An Interlude: I Was An Accidental Goth

Hi, folks! It’s “not even remotely related to books” Wednesday! We could also call it, “It’s my blog so if you don’t like it, leave” day, but that’s a little rude so we’ll stick to the former.

So I’m a recent Birchbox* subscriber, and I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how my fashion sense has evolved since high school. Or, I guess I should say “developed” since high school.

You see, about a decade (or so *cough*) ago, I was a wee lass of about eighteen or twenty who would have been termed “goth”. I wore a lot of black back in the day. A lot of black. Black tops, black jeans, black shoes, black eyeliner (LOTS of eyeliner). But I didn’t set out to be a goth girl, you see. My goth persona happened pretty gradually. In fact, I have a confession to make.

The real reason I turned to goth-dom is that fashion is hard.

You see, it’s much easier to coordinate clothes and shoes and jewelry if they’re all the same color. And what color was I supposed to choose? Pink? I’m no Reese Witherspoon. (Also: blech! Pink!)

Black matches everything. That’s just the truth. So everything I bought was black. I used to joke that it made getting dressed in the dark that much easier, because I didn’t need to see to make everything match. (It’s true, by the way. Although you have to watch for getting things inside out. Don’t ask me how I know this.)

To further embarrass myself, I can tell you that I never looked like this:

Creative Commons Attribution Copyright Credit to Flickr user dunikowski.

As a matter of fact, I probably looked more like this:


(Click the picture to be taken to the photographer’s photo stream. It’s quite good.)

Yes, that’s definitely more what I looked like. *sigh*

I’ve gotten a bit more adventurous in my older (not old!) age. I actually have color in my wardrobe now, but there’s still a lot of my staple: black! I didn’t have many fashion role models growing up. I still don’t really. So tell me, please. Who is your fashion role model?

*FTC Disclosure: The Birchbox link is an affiliate link. I am compensated (in points, not cash) only if you purchase something. 

So It Begins

So I’ve decided that sometimes I just want to write stuff. And dammit if I’m going to support a whole ‘nother blog for that like an idiot when I’ve got this nice and juicy one right here to use. So sometimes, I might post some things that aren’t exactly book-related. It’s my blog, after all. If that devastates you, well… You should probably see someone about that, mkay?

Here’s a thing for you: My Blackbirds review got a mention over at Terrible Minds. That squee you heard was the squee heard round the world. Seeing my blog linked there was sort of like Christmas — except with booze instead of presents and lots of swear words instead of O Holy Night. So it was like Christmas, but better. I waited all day to come home and say that. I hope you’re happy. (I know I am.)

Here’s another thing.

My apartment building has a stray cat for a mascot. No one’s really sure who he belongs to, but someone got him a nice dog cat house and set it in the woods near the parking lot. He has his own bowl and everything. We don’t even know the cat’s name, despite the fact that he’s been hanging around for the last three or four years.

So my husband, the Artist, calls him “Hef”, after (of course) Hugh Hefner. Why? Because of the attitude, man. This cat is popular with the “molly”‘s (which Wikipedia tells me is the term for a female feline). Hef has lady cats following him around at regular intervals, but when he’s not living it up with a foxy female, he’s usually sprawled on his stomach in the middle of the parking lot.

Click for full size image on Flickr.

Photo by turtlemom4bacon, who has an awesome username. This cat is not Hef, but looks like him.

This cat has no fear. He routinely sprawls right in the center of the drive between parking spaces, and does not deign to move when a car pulls in. He’ll glare at you – haughtily – as you park and extricate yourself from your heavy metal death-dealing machine. Then he’ll yawn and go back to grooming himself, as if to say, “Of course you will work around me, for I am King, pesky monkey-thing.”

Seriously. I can hear him thinking it. Damn cat.

You can view a full-size version of not-Hef at Flickr by clicking on the picture to the left.

What was the point of this story? Simple. I didn’t have one. I was just illustrating the point that it’s my blog, and I’ll say what I want. And I’d have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for you meddling kids.

Review: The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson

The Alloy of Law is a Mistborn book, which takes place roughly 300 years after the events in the original trilogy. Theoretically, you could probably read this without reading the rest – but I wouldn’t recommend it, because you’d be missing out on some awesome world-building.

The Blurb

Three hundred years after the events of the Mistborn trilogy, Scadrial is now on the verge of modernity, with railroads to supplement the canals, electric lighting in the streets and the homes of the wealthy, and the first steel-framed skyscrapers racing for the clouds. 

Kelsier, Vin, Elend, Sazed, Spook, and the rest are now part of history—or religion. Yet even as science and technology are reaching new heights, the old magics of Allomancy and Feruchemy continue to play a role in this reborn world. Out in the frontier lands known as the Roughs, they are crucial tools for the brave men and women attempting to establish order and justice. 

One such is Waxillium Ladrian, a rare Twinborn, who can Push on metals with his Allomancy and use Feruchemy to become lighter or heavier at will. After twenty years in the Roughs, Wax has been forced by family tragedy to return to the metropolis of Elendel. Now he must reluctantly put away his guns and assume the duties and dignity incumbent upon the head of a noble house. Or so he thinks, until he learns the hard way that the mansions and elegant tree-lined streets of the city can be even more dangerous than the dusty plains of the Roughs.

My Review:

More, please.

….

What? You need more than that? Oookay… if you say so. Sanderson is a brain-astounding world- and magic-system-builder. I enjoyed the punniness of the character names immensely. (You’ll see this almost immediately. If you don’t, hit yourself in the face a few times and start over at the beginning.)

Why is this book awesome? Let me count the ways: Allomancy! Gun fights! Kidnapped damsels in distress!* Train robberies! Sky-scrapers! Explosions! Do you really need anything more??

*Yes, I could choose to take issue with the damsels in distress. There appears to be only one** woman in the book who is anything resembling something that is not a damsel – and even she has her flaws. Namely, she is a pampered young lady who, while apparently being a crack shot with a rifle, has never been in a gun fight. She spends most of the book blushing. No, that is not an exaggeration. I’m willing to give Sanderson a break on this for one reason: Vin.

**No, I am not counting the woman who is murdered on what is, essentially, the first page. And no, that isn’t a spoiler because if you don’t see THAT coming about a nanosecond after the scenario is set up then you, Sir (or Madam) are an… Well, suffice it say that you may need to change your light bulb, and let’s leave it at that, shall we?

If you have not read Sanderson yet, then go scrounge in your couch cushions for your pennies and dimes and go out and GET SOMETHING already. You will not be disappointed. If you are disappointed, you should follow the parenthetical instructions in the first paragraph.

[xrr rating=4/5 imageset=default]

How to Miss Out On Great Books

I said in a recent review that I would come back and tell the story of how I came so late to the Retrievers novels and Laura Anne Gilman‘s Cosa Nostradamus world.

Retrievers #1

It’s really quite simple and easy, but if you’re curious, here is Kiara’s Guide to Missing Out On Really Great Books™ .

  1. Hold tight to your tropes.
    • When I first picked up Staying Dead back in 2004 or 2005, I was really big into Laurell K Hamilton’s Anita Blake series. (We’re all youthful and naive at one point or another.) The genre was just getting big on vampires and werewolves and kick ass chicks in leather pants. Staying Dead had none of these things. Here was a book with a nervous heroine whose “super power” was being ignored. What kind of kick ass chick was THAT?
  2. Scoff at anything outside the “norm”.
    • Electricity as a magic power? That was just too… normal… to be fantasy. Fairies that weren’t tall and coolly elfin and romantically aloof? A heroine who not only had never killed anyone – or even beaten anyone up, from the look of it – but who was afraid of guns?
  3. Dis the romance. Overlook the other relationships.
    • One of the major elements, I think, in the Cosa Nostradamus series is the relationships. Sure, Wren and Sergei have “a thing” blossoming, and that’s the only place I looked at first. “Romance,” I thought to myself, disgustedly. “Who has any use for a heroine who can’t even figure out her love life? Or one who even NEEDS a love life?” But the beauty of this series is that it looks at the ways different people interact with one another. I mean – I’m sure the author didn’t give her main character the ability to be overlooked because she thought it would be FUNNY, you know? Sure, it’s useful for a thief, but what does it do to the person inside – the one who’s being ignored? That’s just one of the incredibly subtle ways that Gilman makes a statement in this series.
  4. Dismiss anything unique as “silly”.
    • A demon who looks like a polar bear? I admit it, I scoffed. Sure, it was cutesy. But he was supposed to be a “fucking demon” (to quote Jason Lee in Dogma). Never mind that this gives a character who could very easily become one dimensional a depth and richness that moves his story from trite to significant. No one takes a monster who looks like a cuddly stuffed animal seriously, after all. So neither did I; I didn’t look any deeper.
  5. Don’t give a decent book a second chance. Or even a first chance, if you can help it.
    • I’m ashamed to admit that I only read Staying Dead a second time because I won a signed copy in a contest and – after months of seeing it still sitting on my shelf – I guiltily decided that I’d better at least READ the damned thing before I found another home for it*. That, and because I agreed with so much of what the author was saying on her website. SURELY, if I liked her non-fiction blogging so much, there must be SOMETHING to like in her fiction too, right? So I decided to read it again.

This was in fall of 2010 and I was in a much different place than I had been. When I first read these books, I was single and bitter about it. I was lost, lonely, and was just starting to gain back some of the confidence and self-esteem that had been destroyed by a bad relationship. Now, I have been happily married for a handful of years and have learned to say things like “No” and “I don’t need you in my life”. Back then, I was happy with a two-dimensional heroine who had what I thought I wanted in life (ruthless ambition, a pair of leather pants, and the power to make sure no one ever hurt her again). The more mature me of now has decided she’d like a little real life (a little moderation, a bit more than a wee taste of fun, and most definitely no chafing from leather pants) in her fantasy, please, kthxbai.

Moreover, now that I have grown a bit older (no comments from the peanut gallery, please) and have begun to take myself more seriously as a writer, I can look deeper into the story and see the grace and finesse. Now, I can appreciate Gilman’s obvious experience as an author and what she’s trying to do as an artist. I had previously (idiotically) been dismissing the very things that make this series so interesting and unique. I’m now three books into the series and I’m waiting to get my hands on the fourth. The only reason I took a break is because my TBR shelf was giving me sullen stares when it thought I wasn’t looking.

So, kiddies, don’t be like me. Just because you’re not in English Lit anymore and just because genre novels aren’t the usual college fare doesn’t mean that you have to turn your brain off when you’re reading a novel. (Although that’s fun sometimes, too!) So pay attention, be on the lookout, and don’t forget to eat your Wheaties. Oh, and give the Retrievers a look. You might be as surprised as I was on your first (or second) time through.

*And in case you’re wondering: no, you can’t have my copy. I’ve changed my mind. It’s not going anywhere.

 

Writer’s Resources for October 2nd through October 17th

This is a list of links I’ve found useful for October 2nd through October 17th:

Why I Read Urban Fantasy

I’ve always enjoyed the supernatural, in both movies and in books. I love watching stuff like Shaun of the Dead (zombies), Idle Hands (demons), or Cursed (werewolves). But stuff like Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Friday the 13th was never for me. It’s not that I find the latter scary, exactly. I just never preferred them.You may have noticed that the former are all horror-comedies. Cursed has the funniest werewolf scene ever. Idle Hands has Devon Sawa and Seth Green. I don’t think you need to be told anything further. And Shaun of the Dead cracks me up all the way through. But I especially love the singing-zombie scene:

(You’re welcome. No, really. You are. And that’s probably the only time you’ll ever see me link to YouTube, unless it’s a book trailer.)

I always joked that I didn’t watch slasher flicks because they were too real. Except I wasn’t really joking.

Sure, I’ll watch every episode of NCIS ever filmed, but I don’t watch true crime stories. They don’t hold my interest. Why? Because they ARE too real. We’re reminded every day in the news of the sorts of things one person can do to another. I don’t really need to seek it out.

What’s the difference then? Honestly, I think it’s the humor. Even morbid humor is better than the stiff seriousness they use on Unsolved Mysteries and the like. I believe in tempering the worst of human nature (murder & death) with the best that life has to offer (humor, laughter, human resilience).

So what’s the point of this post?

I realized yesterday that this is the one point that makes or breaks an urban fantasy read for me. The murder, kill, death has to be alleviated with some laughter or I just end up depressed. I’ve been reading a lot of depressing urban fantasy lately: Brenna Yovanoff’s The Replacement (review forthcoming), Carrie Vaughn’s Discord’s Apple. While it’s not exactly UF in genre, I’ve also been listening to the audio of Justin Cronin’s The Passage. All three are excellent reads in their own way – I find the sociological aspect of the cultural changes in The Passage particularly fascinating – but none of them are happy books.

And I didn’t fall in love with any of them the way I have some others. Others like: Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series; Rob Thurman’s Cal Leandros series; Devon Monk’s Allie Beckstrom series; or Kim Harrison’s The Hollows. The common thread? Humor. Laughter. Even sarcasm. Especially in the face of disaster, death, and the end of the world.

The kind of books you enjoy can tell you a lot about yourself. What does your choice of book say about you? Share your suggestions and thoughts in the comments.

Writer's Resources for December 14th through January 9th

These are writers’ resource links I’ve found helpful and/or interesting for December 14th through January 9th:

Writer’s Resources for December 14th through January 9th

These are writers’ resource links I’ve found helpful and/or interesting for December 14th through January 9th:

New Ideas

I’ve come to realize that short posts are better than no posts at all, yes?

I was at dinner yesterday with my husband, J – more often referred to by me as ‘the Artist’ – and we always have the best, most ridiculous conversations. We’ve come up with ideas for TV shows, terrible (but funny) band names, stories & novels, web comic shorts, and many other things.*

So we were at dinner, and began talking about what it would be like if Greek & Roman mythology overlapped our own modern times & technology. How would our current news outlets report the kidnap of a woman by a bull? Or an assault on a city by a large wooden horse?

We decided, of course, that the only way this mythology would get reported on in the current day would be by the supermarket tabloids. I think the best headline we came up with was: “Hot Chick Turns Into Giant Spider”. Which, of course, made me nearly snort cherry coke out of my nose.

The idea kind of took hold and made me think about writing as a fun and joyful thing for the first time in awhile. So I spent last evening paging through an old copy of Edith Hamilton and making notes.

So be on the lookout for a brand new (and ongoing) project from me, which should be linked here soon. I can’t wait to see how some old school mythology would be received in modern times!

*One of these days I’ll get around to buying a digital voice recorder so we can record these ridiculous & hilarious brain-storming sessions. We forget more ideas than we come up with, most of the time.

Writer's Resources for November 4th through November 11th

These are writers’ resource links I’ve found helpful and/or interesting for November 4th through November 11th: