Monthly Archives: September 2013

Sturgeon’s 90%: Soul Signs: An Elemental Guide to Your Spiritual Destiny

[Trigger warnings for physical and emotional abuse.]

I picked this book up for research purposes, since I thought the concept–that souls have different types that can affect who we are and how we do things–would be an interesting one for a story, and I wanted to familiarize myself with the system presented in this book to avoid unknowingly plagiarizing from it.

I’m kind of a sucker for typology type things in a never ending quest to find out whether I’m “something cool” (ie. not boring Capricorn). I’m also the type who likes to quiz everyone I know, because, let’s face it, it’s part of the fun even if no one takes it seriously.

In a nutshell, the theory behind Soul Signs is that every soul has a, well, sign. Every soul on Earth draws from five energy groups: Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Sulphur, and these groups dictate what sort of energy drives us and affects how we relate to others:

Fire signs are driven by passion and emotion.

Earth signs are driven by strategizing and planning.

Air signs are driven by passivity, and dislike conflicts.

Water signs are driven by the need to compromise.

Sulphur signs are driven by the desire to corrupt.

Each energy group (apart from Sulphur) has three signs and each sign has a different energy flow: introverted (directed inward, at the self), extroverted (directed outward, at others). or centered (balanced energy, flowing in either direction).

As is typical for books like this, once you’ve figured out your exact sign (and it takes a few chapters), Altea moves on to discussing compatibility, including which souls are your “ideal match” because no one ever reads these things to discover anything but whether they and their S.O. are perfectly 100% compatible, amirite? There’s also a chapter on pet soul signs (yes, all animals have signs too) and a chapter on evil and how good souls can do bad things.

One thing I did like about this book is that it tried to step away from the quiz format. So many books of this type are all like “Take this quiz and BAM! We’ll tell you which type you are!” Soul Signs straight up asks the reader “What type of person are you?” and while there are some quiz type questions that can help you figure it out, there aren’t many, and once you figure out which energy group you are, it’s a simple matter of reading the descriptions to find your sign. I identified with both Air and Water groups, but in reading the descriptions for the individual signs, ended up with the Watery Seeker Soul, characterized by a need to compromise and a great hunger for knowledge.

This wouldn’t be Sturgeon’s 90% without some harsh criticism, so here it is. To some extent, my issues with this book are the same issues I have with other “compatibility” books in that the descriptions for each sign are very general (which is, I suppose, a necessity of books like this).

No book of New Age weirdness would be complete without some dualism thrown in, so we have the Sulphur signs. Sulphur signs are, in a nutshell, Always Chaotic Evil, and they only have one type: the Dark Soul (not to be confused with the game Dark Souls of course). Sulphur signs are your serial killers, your Hitlers, because even bad people have souls. Oh, and by the way, you have the same soul sign in all your previous lives and every life after, so if you had the misfortune to be born a Dark Soul, you’re SOL. Fortunately, I’m pretty sure no one reading Altea’s book would identify as one anyways, and for the most part she just mentions them and then ignores them.

By the way, even the author herself doesn’t know where a Dark Soul begins and a “good soul that does a bad thing” ends.

The other major gripe I have with this book (which is something that, to be honest, is pretty standard thinking in the New Age movement) is how people “can’t help who they are” because soul signs. “Oh. she may be controlling, but it’s because she’s an Earth sign!” “He might be a doormat, but that’s his Air sign passivity shining through,” and she basically says at one point. “If only we could all know our Soul Signs, our relationships would all be fantastic!” (Except, she notes, in the obvious cases where family members have different signs.)

And then there’s the part where she talks about abusive relationships (using personal anecdotes) and, given what I’ve discussed, you can guess where it goes. To be fair, she does say that there are aspects of ourselves we cannot change, and upbringing and environment also play a role in how we relate to others, I can’t help but sigh in exasperation when a concept like soul signs is trotted out to explain shitty behaviour. Is your partner a commitment phobic? Don’t worry, he’s just a Traveler soul, and they don’t like to be tied down! Does your girlfriend always want to be in the spotlight? Don’t worry, she’s a Bright Stat soul, they crave that sort of thing. And then there’s the standard New Age thing that “we choose how our lives unfold” that just becomes so much victim-blaming, and, yeah.

In other words, it’s a typical pile of New Age talking points with a half decent personality type thing that isn’t a rehash of Myers-Briggs or the Enneagram.

Unless you really have the urge to quiz all your friends or you’re doing research like me. yeah, just get it from the library or something.

A Story

Once there was an Urban Fantasy Protagonist, and she had a special power that was only possessed by a few people in her area. Maybe she could read minds, or understand animals, or read a hundred books in a day, all you need to know is that this power was special, but then again, everyone else had a special power as well, so it’s not like it was that special.

This Urban Fantasy Protagonist had a few close friends, friends she’d known since grade school, friends who supported her and were supported by her in turn. She knew she could always rely on these friends for helpful advice or a shoulder to cry on after a bad breakup, and she was always the first to appear at a friend’s door with chicken soup and a box of tissues when one of her friends was sick. Although they did have disagreements (as all friends do) they were never jealous of each other, especially not when one of them was dating.

Among this Urban Fantasy Protagonist’s friends was a Nice Everyman, this Nice Everyman worked at a rather bland and unexciting job. Maybe he worked for a large corporation in a cubicle, or perhaps in sales. The Nice Everyman was occasionally frustrated with his job, but it paid the bills, and maybe he was saving up to become a teacher or a nurse or even a writer. Our Urban Fantasy Protagonist has secretly had a crush on him since forever.

One day, our Urban Fantasy Protagonist encounters a Bad Boy, he may be a werewolf, or a vampire, or perhaps a demon, but he is something different, and our Urban Fantasy Protagonist falls for him immediately.

“Oh, no!” the Urban Fantasy Protagonist laments. “I still have feelings for my Nice Everyman! He is so sweet, a secure and stable partner, but the Bad Boy is different, and the (enthusiastic, consensual) sex I have with him is amazing! Oh! Whatever should I do? Who should I choose?”

And then, something wonderful happened.

The Nice Everyman looked at the Bad Boy, and noticed how he had perfect hair and lovely eyes, and said: “Threesome?”

And the Bad Boy looked at him, with his rumpled shirt and beautiful hands,  and grinned. “I’m down with that.”

Thus was the Urban Fantasy Protagonist’s romantic dilemma solved, enabling her to get back to more important things, like saving the world, which she accomplished all on her own with the assistance of a motorcycle, a shotgun, and a half-eaten chocolate cake.

END

The Open Polytheism Project

I made this thing, it is a forum for polytheists to get together and discuss theology, praxis, post rituals and prayers, and generally discuss how we can make our communities better.

This forum is open to ALL who identify as polytheist. I don’t care who your deities are or where they come from  or anything, if you identify as polytheist then you are welcome*.

The Open Polytheism Project

There’s not much here, but give it time and it will grow.

Also, unfortunately, I can’t get rid of or change the gender box. I know it’s an issue, but it’s part of the forum code thing and I really don’t feel comfortable asking the community for the money that will let me add options to it.

 

 

Game Review: Sweet Fuse: At Your Side

Those of you who have read my blog for awhile (or even just looked at my tumblr or Facebook feeds over the past few weeks) will know that I have a thing for dating sims in general and otome games in particular (Angelique was my first). In recent years, especially with the success of games like Persona 3 and 4, Aksys Games has figured out that maybe there’s an audience for this mostly Japan-only genre, and brought us Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom. Now, a year later, Aksys has brought Sweet Fuse: At Your Side to North America, but will this title blow your mind, or will your enthusiasm be defused?

Sweet Fuse: At Your Side is a visual novel/otome game developed by Idea Factory and published in North America by Aksys.  You play as Saki Inafune, niece of game designer Keiji Inafune, who has been invited to attend the opening of her uncle’s theme park, the Gameatorium, which as its name suggests, is a theme park with video games as the theme. Upon her arrival, however, a menacing figure in a pig costume who calls himself Count Hogstein blows up the Ferris wheel and takes the park staff hostage. To save her uncle, Saki volunteers to take part in a series of deadly games along with six men: a journalist, a detective, a fortune teller, an escort, an idol singer, and a hardcore gamer who only came to the park for DLC. Over a seven day period, these seven individuals must survive Hogstein’s deadly amusement park attractions while trying to discover his identity and his reasons for doing what he’s doing, oh, and perhaps find love along the way.

From left to right: Shirabe, Shidou (bottom left), Urabe (upper left), Saki (center), Mitarashi (upper right), Wakasa (bottom right) and Meoshi

Seeing as this is a text-based game and uncovering the plot is part of the fun, I can’t say much more plot-wise, Suffice it to say that it’s a much more lighthearted affair than games like 999 and Virtue’s Last Reward, also published by Aksys, although both games place a far greater emphasis on puzzles. As is typical for a visual novel, you will spend a lot of time reading and making choices (which may or may not earn you affection points with the guys) in Sweet Fuse, choices which may or may not suddenly result in the appearance of the game over screen.  Sweet Fuse does have a couple features to break up the monotony, however: Explosive Insights and “What’s Wrong With You?!” sequences.

In a nutshell, Explosive Insights occur when the characters are stumped during one of the games. Saki will go over the situation in her head, and you will be prompted to select three key phrases, if you pick the right phrase, Saki will have an epiphany (“Insight Incited!”) and the game will continue, failing these challenges means game over (I’m not sure if it’s an instant game over in all cases, though).

My favourite feature, however, are the “What’s Wrong With You?!” sequences. At certain points in the game, the screen will turn red and shake, and Saki can choose to either “get mad” or restrain herself. Getting mad is ridiculously fun, whether it’s because one of the guys is being a sexist idiot or the villain is being an asshole, the ability to (literally) blow up in their faces is really satisfying. Note though, that there are a couple times where restraining yourself is a good idea so you can get all the gallery images (and you will want to complete the gallery, trust me). Note that getting mad at other characters usually results in an instant apology and an affection point, no one dares brush off angry Saki, not even the Big Bad who is pulling the strings.

Not pictured: Lightning flashing, a character’s hilarious “Oh crap!” face.

One thing I love about Sweet Fuse is that it paces itself well, you;re well into the action within the first ten minutes, and the game generally hits that sweet spot right before “characters are talking” becomes “characters are talking too much” before an Explosive Insight pops up. There are times where the game will drag on (particularly in a certain route where the character is out of action for a few days) but that was pretty much the only time where I was like “Ugh, move plot, move!” It helps that the characters are interesting and they all have their own little quirks and secrets to uncover. Even characters I didn’t like at first managed to grow on me. Saki herself can be as shouty or demure as you like (although getting angry is often required to get the best endings), and although the men she’s with do often end up declaring that they will protect her from danger, Saki pledges to protect them as well, and she’s constantly using her wits to get her and her friends out of difficult situations (in one case, she ends up rescuing herself from captivity). The game also manages to avoid the problem with other visual novels where it only takes a few minutes to play through the game for the second or third time. While the first three “stages” of the game are the same for everyone, the last four differ depending on which character you end up with (this is why it’s a good idea to play through every route, and also because the characters are adorable). Yes, you can skip text you’ve read before (although you can’t skip Explosive Insights), and the game does keep track of which decisions you’ve already made.

I would love to go in depth about the routes and how I felt after playing each one, but I’m trying to keep this review spoiler free, so I will now talk about some things I didn’t like about Sweet Fuse. As I said, the game does drag on a bit and certain points, and even though the characters are memorable (learning that the straight-laced cop is terrible at flirting or the tough escort has a secret love of amusement parks is always a treat) and you learn some things about their background if you pursue them, in some cases I was left with the feeling that I still didn’t know a lot about them. Other reviews have also raised concerns about the age gap between Saki and some of the guys (particularly Shirabe and Mitarashi, particularly since the former is a widowed single dad and Saki is eighteen and still in high school) but I found the age gap didn’t really bother me until I played through Shirabe’s route. Your mileage may vary. The other thing that bothered me (to the point of being mildly annoyed) were the spelling and grammatical errors within the text, particularly when it came to using the correct verb tense (Although I suspect that Aksys translated onigiri as :donut’ because of Pokemon). Seriously, for the love of gods, Aksys, this is why Q&A testing exists! I should note here that all of the dialogue is voiced (apart from Saki’s lines, which have no voice work except in one case) in the original Japanese, so you don’t have to worry about craptastic English dubbing. The one other issue I had with the game is that it’s ridiculously easy to save scum, as you can save anywhere except during Explosive Insights, so if you make a “wrong” choice, you can easily go back and pick the one that will get you an affection point or not lead to a game over. The Explosive Insight sequences are for the most part very easy, and, thanks to the aforementioned save scumming, if you don’t pick the right keyword, you can load the game and start all over again. Lastly, some routes are definitely more spoilery than others, especially the secret character, who is available after completing the game once. I think it would have been better had the secret character been available after getting the good endings for the other guys.

As for potentially triggery content, I’ve already mentioned the age gap and the sexism, but there is one particular route where creepy stalker-ish behaviour happens, and it does come out of left field. I ended up liking this particular route and feeling guilty for liking it because of the creepy factor. Note that unlike other examples of the Yandere archetype, this character is not violent towards Saki, and he’s definitely a milder version of this character type. However, for those of you who wish to avoid the character completely, avoid falling for the “traitor”.

In case you want to avoid being prematurely spoiled, my recommended route order (from first to last) is as follows: Wakasa, Meoshi, Mitarashi, Urabe, Shirabe, Shidou, Secret Character. The Secret Character’s route is unlocked by picking “It was a present” (if you haven’t completed the other routes, pick the other option, as it locks you out of the Secret Character’s route).

Overall, Sweet Fuse is the perfect diversion on a rainy day. Despite involving bombs and deadly amusement park attractions, the game is rather lighthearted and full of humour and gaming references. If you’re not completely sold on the idea of visual novels, this is a great way to get your feet wet. If you love otome games and you want to see more of them in North America…seriously, why haven’t you bought this yet? Or even if you like anime and you’re looking for a good story, give Sweet Fuse a try.

Sweet Fuse can be bought in UMD form for $30 or as a digital download for PSP and Vita on the PSN for $25. I bought the UMD because my PSP’s still kicking and I prefer having a physical copy, plus it gives more money to Aksys, but if you want to save money and the resources it takes to make the UMD, get the digital version.

Also, on a somewhat unrelated note, I am very annoyed at the lack of slash in the fandom (especially since there is a good amount of subtext, especially if you play through Mitarashi’s route) and am thinking of writing fanfic, and I haven’t written fanfic since I was twelve.

Stranger Skies Cover Reveal!

Before you all get excited; this is not my project, but I offered to help a fellow writer out. If you like the info presented here, please support my friend by pre-ordering a copy of her book!

Synopsis

A goddess’ fall from grace leaves her on an alien world, devoid of her followers, trapped in a mortal body. Should she strive to regain her godhood or accept her mortality and find love?

Silva, Queen of Wolves, Lady of the True Woods, seeks her only friend Etan, who, along with other deities of the Council of Divinity, has gone missing for reasons unknown. Her search traps her on a world where the wolves have lost faith in her; she becomes a mortal woman whose remaining powers could brand her as a witch.

Through the chaos of war and the turmoil in her own heart, Silva can’t escape a persistent feeling: that her fall was not an accident.

Excerpt

Heart’s Blood Tavern had indoor plumbing which, according to Scoas, made it a rare building in the town. The toilets were composting toilets, however, and so the scent of human waste combined with peat overwhelmed Silva’s sensitive nose. She entered the stall and did her business quickly, trying to ignore the pong of the room. There was one sink and a small mirror of that same polished stone — while she washed her hands, she noticed she was more fleshed out than she had been the day before. Minae food worked quickly.

She turned to leave, and then stopped dead, horror making her veins run ice cold. Above the door was another animal head as ‘decor’.

Its muzzle was posed open in a silent snarl, its ears were flat back on its head, and it was made to look vicious around the eye’s epicanthic folds — but this was all a lie. She reached her hand up to touch the soft fur, but it was too high up, and she couldn’t reach.

She’d found her first Minae wolf.

The scent of fear and death hit her then; it had been masked before, but now that she gazed upon the source it was so clear she reeled. She ran back into the stall and vomited what was left of that morning’s breakfast.

This wolf had died in fear and pain, and she hadn’t been here to help.

She hadn’t been able to help so many of her children on Terra, too. The mortal humans had shot them from planes, poisoned them, hunted them near to extinction. The only thing that had saved them from that fate had been constant fighting — from Silva herself, and her one or two human followers. Mortals who lived with wolf-hybrids and knew about her existence, and who wanted to help save her children. Silva had petitioned the Twins to save her cubs, and they had finally listened and moved all the wolves off-planet. She didn’t think they would have had it not been for the strengthening arguments of a few other gods who had a soft spot for wolves — the Morrigan, Hecate, and Odin were the big three who had argued on Silva’s side. She wasn’t sure if she’d ever properly expressed her gratitude to those deities.

On Tau Ceti, the wolves had been placed far enough away from human settlements so as to be relatively safe. But when humans expanded outwards, as they invariably did?

If she never got home, the Cetian wolves might meet the same fate. And this time she wouldn’t be around to stop them from going extinct completely.

She shook with helplessness and fear. There was nothing she could do. She was trapped here in mortal form, and her children might all die. The thought made her sick again.

When finally she exited the bathroom, after having rinsed her mouth thoroughly, she felt scrubbed out, hollowed, empty. A gourd left in the rain after All Hallows Eve; burned on the inside, destined for the compost heap to rot away in ignominy.

She tried to hide her distress when she got back to the table. Their food had arrived by that point, and a man she’d never seen before stood beside the table and chatted with Scoas and Natai, and occasionally giving Brinna a predatory smile. Brinna seemed less than pleased with the man’s attentions, but she was unfailingly polite.

Silva instantly disliked the man. He smelled wrong, and his bearing positively screamed his arrogance.

Scoas noticed Silva’s return, then, and made introductions before Silva could escape.

The man’s name was Kaz, and he gave Silva an exceptionally oily smile. He was a hunter — the best in Heartpin, apparently. “You must have seen my prize trophy,” he said to her, folding his arms over his chest. Silva politely raised her eyebrows even as her stomach churned with dread. “The wolf’s head hanging in the privy. Got that bastard over a year ago. Scoas bought the pelt.”

Silva felt like fainting. She barely heard what Scoas said: “It’s a very nice pelt, too; we simply love it.”

“There’s a secret to get the best pelts, Scoas my man,” Kaz said, winking at Scoas. “Would you like to know it?”

“Excuse me,” Silva said, brushing past Kaz and heading for the door. She knew the secret for the best pelts, and if she heard Kaz tell them exactly how he’d tortured the young wolf whose head hung in the bathroom, she might kill him right there in the tavern.

Release date is October 4th; preorders should be up around Sept 20th.

Giveaway!

Like what you read above? You can win an ARC copy through Rafflecopter: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/sha…2M2QzMDcwOjE=/

Author Things

Here is a link to the book’s Goodreads page:  http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18487027-stranger-skies

And a link to the original announcement: http://katjevanloon.com/2013/09/13/stranger-skies-cover-reveal-and-giveaway/

The Thirteen Houses Project: Camellia

[Once a month for the next twelve months, I will be doing a post on the 13th of each month based on one of the Thirteen Houses of the Court of Night-Blooming Flowers from Kushiel’s Legacy.]

It’s the 13th, another month, another entry in the Thirteen Houses Project. Today I will be discussing Camellia House.

Camellia House’s motto is “without fault or flaw” and it’s canon is perfection. Camellia House holds that when Naamah slept with the King of Persis, “her unveiled perfection caused him to go blind for two weeks”. Prior to her initiation as an adept in Kushiel’s Dart, main character Phedre witnesses a Showing at Camellia House. (A Showing, for those of you who haven’t read the series, is when would-be adepts witness a sexual rite between two adepts (always a man and a woman) and marks the beginning of an adept’s training.)

I wouldn’t consider myself a perfectionist, not really, because I’ve recognized that the image I may have in my head of a thing is not how that thing usually turns out, and I’ve also learned to appreciate the little “imperfections” in things that I own. Some of my tarot cards have creases and such, I suppose I could have sent them back, but I think it gives the decks character, and anyways, the marks don’t affect the backs of the cards, so it’s not like I’ll be able to instantly recognize them when I draw them.

At the same time, I will admit to not being so accepting when it comes to books. I will search through the shelves at the bookstore to find the “perfect” copy of a book. Used books drive me crazy, and, with one exception )my own copy of Fifty Shades of Grey) I despise writing in books. I’m particularly picky when it comes to spines, I like my book spines unmarked, thank you. I guess I don’t yet appreciate the little “quirks” in the books I buy.

Maybe it seems very cynical of me to say that I’ve (mostly) stopped trying to be “perfect” but because I grew up in a tradition that held up “perfect” figures like Jesus and the Virgin Mary as role models for faithful Catholics, some part of me still contends with this idea even though I’m generally okay with (and prefer) my deities being “imperfect” beings. Or perhaps “imperfect” isn’t really the right word for it, rather, they are whole, they are male and female and both and neither, sexual and virginal, artists, poets, warriors, farmers, sailors. They aren’t really good or bad, they just kind of are, and, to be honest, I ind them to be much more palatable than a supposedly “perfect” being who I can never, ever see myself in. Sure, my deities may be nigh unapproachable sometimes, but none of them have ever expected that I meet some unreasonable standard of perfection in order to make them happy.

The next post in the series will be a happier, more coherent one, I swear.

Image: “Camellia sasanqua” by junichiro aoyama (Wikipedia)

Review: The Woman Magician

In my early days of exploring Paganism (this was in high school) I inevitably came across references to Freemasonry, The Golden Dawn, Crowley, Thelema, and other aspects of the Western Magical Tradition (of which traditional Wicca is a part) but, to be completely honest, it never really caught on with me. I found the rituals so saturated with Judeo-Christian symbolism that I wondered why they were included in ostensibly Pagan and polytheist-oriented books, often without comment as to why you were supposed to do it or what it all meant. Furthermore, as a woman, I felt excluded from these traditions, which focused extensively on men and what men were doing with women being cast in the role of “Scarlet Woman” or “muse” to the male magician., supporting the magician but never being the magician.

As it turns out, Brandy Williams was thinking similar thoughts.

The aim of The Woman Magician is to celebrate and empower women magicians not merely as support for male magicians but as a magician in her own right. Through a series of meditations with personifications of abstract concepts: Lady Tradition, Lady Lady History, Lady Philosophy, Lady Science, Lady Culture, Lady Theology and Lady Magic, she critiques these magical traditions and explores and unpacks the ideas that informed those traditions. The second part of the book takes the ideas from the first and creates an all-woman order of magicians–the Sisters of Seshat–situated within a universe that is formed entirely of goddesses, and provides a set of five initiations that can be used by a group looking for a woman-centric practice in the Western Ceremonial traditions.

This is a very ambitious book, and there’s clearly a lot of material to cover (in fact, whole books have been written on the subjects Williams discusses) but what is there is a decent introduction to the subject matter. I particularly appreciated the chapter on Tradition, which clearly spelled out the why behind the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram, the Star Ruby, and the Gnostic Mass, as well as the author’s personal experience with each of these rituals and why she finds them both empowering and inadequate.

i also found the ritual scripts very moving. Often I find myself glancing over ritual scripts because there tends to be a lot of recycled text. The rituals in The Woman Magician have similar setups with distinctive differences, and this is quite possibly the only time I’ve ever been so profoundly moved by simply reading about a ritual in the text. I can only imagine how moving a performance must be. I also liked how she chose to focus more on women sharing space as sisters than a reliance on biological events which some women may never experience (as often happens in Goddess spirituality).

In terms of flaws, I’ve already mentioned that each chapter could be its own book, so you get a basic outline on, say, Western Classical philosophy and the single sex vs. dual sex model, for instance. What is there is a good overview of the subject of each chapter, and the bibliography is impressive for a book of this type, but it just ends up being very limited.

In fact, speaking of limitations, its important to note that this book is written from the perspective of a white, heterosexual cis woman, and while I will give credit to Williams for actually acknowledging her privilege, oftentimes it doesn’t seem like she really follows through with her analysis, especially in the chapters on science and culture. She does touch on intersex and trans people briefly, and as I mentioned, she does focus more on sisterhood and working magic together than on Maiden, Mother, and Crone models or “blood mysteries” but on the whole, this is definitely a white, heterosexual, cis woman’s book, and as a queer woman myself, I couldn’t really shake the feeling that there was something missing from her analysis.

The one other sticking point I have with this book is the issue of appropriation. Again, while she does acknowledge the debt to and appropriation of Jewish mysticism by Ceremonial magicians, her rituals still use the Tree of Life and Hebrew names for each of the spheres. Now, I suppose you could argue that Kabbalistic symbolism is so entrenched in the tradition that it would be hard to divorce it from the tradition, but it just strikes me as a tad hypocritical to acknowledge that debt and then continue using it like you didn’t say anything.

Overall though, I would say that this is an intelligent, thoughtful look at a subject that doesn’t get a lot of attention. It is very limited in some ways, and I wouldn’t say that I want to run out and join a magical order now, but I do think books like this are needed, and I’d love to see more books like this, but perhaps with a greater variety of perspectives.

I would say if you have any interest in women in Western Magical Traditions, you should probably give this book a look, just beware that it really falls flat on its face in some places.

Movie Review: The Mortal Instruments — City of Bones

[Note:  I will be spoiling the fuck out of this movie, so if by any chance you wanted to see it, look away now.]

Basically the only reason I saw this was because biomom decided she wanted to go to a movie and I wanted to see a mindless supernatural action romp….and this was really the only movie I was even remotely interested in seeing.

Before we begin, I should note that I have NOT (and don’t intend to) read the books, so everything I say will only apply to the movie from the perspective of someone who is completely new to the series.

Clary Fray is your average American teenager who lives with her artist mother. One evening, while at a nightclub with her friend Simon, she witnesses a murder by a man that no one else can see, not only that, but she is constantly seeing and drawing strange symbols all over the place. Clary’s life quickly takes a turn for the worse as she’s attacked in her home by demons (who are, naturally, all over the place) and must cooperate with Shadowhunters–humans with angelic blood who hunt and destroy demons. Oh, and there’s this other Shadowhunter named Voldemort Valentine and it seems that everyone’s after this thing called the Mortal Cup which the Shadowhunters need to make more Shadowhunters, except Voldemort Valentine is an asshole about it. Shadowhunters make use of magical symbols called runes (which are apparently traced in the air or drawn/etched into the skin by a device that looks like a combination of a wand and magic marker) but it also seems like some are born with certain abilities. Also, runes apparently kill muggles Mundanes because they;re not strong enough to handle them.

Let’s get out our checklists, people:

Dangerous sixteenth (or however old she is) birthday? Check.

At least one dead parent? Check. (And her mother spends most of the movie unconscious or something anyways.)

Main character has extraordinary, rare powers? Check.

Main character has amnesia so she can’t use most of those powers until she pulls them out her ass suddenly remembers them? Check.

Love triangle between badass supernatural bad boy and boring “normal” comic relief? Check,

Fantasy kitchen sink? In the movie we have demons, angels, vampires, warlocks (and a witch) and the Shadowhunters themselves (zombies don’t exist). Check and check.

Basically what we have here is a recipe for your typical YA urban fantasy novel which I can pretty much sum up as “Well, at least it was better than Twilight,” because it was easily head and shoulders over Twilight.  I know that’s not saying much, but at least this movie had honest-to-goodness action sequences where things died and stuff.

Twilight had what? Super fast baseball?

Anyways, this movie basically involves Clary and friends doing a lot of running around in between trying to help her remember shit–oh, look, gay characters–and not telling her what’s going on until she really needs to know and engaging in a sad attempt at a love triangle because let’s face it, love triangles in YA are generally horrible and always work out the same way and why does anyone, author or otherwise, even bother with it? Oh, because “tension”, I see. Anyways, there really aren’t any surprises here.

Oh wait, except it turns out that bad boy Jace is really Clary’s brother, and that onscreen kiss they share is really incestuous and awkward except he’s not really her brother because I checked the wiki.

We have a couple of gay characters–Alec, a Shadowhunter who spends most of his time grumbling because he has a thing for Jace (who is, of course, completely heterosexual) and Magnus, who is the number one Warlock in Brooklyn. Magnus is actually a twofer because he’s a POC (apparently biracial in the books but played by an Asian actor) and there’s also Dorothea, who is a black witch (and who is replaced by a demon who ends up being killed, yay) that’s besides all the extras.

In short, yeah, there’s nothing too exciting here. There were some lines that made me chuckle and the action scenes were decent for this sort of film. See it if you’re really bored or you’ve read the books and want to have your headcanon ruined, but other than that, it’s just another YA series-to-movie thing, nothing special.

Introducing the Tales of Shift!

Fine, I’ll spill my news.

So I’ve been talking with friends and thinking about stuff and wanting something I’ve written to be published like, right now.

I’ve been wanting to try my hand at writing erotica ever since I told myself that I could do better than E.L. James and Fifty Shades of Grey, so I started writing Fur and Scale, which is a story about lesbian shapeshifters in love and is set in the same universe as my Splicer serial. Originally, I was just going to post it here and let everyone beg me for more stories.

But, as I said, I’m tired of not having any income coming my way. As much as I would love to just keep writing for free, I have to draw the line somewhere.

Thus, the Tales of Shift, a series of short stories set in the shapeshifter-dominated city of Shift, of which Fur and Scale is the first. I plan on writing a bunch of stories which will be available in ebook format at low cost, and then collecting them all in an anthology that will probably be available as both paperback and ebook. The anthology will also include a bonus story or two and, I don’t know, what do other authors include in their extras? Point is, I want to make it worth your while to buy the whole thing, but also give you the option to buy the individual stories (I’m also planning on offering them for free on Kindle at times if they’ll let me).

Also, I will say right now that all my stories will be DRM-free, because I hate DRM and I trust my customers. and DRM sucks.

And now some questions!

How do the Tales of Shift relate to the Splicer?

The Ta;es of Shift are set in the same universe but in an entirely different city. You will not need to have read any of my other stories to enjoy this one.

How many stories are you planning on writing?

At this point I’m aiming for five, because five is a nice number.

What genre are these stories?

Fur and Scale is, shall we say, my experimenting with erotica, although perhaps it would be better termed “slightly explicit romance”. The other stories may or may not follow this pattern, but they are definitely more about teh sexytiems than The Splicer.

Will there be queer characters?

Yes, all of the protagonists will be some flavour of queer, for minor characters and antagonists, assume they are queer until further notice.

When you say “shapeshifter” do you mean “werewolf”?

No, for starters, werecreatures and shapeshifters are slightly different in this universe, but I’m trying to move away from werewolves in general and have lots of different animals. Also, Shift might not be as diverse (species-wise) as St. Cyprian, but some other non-humans make their homes there.

How are you planning on distributing these stories?

I’ve chosen to put Fur and Scale in the Kindle KDP Select program, which means that it will be exclusively on Kindle for 90 days and it will be available in the Kindle library (where I believe you can get it for free). After that period, I can make it available elsewhere if there’s demand for it. (I don’t anticipate there being a lot of demand.)

What is Fur and Scale about, exactly?

Fur and Scale is about a chipmunk shapeshifter who somehow ends up being invited to the Dragon Princess’ birthday party (Western dragons are still so feudal). There will be dragons, innovative safer sex methods, and possibly cake.

Is this….you know….that kind of erotica?

The City of Shift has strict laws regarding…erm….”mating” between shifters, between shifters and regular humans, and between shifters and other species. The Tales of Shift series will mostly be about humans who happen to turn into animals engaging in loving, consensual sex with other humans who occasionally turn into animals, in human form, and sometimes deities, or other species like Fae or Demons will get in on the action, and they all tend to take humanoid forms. (Animal-headed deities are exempt from the laws governing animal forms.)

Will this affect any of your other writing?

Yes, I will continue to give you free stories that you can read for free on my blog.

If anyone has any other questions, please feel free to ask in the comments or via my ask box on tumblr. I’ll let you know when Fur and Scale is out.