Friday, May 29, 2009

Pancake sender suspect numero ichi

This dude is the type who would send a pancake possessed of evil intent to kill my joy. Or someone pretending to be him. His thinky-thoughts are too knowing. Like he's writing about the future from the future but pretending it's the past. Do not trust anyone who claims to know what will happen. They might be a robot. I'm not a robot, but it's still bad for your health to trust me too much.

What a strange world this old dude lives in where the realism of something determines how worthy it is of being attempted in fiction. He should come live in my world. Everything can happen. Often it does.

Maybe these rules are some kind of coded message. How to defeat the pancake. What do you think?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

How to Win at Writing

Book Expo America kicks off today with the Writer's Digest BEA Conference, one of North America's leading writing conferences. You could pay $199 to go to this conference and attend seminars and pitch to agents/editors. If you've never attended a writing conference, it'll be worth your time and costs.

I've attended numerous conferences, me, and I find it's largely like reading blogs about writing. A lot of people will tell you basically the same thing in their own words. Every once in a while it's always good to hear those things because as we get busy and distracted, we lose perspective.

So here you are:

1) The secret to writing is writing.

2) As Neil Gaiman said once "write the book that only you can write."

3) As Ghandi would have said if he'd been a novelist: "write the book that you want to read."

No need to pay me the registration fee. Spend it on books and barista tips instead, yeah?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Monday, May 25, 2009

Damnit

Ethan wrote himself into book three. Yes, the role he wants to play now is probably the better one for his character. I don't know why I slave over outlines. It must be so I make these discoveries in the zero draft and not the third.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

When it rains

Dante arrives with scorch marks in his parka. I don't know why he wears the stupid thing. It's never cold enough to need it. Not even when it snows. It does snow here. Sometimes it's even actual snow.

Obviously this time it wasn't, because Avalon has informed me that no, actual snow does not burn little holes in your clothing. Judging from the pitted and warped metal skeleton in Dante's hand, he didn't escape whatever precipitation attacked him without the sacrifice of a valiant umbrella. We should probably bury it. Or at least say a few nice words.

Bamboozled comes to mind. I think it may be less nice and more just fun to say. Like chartreuse. Or rejection.

"Is it raining?" I ask.

"Not sure." Dante wipes at his steamy goggles. "I can never tell what inspiration storms think they're meant to be doing."

I understand the goggles. He's got odd eyes. People think I have odd eyes, too, but mine just change colors. Dante's stay the same. So they're different all the time.

Pulling off his parka, he does a damage check. It's bad. Unless he's trying to start a charred dot trend. I don't think he is. Dots would clash with his white and black checkered scarf.

"Would your brother fix this for me?" he asks.

Most people would add do you think to the beginning of that question, but Dante knows me. He knows my answer isn't an opinion. It's the most certain possibility. He also know that it's probably "no, he won't." Dante may not have the Fortune streak that I do, but he's still too close to my mother's family for my brother to feel at ease.

Not his fault. Not Dante's either. In our uncertain world, the past is a certainty we cling to. Probably shouldn't. But we do. We're not so different from your people. Sometimes. Other times we're not so similar.

"Repairing things isn't really his specialty," I say. "He's in a bitchy mood already. A pancake attacked me."

Dante stops examining his parka. I can see my face reflected in his goggle lenses.

"Really." I roll up my sleeve. "See? Syrup burn."

"That's disgusting." He scowls. "I'd expect that kind of nonsense from a waffle, but pancakes are cool. A bit excitable, sure, but they aren't prone to violence."

"This one was. It used a multiple exclamation mark bomb."

"How many?"

"Forty-three. I think. It got hard to count after the twenty-eighth one."

"Wow." He drops his parka on a nearby chair. "Who sent it?"

"Don't know."

"How can you not? There must have been some echo of who made it."

"It was quiet."

"Quiet." He repeats it in a meaningful way. Like Avalon does sometimes. It's how I know they're related.

"Like pancake quiet?" he asks. "Or like me quiet?"

Oh. I think about it. It's hard to listen to probabilities that have already passed. It's like humming the song you heard two tracks ago when you're still listening to the album. Whatever's playing currently is always going to be more relevant.

But I can try to tune it out. Push it to the background. Listen. It wasn't a pancake kind of quiet. Not a person kind of quiet, which should be more disturbing but is less disturbing because people have no place here. People here making evil pancakes would be something to be really concerned about.

"It was a you kind of quiet," I say. "Did you send it?"

"No." He crosses his arms. "Why would I send you a kamikaze pancake?"

He's right. It's not his style. He'd rather wait and defeat me the honorable way. In a battle mech. Battling through the remains of Shinjuku Gardens. Buildings rising against the twilight sky and the multicolored stars reflected in the ponds. I know the turtles are anticipating it. The koi could care less. They'd rather we used Ueno Park to stage our epic showdown. We were going to, but we can't find it now.

Things tend to move around here. A lot. Not usually things that got stuck here, but Tokyo adapted quickly. Not because it vanished first, but because the veil between our worlds was thinner. It is in any place where what your people call superstition or general weirdness thrives. You don't always notice, though, because general weirdness is another one of those relative things. Be around it long enough and you start to think it's normal.

"Did your breakfast assassin say anything else?" Dante asks.

"It said it had a message from Stellina. She didn't send it." If she had, I'd know. I don't know, so she didn't make it.

He doesn't say that should have been your first clue. He says, "All right, it's a place to start."

"Could be a trap."

"Probably." He shrugs. "But you know better than I do about how these games are played."

He's right. Again. Stellina's name is a clue. For whatever reason whoever sent the pancake wants us to think she's involved. All we can do is play along.

He watches me connect the dots. Waits. People like him are patient. Calm. It may be why they're silent. And why it's the quiet ones who cause the most trouble.

"You know where she is?" he asks.

"No." My eyes go to that dead umbrella. "I know where she'll most likely be."

"Let's go." He looks at his parka again. Sighs. "You're going to want a coat. Maybe body armor. Possibly both."

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Katie's Cupcakes



So next time you're in Bellingham—say for for an author event at Village Books—you should definitely take the time to stop at Katie's Cupcakes.



Located in Historic Fairhaven—which earns extra points—Katie's Cupcakes is a little cupcake-focused bakery with cookies, looseleaf tea and coffee. It's super cute from its polkadot cups and plates to its chalkboard menu.



The cupcakes are light and fluffy, as the cake is moist without being too heavy. The icing is perfect! While it's a wonderful buttercream, it's not too sweet... so you find yourself easily able to eat the cupcake without your teeth aching. They also have half-sized cupcakes, which are brilliant. I had a Cookies & Cream which was a chocolate cake with icing with little bits of cookie in it and half an Oero cookie on top.


It's so bright and sunny inside that it won't matter what the weather is like outside. Sit and have one of their five always featured flavors or try one of the special offerings that rotate throughout the week. (I want to know what an Irish Car Bomb Cupcake tastes like...)



There's beautiful local art hanging, and it's for sale if you have a few hundred dollars and an empty feature wall in your home. In April they have a cupcake eating contest.



You can always take cupcakes home with you, too.



I've been to a few cupcake places, but this is the first one that embraces the cute. It's a sweet wonderful place that any Loligoth should want to want visit, because it's genuine. No pretention or imitation. It's one of the few American Cute spaces I've encountered. You've got to check it out.

Monday, May 18, 2009

In case you missed the announcement, Dollhouse Mondays resume in the fall... because Fox renewed Dollhouse for another 13 episodes! If it does, they may pick up the additional nine.

I found out Friday night via text from one friend, and another on facebook added more of the details. I was rather gobsmacked, because I really wanted a second season, but the odds seemed against it. Now that it's happened, I have to wonder what else is in store... the air has that feeling, y'know, change is a-comin'.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Food shouldn't have faces

It is too Thursday.

I know this because in a moment before this one that I declared Thursday Morning a heinous crime occurred. Thursday Mornings are bad for surprises. Surprises happen on Thursday Mornings because that's when Dante and I go to Tokyo. To dodge loli-ghosts and hunt for wild manga and seek parts for the battle mechs we're building. When they're complete, we're going to fight for Tokyo Tower.

Assuming it doesn't return to your world first. I don't think it will. I've had a good listen and I can say with relative certainty that we destroy and rebuild the Tower in several epic mech battles before it disappears. Relative certainty, because nothing is entirely certain. Even less so when people like Dante are involved.

This Thursday morning I sat down to my breakfast of pancakes. Usually I have smiley-faced pancakes. Not because I want to. I don't. I'm a firm believer that food shouldn't have faces.

My brother gives the pancakes syrup smiley faces because his mother used to do it for him. I guess she liked to watch the pancakes smile as he stabbed them with his fork.

My mother knew better than to give food faces. If something has a mouth, it can talk. Or talk you out of eating it.

I have had smiley face pancakes that tried. In a very cheerful, happy way. Which made it worse. It was like eating a cheeseburger with a over-caffeinated vegetarian. Except without the soy breath. Pancakes smell much better than soy.

I explained to Matt about the smiley face pancakes. How they happily guilt trip me. He gave me one of those Older Brother looks. Said FINE and drew a line across the pancake's mouth. I suspect he hadn't had his coffee yet. He's very mean before coffee. Sometimes mean after. He has a Temptation streak from his mother. It doesn't like the Fortune one I got from my mother.

This time instead of a smiley face he gave my pancake what looked like a Big Smiley face: :D Turn your head to the side. You'll see it. :D

This is Not Good. You'll see why.

The pancake smiled its BIG SMILE at me and said "Hello, Ethanael!!!!!"

Yes. Really. With all those exclamation marks. I know because I felt at least five jab my brain. Have you ever had an exclamation mark jab your brain? It's like listening to your favorite song and someone stabs you with their finger to get your attention even though they can see that you have headphones on and are drumming along to something with an enthusiasm that suggests extreme pleasure. I hate those people. And multiple exclamation marks. One is enough to get your point across.

"Shut up, pancake," I said. "I'm going to eat you. Don't try to cheerfully talk your way out of it."

"Oh, no doubt!!! You sure will!!!"

See? Annoying.

"But first... I have a message from Stellina!!!"

Stellina is this weird girl who used to be someone else and is now not. I don't know what to do about her. Before she was who she is now, the person she isn't would threaten to kill me. I knew how to handle that. Lots of people like to threaten to kill me. For various reasons. We get bored here. A lot. Now she's Stellina and she doesn't threaten to kill me anymore. She shows up and watches Dante and I do stuff. Asks me if she can help. Looks at me. Giggles.

It's seriously weird.

"What is it, pancake?" I asked.

"She hopes you have a happy day!!!!"

What the hell is that supposed to mean?

"Oh, and Ethanael?!!!"

"Yeah, pancake?"

"I have another message!!!! YAY!!!"

This is the point where I should have overcome my peace-loving nature and just stabbed the pancake in the face. But I was curious. I'm so used to being able to know what's going to happen by listening to the probabilities. Pancakes don't have music. They're like humans that way.

"Fine. What's the other message, pancake?"

"!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

I clamped my hands over my headphones to try to fend off the exclamation mark attack. The pancake lunged for my face. It opened its big smile and tried to bite me. I knocked it aside with my arm.

Or I tried to. First it gummed me with its big talky mouth. Left syrupy bite marks. Gross.

As the talky face pancake bounced off the floor with a sticky BOING, Matt came into the kitchen to yell tell me to stop knocking over the table and chairs. Instead, he got to see me land a wicked fork jab in the pancake's left eye. Syrup gushed! (See? ONE IS ENOUGH.)

As the pancake retreated on top of the stove to plan its next attack, Matt got another of his Older Brother looks. Grabbing the frying pan, he beat the evil flapjack down. Trapped it beneath the pan.

"Damn." He stared at the syrup puddles all over the hardwood. "I'll make scrambled eggs instead."

While he did, I thought about how I was going to find out who sent that evil intent into our kitchen. Who thought they could use Stellina to disarm me. Who would dare soil the innocent nature of happy breakfast foods. I'd expect this treachery from a waffle, but not a pancake.

When Dante shows up, we'll head for the Dream Fields. We're going to find who's behind that offensively excited message. I'll keep you posted on the developments. Unless I hear that it would be unwise to do so.

Until then, beware the talky face pancakes.


Talky face pancake. DO NOT TRUST.
Today was going to be my post on the Fairhaven area of Bellingham—specifically Katie's Cupcakes—but Ethan declared he gets to post on Thursdays. When I tried to explain that today is a Friday, he told me I was wrong and I owed him because I didn't get him a Solitary armband.

I didn't realize he'd read Melissa's books. Apparently he likes Sentence Sunday on her lj, and he gave me one those annoying looks that I take to mean he knows I've been sharing excerpts of his interludes there.

Anyway, I have no idea what he intends to share with you—or if it's even going to make sense to those of us who function on earth logic.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Melissa Marr at Village Books

Village Books is an independent bookstore in the historic Fairhaven district of Bellingham, Washington. Three floors of book bliss—impressive YA and Speculative sections, which are usually the stumbling point of the other indies I've been to—as well as a cafe on the top floor with yummy food, amazing deserts and a fantastic view.

Melissa Marr is the NYT Bestselling author of Wicked Lovely, Ink Exchange, Fragile Eternity and The Desert Tales manga from TOKYOPOP.

I'd met Melissa once before, but that was a stock signing and this was an actual event. Melissa, however, is informality at its most gracious, and ran the event as an open Q&A. Which led to everything from a sidebar on her favored fan pairings from Buffy to reaffirmation that it is possible to get published and make a living doing it.

Melissa also had Fragile Eternity wristbands that doubled as flashdrives filled with goodies... My mother caught the first one and my friend Nikki caught two others. (I passed one of them off to someone behind us.) I'll be passing the goods off to the fansite, but we have to wait until after the Summer Solstice to post any of the drive treats.

When we got our books signed, Melissa let us reached into a Bowen Press bag and pull out a court band. These bands, which show your court affiliation, were inspired by the Rathers over at WickedLovely.com—and I can assure you, lovelies, they are very, very cool. I pulled a Winter Court one and took a High Court one. Nikki took one of each court, but left the orange Solitary one.

This is really insufficient in explaining how amazing and inspiring it was to attend Melissa's event, and I'm sorry about that. Village Books and Melissa were extremely cool about staying afterwards to talk, which was good because I wanted to ask about Rachel Vincent's YA series and that led to a little bit of a Rachel's awesome and yes, she really is. I also found out that Melissa and I shared an editor at TOKYOPOP—the fabulous Jenna Winterberg, who edited The Wild Hunt and Volume 2 of Melissa's Desert Tales manga. Plus, it's always great to meet a fellow Joss fan and share in the hope that we'll get our second season of Dollhouse.

Maybe the best part, however, was knowing that my mother got our copy of Fragile Eternity signed—and got to meet her favorite author in person.
Check back later today for a post about the Melissa Marr event at Village Books in Bellingham, Washington. I have to make some progress on REFLECTIONS first.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Dollhouse: Omega



Our Dollhouse season one comes to an end, and look it brought a point with it. Ok, that's not fair. Slavery is bad had been Paul's push from the beginning, but other people can go there as that wasn't really the thematic kicker for me. Sarah wins the prize for being one of the first champions of the moral ambiguity angle. Although, we didn't take it quite far enough.

Get your coffee and settle in—I'm going to prove to you that Dollhouse deserves a second season, despite its somewhat flawed execution. I've been hard on the show here—citing pacing issues, frustrations with Paul's lack of personal life outside his quest for the House, the inconsistencies in Topher's clothing choices*, how everyone in this show is more interesting than Echo/Caroline, and a constant cry of where are you going with this?

Well, thanks to Uncles Joss and Tim as well as my tentative grasp on existentialism** I can at least put that last one to rest. Also thanks to That Girl, who was a sounding board for this essay on Saturday. (And contributed the self-loathing theme.)

It's reset button that kills me. Every episode, we wipe Echo. It all sort of becomes pointless, any learning she's amassed and her experiences are gone. Deleted. How can she develop as a character? How can what happens to her have any real impact? Is this what we're being told, that what we do has no impact? That we can be noble or criminally insane, because in the end someone wipes our hardrives?

No. Omega proves it. We have to look past the interchangeable cogs despair that Alpha wallows in. Joss has gone existential before—you can see it in Buffy. Part of that philosophy is that there is no Great Truth, there is no morality, just what we make out to be Right and Wrong in our personal definitions. Sound familiar? Like oh, the moral ambiguity of every character on the show? Yet all of them remain true to their personal principles of right and wrong. Whatever tricky moral waters the Dollhouse is beneath, we see the characters showing faithfulness to their friends, their actives, or their jobs.

There is good in the house. It's just up to the individual to define and choose to do that good. I'll get back to this later by explaining Paul's decision to sign up for the Ballard and Boyd Wondertwins.

Despite that we hit the reset button at the end of Omega, Echo is proven to be aware. She realizes she's hollow, and in that realization is proof of her individual consciousness and—to use Paul's word—soul. This brings up the question of what happens when Echo has to effectively die for Caroline's return. Well, it's not going to be an issue. Echo remains egoless—despite her composite—because at her core, she believes in the goodness of people and herself. She can sacrifice herself for others because of the belief that it has meaning—and she has done so constantly throughout the series. Recall Adelle saying how Echo is taking care of the House.

I'm not going to say she's inherently a good person because Caroline loved animals, and Alpha's a bad person because he was a criminal. I think you could argue it, if you wanted. Instead I'm going to say that Alpha and Echo are two different perspectives.

Back to the existentialism, Alpha throws about his Neitzsche. He is the Superman. He is above Right and Wrong and God is Dead. Well, Mr. Superman, Echo's reply is thus: Frak you. Being a superman doesn't mean you get to hurt people and cut up their faces and imprint random store employees with other people's souls and plan to oppress humanity because you're a "Superior Being."

Hoo boy. Where we can go with this. The destruction of our planet? Slavery? I'm going to stick with the morality thread. Here's your two takes on ascended beings as offered by Alpha and Echo:
(1) A monster without morals or structures who does as he pleases thinking only of himself and his pleasures.
(2) Someone empowered by the knowledge that they make right through their will, and thus wants to protect others because it is their duty to care for those who don't have the same level of consciousness.

Remember Briar Rose? It's ok to be saved, when you can't save yourself. (Or it's okay to be saved by a composite Superwoman of all the personalities downloaded into your body when your brain has been downloaded into Wendy the Shopgirl and you're at the mercy of a mad scientist.)

How does this fit That Girl's theory about self-loathing? If there is no morality or god or point to life beyond what we give it and you hate yourself and find that depressing, of course you're going to become a monster. If you believe that people are good and worth saving, you will craft a morality that instructs you to do Good for the sake of it bringing you pleasure.

We see this in Topher, and his line during Briar Rose of "this is not unlike pride." Take pride in doing good and it doesn't matter if we're all cogs in the machine, because you have chosen your morality instead of having it imprinted on you by society or religion. Thus, it means more.

How can I argue that Echo chooses to do good, even when she's wiped at the end of each episode? After she gets out of the chair in Omega, Echo senses Topher is upset. She tries to comfort him—despite that there's no gain in it for her other than to know she's eased his suffering. That moment of the show was more powerful for me than Paul arranging for November's freedom.

As for Paul? He had three goals this season:
(1) Find the Dollhouse.
(2) Save Caroline.
(3) Save Mellie.

He found the House. He saved Caroline—or her essence as imprinted on the wedge—by cooperating with the House, and seeing that Boyd—like him—retained a personal sense of right and wrong even while working for someone that Paul would classify as "evil." Plus, I think he saw a warning of what he could become in Alpha. Paul has been acting above the law, as Alpha did... Doing things that early-season Paul would have had serious issues with. The House vindicates Paul—he's not crazy, and he can continue to have a purpose and accomplish his goals by working with them. Hell, maybe he even thinks he can change them from the inside.

So, of course, it makes sense Paul would make a deal to save Mellie. It's his final goal. He's done with the FBI—they don't need him, appreciate him or believe him. The House does. Why not go to them? Especially, since they're probably going to have him killed if he doesn't. So, if he has to enter into willful slavery—and it was his own actions that brought him to that point—why not do so at the price of setting someone else free?

Maybe that's a little convenient—I mean 37 minutes into an hour long season finale the principle House folks were still talking in Adelle's office, but that's that pacing issue of Dollhouse coming back to bite the show in the ass. Now, it's found its feet so let's give it a second season not impeded by bad decision-making on the network's part.

Let this show run, Fox. I'm promising you it's going somewhere important.

PS Whiskey FTW.

* Really. Check it out. Half the time he's dressed like a real person, and half the time he's dressed like a teenage boy. One time he was dressed like an extra from HSM.

** The grip is often on my ankle shoving my foot into my mouth.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

According to my dashboard, the last Dollhouse post made 400 entries on this blog. (Isn't that sad?) I take this to mean I blog too often.

Seriously, I'm working on REFLECTIONS. That's the main reason for the relative quiet, as I'm battling with Oliver. The voice just isn't right, yet, and I'm guessing it's going to be one of those things I spend the zero draft finding. Isn't doing new things fun? *g*

Speaking of new... Have a look at Rachel Vincent's cover for MY SOUL TO TAKE, first book in her new YA series SOUL SCREAMERS. Why, yes, that is a Melissa Marr cover quote!


Monday, May 04, 2009

Dollhouse: Briar Rose



I like fairy tale re-imaginings and I like parallels, but I'm less fond of being hit over the head with them. Briar Rose was a little heavy-handed, which is unfortunate because it was a really interesting way to handle this penultimate episode.

I want to like this episode, because there's a lot of great things that it does. We get an epic fist-fight between our two moral compasses: Paul, trying to be the outside world's morality check, and Boyd, trying to be the House's morality check. Icing to this tasty cake is that both of these compasses are somewhat broken, and their battle is so much more violent because they desperately need to feel they are Right. (Could have laughed out loud at Adelle's comment of there being enough righteousness to go around, if I wasn't still muttering about the Mystery Fail.)

Congratulations to the writers for finally getting it right with the identity issues. Putting Mr. Dominick in Victor's body with the awareness and revulsion of it having happened finally makes a comment that a viewer can take seriously. Thank you for at last showing us the kind of psychological damage that imprinting would cause in an aware victim.

We also get Topher discovering his powers of awesome can be used to do really great things for the world, and that it's a nice feeling to help people while proving how clever you are. Aww, our little genius is growing up.

Cut to the WTF of this episode, because there's a great bloody deal of that to go around. Topher does something genuinely Good and he's punished by having Paul taser him. I have to believe this happens to prevent Alpha from hacking Topher into little genius pieces, because otherwise I conclude if you do good things in the Dollhouse universe, you're punished for it. If you do horrible bad things, you get rewarded with hot doll action. Unless you do them to the House—that wins you a trip to the Attic.

Also Mystery Fail, Whedon. You don't introduce someone in the second-to-last episode who we've never seen before and declare them to be the Big Bad. Or at least you didn't used to. Either way, it's still cheating. Thus, I didn't find the Alpha reveal satisifying—just disappointing and utterly WTF. While it doesn't take away the fun that I had with my friends discussing theories and evaluating possibilities, it's not encouraging us to play along for season two.

Paul as Alpha would have been a much more interesting story twist, but the writers likely would have failed to use it to its full potential. So again, are we headed for Doll Paul or Handler Paul? Or a Paul and Boyd team up to lecture Alpha into surrendar by appealing to his moral ambugity with their own?

It's not like next week's trailer gives us any indication. Instead, it implies an EchoCaroline/Alpha/BlondeCaroline S&M threesome, which I have little interest in seeing. I think Alpha's creeptastic and the Caroline imprint in Echo isn't her actual personality but tweaked to be what Alpha wants. While I love the possibility of more identity exploration, I'm skeptical that it won't sink into leather-clad nonsense instead of answering real questions like are Topher and Victor ok or why is Alpha extra awful to Dr Fred?

Friday, May 01, 2009

Off to a rousing start, as I thought I had a chapter finished. However, before I can experiment with Oliver's narrative style, I had to re-evaluate the second scene of the first chapter. It wasn't working, and it occurred to me late last night why that was. I'd been so concerned with having the characters react to something that had happened, I'd forgotten to include the reaction of the character it had happened to.

Author fail. Ah well, won't be the first time this manuscript—that's what revisions are for, after all.