Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Wedding: Corset Edition

I'm getting married this summer, on a date which is approaching with alarming speed. This means I need to stop mooning over pretty things I want to buy and, you know, actually buy them. So after some credit card shenanigans (living in Korea is hard) I finally ordered my wedding corset:

This is the design that I ordered, though in a slightly different fabric. Lovely, isn't it? 

It's from Damsel in this Dress, a corset company that I highly recommend. I already own one of their waist-cinchers, and it's absolutely ideal: sturdy, beautifully made, and effective at making my waist look ridiculously teeny.

That is the secret plan, you see--by wearing a corset, I completely eliminate the created-by-the-Wedding-Industry "need" to diet! No deprivation for this bride-to-be. Since the thing is sleeveless I might swing the kettlebell a bit before the Big Day, but that's about it. No calorie-counting, no stress, no worrying whether the dress will fit just right. Tighten the corset a bit, loosen it a bit, whatever is required! 

Hooray for corsets!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

On the Subject of Goths in Space

Linus and I have been watching Farscape recently. For those of you not familiar with the show, it feels like a poor man's Star Trek mixed with dashes of Firefly and set in the Labyrinth (not surprising, since it's a Jim Henson production). There are definitely pros and cons to the series, but there's one area in which Farscape absolutely reigns supreme: gothic space fashion.

First, there's the standard Peacekeeper uniform of black leather, red leather, and more leather.

Scorpius's coolant suit is especially fabulous. Black leather, shiny black alligator, and (though you can't see it) a protruding, molded spine in the back. If only there was a handbag version...

I don't know what he's holding, but I'm scared.

Scorpius would like you to shut up now.

Not now, woman! Scorpius has a headache.
Then there's these things that Jool wears. I'm not sure what I'd call them, but I want them.

Red velvet and low necklines can be VERY masculine. Just ask Ka D'Argo.

Give 'em a little chest, D'Argo.

But really, any show can pile on the corsets and leather. What clinches Farscape's gothic look is the hair.

This is Niem, Scorpius's assistant. Also known as "Peacekeeper Barbie."

And this is one of Scorpius's nurses. Hey, when you're a Peacekeeper commander, you're practically obligated to surround yourself with beautiful hench-wenches.

Finally, here's a picture of Scorpius and Sikozu grabbing each other's asses.

You're frellin' welcome.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

On the Subject of Sharing Your Art, and Why It Sucks

Sometimes, friends who know that I write (which isn't all of them) ask to see my work. When they do this, they occasionally use a phrase like, "If you're comfortable," or "When you're ready."

This provokes two reactions in me. One is reeeaallly snotty: "Well, of course I'm comfortable sharing my stories with you, friend who has absolutely zero and zip to do with the publishing industry. I send queries on a daily basis to people whose job it is to tear into the tender belly of my novel with their enlarged meathooks of rejection. What do you think I am, a five-year old looking to hang her storybook on your fridge? Come on!"

The other reaction is a lot less bitchy and a lot more honest, and it's this: "Actually, I am terrified to show you my art. I fear you, and your offhand opinion, a lot more than the aforementioned meathooks."

I've thought long and hard about why I feel this way. I believe it's because I'm keenly aware of how people view unpublished authors.

Are you a published author? Swell! Have your books sold at least reasonably well? Even better! I'm delighted to shake your hand, ma'am.

Unpublished author? Face it--you might as well be writing an M-rated Farscape-Avengers crossover with Loki/Scorpius and Chianna/Black Widow pairings* for all the respect that you'll get.

External validation matters. It even influences the way we read. 

For example, I recently read The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. I adored it. The whole story had this strange beauty and warmth that made me feel in love with the world again. There are very few authors who can make me feel that way, and Mr. Gaiman is one of them.

But after I read the book, I performed a little thought experiment. What if I hadn't known this was by Neil Gaiman? What if this same book had been dog-eared manuscript handed to me by a friend?

In all honesty, my reaction would have been something like this *SPOILERS*: "All right, I think this book has a lot of potential. The boy in the graveyard is great and I love how you never outright tell the reader that Silas is a vampire. But there's a lot of things that need fixing. The whole Honor Guard concept is really vague, and the scenes where they're battling the Jacks are confusing. The Jacks themselves are kind of all over the place--I never get a sense of what they want or why they are the bad guys. And though the ghost dance scene is nice, I feel like it gets in the way of the story. If you remove that chapter it would improve the overall flow of the book, and you could insert more necessary background for the Honor Guard. And..." Blah blah blah.

Here's what happened. When I read the published, highly-acclaimed book by an author I've enjoyed in the past, I saw the magic more than the flaws. But when I imagined the book was a work-in-progress by a total unknown, I saw the flaws a lot more than the magic.

Note here that I am not saying that The Graveyard Book is a bad book, or that Neil Gaiman is a hack, or anything remotely like that. Not at all--I love Neil Gaiman to bits. (Not literal bits, of course. That would be some sort of strange death threat, not the adulation I intend.)

My point is not that published authors get away with murder (though some of them do). My point is that we--myself included--read more kindly when a story has already been externally validated. It's as if we need the approval of the publishing company to relax and enjoy all the good points of the work. When that approval is missing, many readers--myself included again--feel the urge to act as a gatekeeper. Instead of experiencing the story for itself, we're constantly trying to judge the story. Is this good enough? What would make it better? Is it really worthy of published?

Which is why--to get back to the main point--I'm scared of showing my writing to my friends. Sometimes I'm afraid of even talking about my writing to my friends. Sure, I'm immensely proud of the fact that I've written two books, something I wasn't sure I would ever accomplish in my whole life. But I know that until I've gotten published, nobody but me gives a rat's fuzzy ass.

You may have noticed that I'm writing about all this on a blog. Am I more comfortable discussing my work on the Internet than with my friends? Hell no! I am terrified even as I type this. The Internet is a bad place filled with unfriendly people and trolls lurking under forums. Problem is, it's also the place where my potential readers are. (Hellooooo? You out there? The geeky ones who devoured books as children and wished somebody would come and take you away to another world and still sort of half-way believe in magic and spaceships? You are my people! Come find me!) So yes, I'm taking an emotional risk, but the pay-off might be worth it.

God, I hope it's worth it. 

*If you are in fact writing this fanfic, no disrespect intended. Please send me a copy.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

An Excerpt from THE FROZEN WITCH

I'm almost done with the initial edit of The Frozen Witch, and ran across another fun little passage to share. Here Hildr is helping Cathy, an American doctoral student suffering under a curse.

            Thirty minutes had passed since she had eaten the fly agaric. Cathy's leg began to twitch more frequently. So did one shoulder. Her forehead gleamed and her face was becoming red. Hildr judged that it was time to push.
            "...wouldn't believe the things people say about skua. They always mistake them for other birds, most people haven't even heard of them, have no idea what they're about, even on the Orkney Islands people were..."
            "Tell me about the Orkney Islands," said Hildr.
            "Lovely islands, really fucking gorgeous, people used to talk this funny sort of Old Norse called norn, that's where I first picked up a few words. Did you know some people tell me my Icelandic has a Scottish accent? I thought that was really funny. Loads of sheep..."
            "The sheep were there when you woke up."
            "I've always liked the black ones a lot. This is a sheepskin isn't it? It's very nice, though I don't usually like fur much. Funny, I'm feeling sort of cold. Is there more soup?"
            "What island," said Hildr, "were the sheep on?"
            "What a funny question! All of them, of course," said Cathy, hugging the sheepskin closer to her shoulders. Her booted foot spasmed slightly. "Haven't you ever been to the Orkney Islands? Really gorgeous places, I'm sure you would like them..."
            "What island," said Hildr, "did you wake up on?"
            "Would you believe that I don't really remember? It doesn't matter anyway, all the islands are the same..." Cathy shuddered suddenly, a little convulsive shiver that made Hildr sit up straighter.
            "Why did you pass out?" Hildr asked sharply.
            "No idea. Sheep are lovely, but sheep-poop is not. The beaches were covered in..."
            "What did you see before you fainted?"
            "Sheep! Lots of sheep! And rocks, and birds!" Cathy's teeth were definitely chattering now. "That's why I went there, to see the birds."
            "What else did you see?" Hildr demanded.
            "Nothing! I didn't see anything!" Cathy shivered violently and added, between shaking lips, "I swear!"
            "Why do you swear? Who did you swear to?"
            "Nobody, nobody was there! The island was uninhabited."
            "No, it wasn't!"
            Hildr lunged up from her seated position, towering suddenly over the shaking, sweating girl. Startled, Cathy threw herself backwards, scrambling crab-fashion from Hildr's advance.
            "Tell me who you saw!"
            "Nobody, nobody! I have to go, I have..."
            "You weren't alone there. Who was with you? A man?"
            "A woman?"
            Cathy scrambled to her feet and tried to run, but Jack--not so sleepy after all--was ready. He bounded onto the trestle tables and raced along their length, outpacing Cathy in a few long strides before leaping down to block her way. Head lowered, hackles raised, the wolf snarled in a way that halted even Hildr. Cathy stopped, shaking like she stood in a blizzard, her ever-running voice dissolving into sobs.
            "Tell me, Cathy!" said Hildr to the girl's thin, shuddering back. "Who was the woman? What did she do!"
            Cathy turned--and shrieked. She pointed a finger over Hildr's shoulder, towards the back of the hall. She cried something in English.
            "What is there!" demanded Hildr.
            "They're here! They're here!" she screamed in Icelandic. She backed away, oblivious now to the wolf behind her. "They followed me! They know!"
            "Who are they?" growled Jack. 
            "The trows! The trows!"
            "The what?" asked Hildr.
            "What are they doing?" floated Galdri's voice from high above.
            "They're carrying a stone, a huge stone, that they fetched up from the sea!"
            Something happened when Cathy said that, Hildr could feel it. It reminded her of a breaking thread: no real sound, but nevertheless a tangible feeling of stretching, stretching, and then the sudden snap of tension. The spell had been broken.

Thursday, May 2, 2013


Today I'm working on editing my second manuscript, tentatively entitled The Frozen Witch. It's an urban fantasy set in modern-day Iceland, and features Hrimhildr, a woman raised in Jotunheim (the giants' world) who is returned to Earth against her will. This page is from Hildr's Christmas-day confrontation with her giant foster-mother, Hyndla, whom she hasn't seen in eight years. I was enjoying re-reading it, so I thought I'd share.

              Hyndla surged to her feet, blocking half the firelight just with her body. Hildr sat rigid in her chair, her hands tight upon the armrests, refusing to look away from her mother's distraught face. "I raised you to conquer, Hildr, to be deep-minded and courageous, not to be a squatter in some cold, rotting hall! And not to break other people's laws, either" she added. Hyndla shook her head sternly, the long coil of her silver hair falling down behind her back. "You can do better than this, and frankly, you're going to have to. At this rate, you're embarrassing me."
            "Perhaps you regret adopting me," said Hildr. Her body was so rigid it ached, and her face felt like it had frozen. Her lips moved stiffly as she said, "Perhaps it would have been better if I had frozen to death in the car."
            "Oh, you would have lived," said Hyndla quietly, almost absently. "It was almost dawn then. You'd already made it past the worst of the night. We were all so amazed, Laufey and I and the others. We thought for sure you would have frozen by then, like your parents had, but when we passed the wreck the second time, there you were, watching us through that broken window. I said to them, 'Now, here's a child with some backbone. She'll do great things.' So I took you back with me, to Jotunheim, where you could learn how to do them."
            Hildr had heard the story of her adoption endlessly--since, in fact, she had been rescued by Hyndla from that car crash. Marveling at the four-year-old's ability to survive the temperatures, Hyndla and the other giants had taken her back with them, as a kind of reward for her refusal to die. It had never before occurred to Hildr that she might fail that early promise, but there was no denying now that Hyndla certainly thought she had.
            Guilty, strangely afraid, Hildr wanted to tell her, I'm sorry. But she checked herself at the last minute. What was she apologizing for? Had she asked to be taken from that wreck? No more than she had subsequently asked to be so summarily dismissed, sixteen years later, from the only home she could remember.
            "I will do great things," said Hildr, raising her chin and glaring at her mother. "And I will do them my way."
            "Now that's the spirit," said Hyndla approvingly. "So long as those ways aren't the elf-ways. And you get out of this hall. And get some babies."
            "What?" Hildr nearly snarled.
            "You need grounding. Children are good for that. Especially for human women."
            Hildr could hardly believe her ears. The taunts of the trolls were still fresh in her memory:
            Go away, little girl.
            Go home.
            To your little house and electric lights.
            To your endless breeding and your short, short life.
            That was what humans did: they bred. They bred continuously, endlessly, unstoppably. They made babies even when they couldn't feed them, even when sickness would take them, even when their children would be just as miserable as they. It was mankind's short-fingered grasping at immortality, this greedy need to make more, more, more of themselves, in a desperate attempt to forget how swiftly death would pluck them. All the other races knew this.
            And Hildr was only human, was that it? She was broody and moody now, but a few pregnancies would set her straight. It's what she had been made for, after all. That was how her people were.
            "Get out," said Hildr between her teeth.
             "What?" Hyndla boomed, staring down at her with round amber eyes.
            Habit nearly prevailed, and Hildr almost quailed beneath that stern, motherly gaze. Instead, she stood up, pushing the armchair back with a screech. The top of her head came only to her mother's shoulder, but she stood with her face uplifted, staring defiantly into Hyndla's wide-set eyes.
            "I said, 'Get out,'" said Hildr levelly. She was so overcome with rage that she was shaking, but she kept her voice cold. "You've lost the right to show up and tell me how to live my life. If you wanted that kind of control you should have kept me with you, in Jotunheim. You didn't. So. Get. Out."

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

On the Subject of Obligations

I saw this advertisement in a shop window, stopped dead in my tracks, and asked out loud: "Am I obligated to buy that? I feel like I'm obligated to buy that." But when I went inside and looked, it was just different types of BB cream, something I never use. :( Effective advertising for an unsatisfactory product is so disappointing...