I really loved the heroine.  Some of the small magics were brilliant.  Definitely recommend.

    Wild Cards 1 (the expanded version) - ed. George R R Martin.  I don't remember why I never picked this book up back in the day. Later, the sheer quantity of them kept me from picking them up at any point after that.  This time I picked it up because Carrie Vaughn had a story in it.  I really enjoyed this, and wish I could justify buying the whole series in one fell swoop.  They seem like a blast.

    Three Parts Dead - Max Gladstone.  Lots of buzz for this one primarily because it's an unusual thing: a second world mystery fantasy.  There just aren't enough of those around.  I think the last book in that general vein that I loved was Martha Wells' Death of the Necromancer.  Three Parts Dead was snazzy, full of cool magics, and an ambitious heroine.

    Throne of the Crescent Moon - Saladin Ahmed.  Setting makes this book amazing.  I devoured it.  Afterward, I felt the characters were a little too D&D ish (the paladin, the cleric, the healer, etc.) but in the moment, it was all about enjoyment.  And the setting!  Setting is so hard to do, especially if you are (rightfully) opposed to giant expository lumps.  This all just flowed.

    Gad's Hall/The Haunting of Gad's Hall - Norah Lofts.  (One of these books is not like the others....) These two books are so strange.  I should hate them; they're just plain weirdly structured.  They promise a ghost story and ... give you the day to day life of a struggling family of four girls in the mid 1800s.  All the obviously interesting stuff (the Devil! Evil artists! Evil rituals! Debauching of an innocent!) happens off the page.  There's a frame story that just drops away and doesn't come back until the end of book 2, where it goes something like "Oh, we've identified our problem.  Let's solve it.  Okay.  It's solved.  The end!" without any real conflict.  It's evil vanquished by administration.  Very strange.  So why is it so compelling?

    The Near Misses & the DNFsCollapse )
    Saturday, April 20th, 2013
    9:00 pm
    cats!
    Anyone out there in the great wilds of the internet know how to peaceably integrate multiple cats with multiple cats?

    The home crew:
    Older female, neutered
    Young male cat #1, neutered
    Young male cat #2, neutered.

    The new crew:
    Old female, neutered
    Older male cat #1, neutered
    Older male cat #2, neutered.

    We expected trouble from the girls; they're generally crankier than the boys in our experience.  But they've decided to ignore each other ostentatiously.  Young male cat #2 has decided it's all good, friends all around, live and let live. Older male cat #1 is fine with that.  Older male cat #2 is... pretty much under a bed, or a futon, or any small space.  When he does run into another cat, no big deal; he's entirely focused on finding hiding spots.

    But young male cat # 1 has decided that the way to get used to these other cats is to beat them all one at a time.

    If he were a smaller cat, I'd consider letting them just work it out, but this is Dean, he of the extreme size, musculature, and weight.  When he wants to attack something, it's a problem.  He's big and fast, and though I keep his nails clipped way back, I still think the risk is too high.

    We're using the pheromone sprays; I'll probably cave and buy the plug-in, though that keeps saying it's for anxious cats, and none of these guys are particularly anxious--OBNOXIOUS, yes.

    Any other suggestions?

    Dean lamp

    Awfully cute to be so obnoxious.
    Saturday, April 6th, 2013
    1:18 pm
    Blog posting at Fantasy Cafe
    Fantasy Cafe is doing a month-long celebration of Women in SF&F!  This is their second annual one, and I'd love to see it continue!  I got so many ideas for good reads from last year's blogs.

      I contributed a post that looks at Sylvie's character DNA--which writers and which characters influenced me in Sylvie's creation.

    There are great posts up already from Sherwood Smith, Karin Lowachee, Jacqueline Carey (as well as others) with great things to say and great books to recommend.


    Sylvie's DNA blog post here.
    Friday, April 5th, 2013
    4:37 pm
    Merlin
    So, the first thing you need to know about Merlin's origin story is that I had a friend who was deep deep into vet school at the time, suffering through the hells of equine rotation in her final year.  Even if you love horses and intend to be an equine vet, this is apparently still a hellish rotation.  No sleep--about three hours a night if you're lucky.  Long hours studying.  Hard physical labor.  Highly expensive animals with owners ready to sue your ass.  Not enough caffeine in the world.

    The second thing you need to know is that she was living in a neighborhood where there dwelled an irresponsible pet owner, who had a lovely grey cat that she let roam loose.  Every time I visited my friend, I muttered something about "too nice a cat to live outside".

    So, the story begins one day when the neighbor lady told my friend, N., that her good grey cat had disappeared.  N was ready to offer sympathy and concern and aid, when the woman went on to add, "so I got myself a new kitten.  That cat was getting old anyway."

    Cue gritting of vet-to-be-teeth.  Curtailing of the conversation.

    Two weeks later, N comes home in the middle of a torrential downpour to hear a tiny persian kitten wailing its lungs out, soaking wet, on the neighbor's porch.  N picks up sopping, shivering kitten, pounds on the door.  No neighbor.  N recalls that neighbor was headed out of town for three days, and apparently chose to leave kitten outside to fend for itself.

    There is righteous fury in the land.  N takes the kitten home, dries it off, feeds it, and basically cat-sits it.  The neighbor comes back.  N takes kitten over after her rotation for the day is done (nearly midnight), pounds on the woman's door.  "Here is your kitten!"

    The woman says, "That's not my kitten."

    Her kitten is in fact hanging out in the hall behind her.  Indoors.  Safe and sound.

    N goes ARGH! And takes kitten back home, but she can't keep it.  She has multiple multiples of pets already.  When she has a day off, she takes the kitten to the local shelter.  While she is there, lo and behold, she sees, in one of the cat cages, the neighbor lady's original Nice Grey Cat.

    N buys the cat out of the shelter.  Takes him home.  Throws herself back into rotation.  Eventually she gets a day free, and tucking the Nice Grey Cat under her arm, hotfoots it over to the irresponsible owner's house and pounds on the door.

    The woman answers.  N holds up the grey cat and says, "I FOUND YOUR CAT!!!"

    And the woman says... "That's ... not my cat."

    The cat looks up at N as if to agree.  Never seen that woman in my life.

    N, insanely sleep deprived, bewildered and frustrated, slings the cat into her car and does the only thing she can think of at this point.  Drives 90 miles to my house, and says, "Isn't this that woman's nice grey cat?"

    The woman's original good grey cat had white feet and a white chest.   This grey cat was a four-paws declawed, all over grey tabby.  I said, "No?"

    N handed me that nice grey cat and said, "Fine, then he's yours."

    He purred at me, he purred at my other cats, he ignored the large dog with aplomb.  I agreed with her.  This one was mine.  Sleep-deprived, she headed back for her early morning classes with a clear sense of "I wash my hands of all of this!  It never happened!"

    By breakfast time, Merlin was eating alongside my cats and demanding lap time.  Also trying to walk across invisible counter tops and falling off of things a lot.  And proving that whoever had declawed him might have had reason.  He could not abide a closed door and would paw at it for hours or until I opened it.  His non-claws could slice open a bag of kibble in less than a minute.

    Still hands down one of the easiest cat integrations I've ever seen.  And he got along with everyone.

    With Dean.

    playing footsie with dean

    With Cranky Chibi.

    Sleeping now

    And poor Sammy, who he liked to use as a pillow.  sammy pillow
    Monday, April 1st, 2013
    12:38 pm
    Books read in March
    A good month for books.  A few DNFs (not listed), a few minor disappointments.  Several books I'd recommend, and one I'm going to actively push.

    RUDDY GORE & BLOOD AND CIRCUSES - Kerry Greenwood.  Her books are addictive.  Perfect light reads when you only have an hour or two.  I'm reading the Phryne Fisher (mysteries set in 1920s Australia) and the Corinna Chapman (mysteries set in modern Australia) series.

    SO DAMN LUCKY - Deborah Coonts.  Fun mystery set in Las Vegas.

    BEAUTY QUEENS - Libba Bray.  Fun!  A satire that isn't as sharp as it could be, veering toward digestible humor more than biting expose of the world.  But you know?  I'll take it.  I loved reading this.  It's the kind of book you giggle at and then find someone to read bits aloud to.

    THE WORLD HOUSE - Guy Adams.  Nothing really happens in this book beyond people wandering around a magical prison.  So why did I enjoy it so much?

    MIDNIGHT BLUE LIGHT SPECIAL - Seanan McGuire.  Love her Incryptid series.  This is book 2 and it's not quite as solid to me as the first book, but it's still a great read.  And I really appreciated McGuire having Verity make a life decision early on in the series rather than dragging it out for multiple books.  I didn't like the shift in POV--Sarah's not as interesting to me as Verity is.

    SLASHBACK - Rob Thurman.  Leandros brothers series.  Loved this book except for a late world-twist.  She invoked one of my least favorite tropes.  Won't spoiler it here because it's a new release book.  Not a huge game changer, but I'm reserving judgment until I see how she handles things.  Still going to pounce on the next book immediately.

    THE IMPOSSIBLE CUBE - Steven Harper.  Book 2 of the Clockwork Plague books.  The first one was interesting and dramatic; this one felt very much like a middle book.  Not sure I'll read on.

    The next assortment discussed here.

    After that, QUEEN VICTORIA'S BOOK OF SPELLS - ed by Datlow/Windling.  A really nice collection with only one real mis-step, and the story's not bad, just... weirdly out of tone sync with the others.  A definite recommendation here.

    TARNISHED - Karina Cooper.  Steampunkish.  Starts off a lot stronger than it finishes.  World-building is awesome though.  London on stilts.

    THE YARD - Alex Grecian.  Historical mystery set in post-Ripper London.  I really enjoyed this book.  I'm now waiting eagerly for the sequel.  Would also recommend this.

    My hands-down favorite of the month, squeaked in just at the last.

    TRICKSTER - Jeff Somers.  I haven't read anything of his before, but this urban fantasy has made me determined to go back and try his other series.  This is pretty much everything I love.  It's grim!  It's dark!  (But not grimdark!)  Our hero's refrain is "we are not good people" and that's utterly transparently true.  But it's also apparent that Lem and Mags are trying to keep from being actively bad people.  They're con artists, trickster magicians, who live life on the edge, using spells to bamboozle a meager living.  But they also have lines that they don't want to cross.  The magic system here is simple, but far-reaching.  And Somers definitely doesn't shy away from the results.  Things aren't neatly put away at the end.  And holy god, but I loved Claire.  A love interest who is also a McGuffin, a damsel in distress, and yet she's got her own personality and is full of self-determination.

    I strongly recommend A Pretty Mouth, Queen Victoria's Book of Spells,  and The Yard, but I demand that anyone who likes their Urban Fantasy on the dark side go and read Trickster.    It's wonderful.
    Sunday, March 31st, 2013
    2:15 pm
    RIP the best grey kitty ever
    Merlin died of a sudden heart attack.

    He was all things awesome.  When I'm feeling better, I'll tell you all his origin story, which is just plain ridiculous.

    But he was many things.  Sweet, stubborn, maddening, cuddly, and yes, even ridiculous.

    As you can see below.  One of my favorite pics of him, taken recently.

    MUST CLEAN THE FOOT!!!!!  MUST NOT LET IT GET AWAY!!!

    photo
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