Category Archives: Challenge

Challenge: 777, Another Excerpt from My WIP

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Aimlessly scrolling through old challenges on this blog, I found this one.  I first did this challenge in April 2015.  The challenge is this:

  • Go to your current work in progress
  • Scroll to page 7
  • Count 7 sentences
  • Share the next 7 sentences after that
  • And of course, tag people to do the same. You can even tag 7 people if you want to really get into the number theme.

Since 2015… I don’t know how many more false starts I’ve written (4 or 5 I think).  But I am still doggedly working on the same novel that I begun in 2006.  This hopefully-not-false start I have been working on since November 2017.  Fingers crossed, all.  This draft is currently 59 pages of size 10 Verdana, single space, with a line between paragraphs.

The man grabbed Veil by the shirtfront and pulled him down nearer.

Veil shivered.

“Take it,” the man croaked.  “Tvorec, I need you to take it.  I can’t.”

“You’re—you’re going to be fine.”  Veil was far from sure that the man would be fine, but he knew that he had to—

Looks as though I have shortened the beginning of this novel since 2015.  This is a little later in the plot than that excerpt from 2015.

I like this challenge being my first post of 2019.  (TWENTY NINETEEN, ALL!  We made it this far!)  I feel like I have been spending a lot of time recently with my novel–since this past NaNoWriMo.  I hope that is a good sign.  I am getting into the excitement and frustration of new scenes, new ideas, new backstory, new rules of operation.  I hope this trend will continue into 2019.  I would like 2019 to be a year for writing.  But who knows what curveballs this new year has in store for me–for all of us?

Anyone I know with a blog and a WIP want to take up this challenge?  My followers, do you have WIPs?  I would love to know.  I would love to know who and what books to look out for in the new year or the next or the next or….

I went looking through the pingbacks from Olivia Berrier’s original challenge, and found that Gwen added a further piece to this challenge: the 777th word in my current draft is “Glenys,” a recent name change for an important secondary character.  It only took her 12 years to outgrow her original name.  I’m pretty sure until now she had been using her original name, chosen then because it meant “old.”  Her new name means “pure, clean, holy.”

Just for fun, the 2019th word in this WIP is “nearest.”

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Challenge: The Joy of Christmas Book Tag

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I found this book tag on Adventures of a Bibliophile, who found it on The Terror of Knowing, who found it on Thrice Read, who found it on Macsbooks, who found it on the Booktubers Wikia, which I also didn’t know existed and am excited to find.  This tag originated with Samantha at Sam’s Nonsense.

Anticipation: The Christmas excitement is real, what book release(s) are you most anticipating?

I know what I want! I want that first book in the new sequel series to Maggie Steifvater’s The Raven Cycle, a series all about Ronan Lynch! I hear a draft has been edited—and did I hear that it has been turned into the publisher? Did I dream that?

Christmas Songs & Carols: What book or author can you not help but sing its praises?

Rick Riordan is amazing. He is so excellently including blacker, browner, queerer characters in his mainstream middle grade fiction, and he is too popular and too well respected for most people to complain. He was so smart, writing a whiter, more heteronormative series first, and then learning from his fans. He learns from his fans—and that is the best. He is turning out books quickly and keeping himself relevant.

Gingerbread Houses: What book or series has wonderful world building?

One of the most expansive, deepest worlds that I’ve entered is Patrick Rothfuss’ Temerant—specifically the Four Corners of Civilization where the story he is now telling in The Kingkiller Chronicles take place. There are multiple, distinct cultures with their own traditions, beliefs, histories and folklore, governments, dress, and language. There are several sentient races. No one else that I know has a board game that can be bought in stores with its own history and multiple variations based on who is playing and when and where in the world they are playing. No one else I know knows the history and exchange rates of several currencies within his world.

A Christmas Carol: Favorite classic or one that you want to read?

I am currently reading Stanley Lombardo’s translation of Virgil’s Aeneid. I’ve read parts of it for a class before, but I have never read it in full—but more than Aeneid, I want to read Emily Wilson’s translation of Homer’s Odyssey. I’ve read several other translations, but hers is the first published by a woman, and I’ve heard that she’s erased some patriarchal mistranslations.

Odyssey is my favorite of the classics that I’ve read—specifically I’ve liked Robert Fitzgerald’s translation the best yet.

That is what you meant by “classic,” right?

Christmas Sweets: What book would you love to receive for Christmas?

This is not a short list—and I am sure there are more on there that I don’t yet know about. But I have had my eye on the illustrated Harry Potter books, which I can’t justify buying for myself—or just anything that I’ve been wanting. I’m missing a book of Riordan’s. I’m missing all of the Rick Riordan Presents. There are other books I am waiting to buy. I need a copy of Chainbreaker by Tara Sim. I want to read Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger. I like picture books, but I can’t justify spending money on them myself. There are graphic novels I would love to own: the whole Avatar: The Last Airbender set, Craig Thompson’s—but don’t own for the same reason that I so rarely buy myself picture books; it’s a lot of money for a few hours’ enjoyment.

What I got was a signed copy of Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London, and I am not at all displeased.

Candles in the Window: What book gives you that warm fuzzy feeling?

I have a hard time finding books that give me warm fuzzies—because generally that’s not what I’m looking for in a novel. Most recently though? I was given very warm fuzzies from the budding romance between Colton and Danny in Tara Sim’s Timekeeper. Those were warmer, fuzzier feelings even than I am getting from the sword and sorcery romance series that I am rereading.

Christmas Trees & Decorations: What are some of your favorite book covers?

I work in a bookstore. I see good covers all the time. ALL THE TIME. And very few of the books behind those covers have I ever—will I ever—read. As I look around my room I see more books that I’ve brought home because the cover and the jacket blurb convinced me. Books like Adam Gidwitz’s The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, the Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog (Hatem Aly), like Trenton Lee Stewart’s The Secret Keepers (Diana Sudyka), like Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone (Rich Deas), which I am actually very slowly reading now because I am not ready for that level of emotion.

 

Of the books that I’ve read, I think that John Rocco did a wonderful job with Riordan’s books, particularly for The Heroes of Olympus, particularly The Son of Neptune and The House of Hades, but also on The Kane Chronicles, particularly The Serpent’s Shadow. I think Mary GrandPré did a great job with the Harry Potter covers, particularly for The Order of the Phoenix and The Deathly Hallows but recognize that I like those perhaps more for their nostalgia than for their merit alone (a poster of The Deathly Hallows hung in my bedroom for several years), but I like Jonny Duddle’s covers for The Philosopher’s Stone and for The Deathly Hallows best of all of the English-language versions yet.

 

 

Some special mention needs to be made for Morgan Rhodes’ Rebel Spring (Shane Rebenschied) and Shannon Messenger’s Flashback (Jason Chan) for having amazing covers which almost alone are the reasons I want to read these series—though I’ve not started either. I guess the way to draw me in is to threaten or attack me with a shiny, pointed weapon.

 

Looking at these all side by side, I think that I like jewel tones too, emotional faces of realistically painted heroes and heroines, lots of detail.

Christmas Joy: What are some of your favorite things about Christmas And/Or some of your favorite Christmas memories?

I want to change this one, because this question does not seem appropriately bookish. So let me pose this question instead: What is your favorite Christmastime scene from a book? You don’t come here to learn about my memories—or you shouldn’t do, because that isn’t what I’m here to share—you are here to learn about books!

I think the Christmas scene that gives me the warmest fuzzies is Will Stanton and Merriman singing parts of “Good King Wenceslas” in The Dark Is Rising on Christmas Eve to open the magical portal to the room that holds the book that teaches Will EVERYTHING. But young Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint in the film version of The Sorcerer’s Stone exchanging “Happy Christmas, Harry” and “Happy Christmas, Ron” and Daniel’s astonished “I have presents?” warm my heart more than most anything could do.

Merry Christmas, my readers, whatever you may be doing today, whether you are celebrating or not.  And hey! if you complete this book tag, let me know; I’d love to read about some of your favorites.  Cheers!

Challenge: Zombpocalypse Book Tag

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I just really like using the word zombpocalypse.  But officially, this is known as:

The Zombie Outbreak Survival Team Book Tag:

Step 1: Choose six books from your shelves: two with titles that contain your first initial, two with titles that contain your second initial, and two with titles that contain your last initial.

I cheated a bit. I had a really hard time finding any books that even included a word in the title that began with J that I remembered well enough to know who these characters were. I guess I have some rereading to do. I did have three books I could I knew really well with titles beginning with K, so… 3 Ks, 1 J, and 2 Es. I mean. I didn’t cheat a lot. And these are much more fun when you remember the characters.

Step 2: Draw the names of those six books out of a hat in random order then answer the following questions:

Open your first book to a random page. The character whose name you see first just dragged you out from whatever hiding place you’ve holed up in (let’s just face it – we’d all start out under the bed). This character probably just saved your life, and is destined to become your best friend before all this is over. Also, s/he is the leader of the EZFBKs. (Don’t get jealous. You thought you would be invisible so long as your head was covered by your lucky ducky blanket.)

1777211Book 1: A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin

And Vetch is the first name I see. I love Vetch. Yeah, he could lead EZFBK, and I’d love to be his bestie. He’s an excellent bestie.

Open your second book to a random page. The character whose name you see first is your weapons supplier. What sort of weapons does s/he have stashed in the basement?

Book 2: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee mockinbird

All of these fantasy books, and I get the one realistic, historical fiction. Jem’s gonna be supplying our weapons. So… guns, knives, slingshots, rope. All very practical. Probably less likely than the magical or sci-fi weapons to backfire on us or die because there’s no more electricity available due to the plague. I guess. But I was kind of hoping for some magical or at least high-tech weapons.

Open your third book to a random page. The character whose name you see first just died in front of you. This apocalypse just got getting serious.

9780756404741MBook 3: The Kingkiller Chronicles, Book 1: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Fela. Fela just died. Not sweet, loyal, intelligent Fela, who knows the Name of Stone.  She was probably doing something idiotically heroic.  She’s probably one of the last people who should have died of this group.

Open your fourth book to a random page. The character whose name you see first is your vehicle specialist. I hope s/he has a fast ride…

Book 4: The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kiplingjungle

There’s a lot of irony in this book tag…. “By the broken lock that freed me, I am sure, Little Brother.” Little Brother here is Mowgli. I think we’ll be riding whatever wild animals Mowgli can convince to let us ride on their backs. I mean… could be worse?

Open your fifth book to a random page. The character whose name you see first is your medic.

enderBook 5: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Bonzo. This team gets worse and worse…. I’d rather avoid Bonzo entirely.

Open your sixth book to a random page. The character whose name you see first is… well, you’re honestly not sure how this person ended up on your team, or how s/he is still alive. But every team you’ve ever seen has one of these Resident Idiots, so maybe they’re good luck.

Book 6: The Kane Chronicles, Book 1: The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordanpyramid

Ha! Carter and Sadie’s British Gran, Catherine Faust, is… why is she here?

 

All right… recap….

Vetch saved me, pulling me out from under the bed and taking me with him and his team on the run. Time to smash some zombie heads! Vetch I’m excited to see. He has magic. He’s a good friend. He’ll get me through this somehow. EXCEPT the only weapons that Jem can find are those available in the early 1930s in rural Alabama. So, you know, at least they’re not likely to run on electricity, which might be scarce. Mowgli has convinced several of his animal friends to help us, but they get tired too, and we’re heavy loads for most of them. At least we won’t run out of fuel, though they will have to stop to hunt or graze. Sweet Fela dies in front of me, and that breaks all our hearts. Bonzo is not the person I’d most trust to be our medic. Vetch would be better, but Vetch is too busy leading to also be medic. At least Bonzo’s trained for war. I just don’t like him. Gran’s here too. I hope she’s not our cook, or we’ll be eating a lot of burnt biscuits. She’s tougher than she looks though, and maybe a zombpocalypse will convince her to unleash some Egyptian magic—though that’s not likely.

You know, actually, we just might make it, our low-tech team, led by a kind-hearted wizard, with our battle-trained medic who you know will try to wrest power, and with our Gran who might just cave to the magic in her veins too.  Yeah, I might read that novel.

I think this book tag originated with Gwen over at Apprentice, Never Master. Anyway, that’s where I found it. Thanks, Gwen, for a fun, relaxing blog post for my fuzzy, sickly brain. I really enjoyed that way of choosing books—very unique—even if it was a little hard. (It’d’ve been easier if my memory was better.)

Challenge: Happy Stories in 3 Words

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A friend of mine challenged me to write a happy story in three words. This challenge snowballed.

  1. She said yes.
  2. It’s a girl!
  3. I graduated college!
  4. It is done.
  5. This is fun!
  6. Let’s go home.
  7. Come here, boy!
  8. Let’s do lunch.
  9. It is finished.

What happy stories can you write in three words? What’s the least cliché, happy story that you can write in three words? I’m curious: What stories do these three-word stories of mine evoke for you?

Highlight below to find out what I was imagining when I wrote these.

  1. A proposal is accepted, probably a marriage proposal or a request for a date.
  2. A baby is born.
  3. A relieved college student has graduated, just received the notification that she has passed all of her classes and will be allowed to graduate perhaps, or perhaps has walked and now has the ceremony and diploma to prove it.
  4. Someone has completed a long project.
  5. Something someone is doing is fun.
  6. Someone is finally going home.
  7. A pet is found.
  8. Someone’s either going to meet someone for lunch (a happy conclusion on its own) or is perhaps about to have an exciting business meeting.
  9. That’s the Christ story.

Challenge: Silencing Half of the World to See Who Is Still Heard

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The inspiration for today’s blog post has come from Loganberry Books in Shaker Heights, OH, who for part of the month of March, Women’s History Month, turned around the books in their store written by male authors so that their spines, where are the names of the authors and the titles, were hidden.  The pictures from their store are stunning.

Before I even begin to discuss this display and my attempt to recreate it, I want to acknowledge that this social experiment is flawed in one glaring way:  This experiment relies on a binary gender system, erasing transgender, genderqueer, or nonbinary identities.

When I was uncertain of an author’s gender I relied first on the names and decided not to dig deeper if the name sounded stereotypically masculine or feminine (that’s laziness on my part, which I acknowledge too, but there are a lot of books and lot of authors in our house).  If I was still uncertain I went to the author’s bio and looked for gendered pronouns–a better clue to an author’s gender; I hope that most author’s bios use their preferred pronoun, but I cannot guarantee it, not in this day and age.

Recreating their experiment on the shelves in my home is not as stunning.

All of these pictures I’ve cropped quite fiercely because I really wanted to highlight the books, the spines and not the photograph itself.

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With picture books, I decided that if a book was authored by a man but illustrated by a woman–or vice versa–it could remain spine-out, which means that all of the books that you see turned around at the right of the bottom-most shelf in this image are written and illustrated by men and that some of those that have their spines facing out still make room for men’s words–or for men’s illustrations.

The bookcases in my home are curated.  They consist only of books on which I or my roommate have spent money or one of us has deemed worthy to adopt–and only those that we deemed worthy of keeping.  We are both cisgendered women.  We both graduated from a women’s university.  We both consider ourselves feminists.  And we’re both writers.  That means some voices won’t be represented on our shelves.  Our collection ranges from Gilgamesh to books released just days ago, but I would guess that the majority of our books were all published within the last 30-40 years, a time when being an author was not an unacceptable choice for a woman of any means, though a time during which publishers still worried and possibly worry that a woman’s book about a boy won’t be read as widely as a man’s book about a boy (as in J. K. Rowling’s case.  She uses a gender neutral pen name rather than any combination of the feminine sounding Joanne Kathleen, and that’s the reason I’ve heard given for that choice).  I know that I have a penchant for books with “strong” (three-dimensional) women–which is not to say that one-dimensional women are absent from my shelves; that’s not the case, and I know it–I’m looking at you, Mr. Bradbury–and not to say that my shelves are devoid of books where women are a mere prize, a sidequest if you will (though admittedly, I’m having a harder time thinking of any book that might be on my shelves where that is the case at the moment).  I think it might be fair to say that one-dimensional female characters are less likely in women’s writing.

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This is the most fiercely curated of my shelves.  It’s the only one that lives in my bedroom and consists only of favorite books of mine or (but mostly and) the ones I’m mostly likely to want to reach for at any given time to visit the characters, the world, a scene, a line.  That bookcase in particular features really only a few authors.  10 authors got turned around.  10 remained spine-out (myself excluded; the bottom right are photo albums)–Olivia Berrier, Cressida Cowell, Diane Duane, Eva Ibbotson, Ursula K. LeGuin, Jennifer Nielsen, J. K. Rowling, Sharon Shinn, Jo Walton, and Patricia C. Wrede.

Our shelves are not organized (particularly) by genre (the picture and board books are all shelved together, and nonfiction and poetry each have their own sections, not shown here).  I think performing this experiment on shelves divided by genre would be an interesting and probably enlightening twist.  As Cassandra Claire in her Draco Trilogy once pointed out, men aren’t expected to write those mass market romances, and I expect there is some discrimination against men who try to break into that market–or that there may be men writing romances under feminine pen names.  Science fiction and fantasy were for a long time a genre written primarily by and for men, and I think some of that prejudice against female writers still lingers–at least in epics and fantasy and science fiction written for adults.  I would be interested to see how children’s literature breaks up.  More picture books than I would have expected got turned around on my shelves, even allowing for women’s illustrations to counter the male authors.  Books shelved by the age of the intended audience would be another interesting twist.

It was very interesting to me see what did and didn’t get turned.

I was surprised that all of the manga my roommate owns (three series surveyed here) are written by women.  I was surprised that the American graphic novels (two series, one of which is a graphic novel series for the TV show Charmed, and a stand-alone) all got turned around, save one–and that is an older series that started in the late 70s, Elfquest, created by the husband and wife pair, Wendy and Richard Pini.

I noticed a lot of the swaths of white in our shelves were created by series–or by multiple books by the same author.  I think that’s true too of the swaths of color.  It seems once we find someone or something we like, we stick it out.  I know it’s true of the bookcase in my room, where 13 of the turned books belong to one author, and 11 of the spine-out books belong to J. K. Rowling.  It happened again in the case that has only two shelves.  One male author accounts for nine of those books, one accounts for five books, and another two have four books each turned around.  Meanwhile Diana Gabaldon accounts for six of the spine-out books.

I also just got a good laugh–a somewhat sad laugh–realizing that if J. K. Rowling was left out of the these pictures–or if she was only allowed to be represented with each book only once (13 individual titles), the shelves would look a lot whiter.  I know she’s the voice of our generation but between the two of us we own 29 of her books (most of that onus is admittedly on me.  Oops).  But then she is not the only writer from whom we own together more than one copy of a title, and I don’t know that that phenomenon disproportionately effected women.  In fact, it happened with 17 male authors but with only 14 female authors: Louisa May Alcott, Olivia Berrier, Suzanne Collins, Susan Cooper, Diane Duane, Cornelia Funke, Ellen Kushner, Madeleine L’Engle, Anne McCaffrey, Robin McKinley, Stephenie Meyer, Tamora Pierce, J. K. Rowling, and Patricia C. Wrede.  Though Rowling is the only author from whom we own four copies of one title.

These photos don’t represent all of our bookcases, just a sampling really (excluded are the ones for which getting a clear shot of the shelves in their entirety meant moving furniture and one the top of which was just too cluttered and messy for me to want to show the Internet).

All photos are my own.  Click to embiggen.

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Challenge: Make Me Your Villain Book Tag

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You’ve probably noticed by now that I’ve had a difficult time a) finding the inertia and b) finding the time to write blog posts these past few months. I think when I say that the last few months have been hard most of you will probably understand exactly what I mean. I was browsing through past posts and tags of mine and rediscovered some of the book tags I’d written. I remembered how fun they were and how I’d used them when a week had been hard and I hadn’t had the time or energy to write a review or reflect. They gave me direction then. They made me laugh.

This seems a great time to resurrect the book tag. And I think after a fair bit of searching I’ve found one I like a lot.

(Note: If anyone has any book tags they’ve done or ones that they’ve enjoyed reading in the past, particularly ones like this where books are chosen at random and different things in their pages are used to create a story of sorts, please do post a link in the comments section. I’d love some more to do.)

SJ Bouquet of A Tree Grows in Bookland and a friend Dash originated this tag, which is called Make Me Your Villain.

I’ve edited the rules a bit, as I always seem to do. I don’t like choosing books at random, so using my own rule I’ve chosen the last books I’ve read—in this case the last 7 (it would be 6, but I couldn’t decide whether or not to use two books from the same series, so I decided to put both in and let fate decide, but also to put in another book so fate could decide). I put the names on bits of paper and drew the names.

For this tag, you will also need some music playing device.

Villain name: Every good villain needs a name that inspires awe and fear. Pick one random book. Look at the front and back cover, and the inside flaps. Pick the first adjective you see. Then, look at your bookshelf and pick the first noun you see from all the covers. Put the adjective and noun together. That’s your name.

Again, I don’t like chance and don’t trust my eyes to be objective. And I frankly misread this direction at first. First adjective on the page it is. I did glance up at my bookcase for a noun however.

15724396Magnus Chase, Book One: The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan, page 155.

“Blitz, I said sure.”

The dwarf blinked. “But I had this whole speech prepared.”12127810

“No need. I trust you.”

The strange thing? I was telling the truth.

When I glanced up at the shelf, I saw first the title The House of Hades, The Heroes of Olympus, Book Four also by Rick Riordan.

So… Strange House is my name.

Your Weapon or Power: This is important. This is how you’ll vanquish your enemies and assert your dominance and protect your authority. Pick a random book. Turn to page 66. Choose the 6th noun on the page. This can result in mundane objects such as “CD” or “sock” or “thing”. Regardless of how stupid it is, that’s your weapon. You can get creative with that thing though! For example- “Sock” is another word for punching. You have the power of packing a great punch now. You’re very strong. You’ve the power of SOCK!

9781484732786This is fated to be a Riordan filled tag then. The sixth noun on page 66 of Riordan’s Demigods and Magicians is… either “Annabeth” if I include proper nouns or “people” if I do not. I think I’m giving myself the power or weapon of people. How am I interpreting that? I have no super power. I am an ordinary human. And I use human minions. The ordinary villains, the ones you could meet in an everyday situation, those are sometimes the most frightening.

Weakness: Pick a random book, flip through the pages, and pick the first gerund (word ending in -ing) that you see. This is your weakness. Watch out… this is how The Hero will squash you.

11The first gerund on page 81 of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is… There are no gerunds on page 81. Gerunds are –ing words that function as nouns. I have a present participle, an –ing word functioning as an adjective or adverb.

“Well, do you think this is Southend?”

“Oh yes.”

“So do I.”

“Therefore we must be mad.”

“Nice day for it.”

“Yes,” said a passing maniac.

Passing… We’ll revisit this when I learn more about the story.

Villain Theme Song: Go to your iPod. Hit shuffle. Whichever song pops up first (no skipping!), this is your theme song. This is the prelude to your grand entrance.

Oh I love this. Right now I am listening to Something Corporate’s “If You C Jordan.” (Please beware if you look this song up in polite company.)

somethingcorporate

Evil Henchman: Grab a random book. Turn to page 66. Pick the first name you see. This is the person who always has your back and follows up your threats with cheesy one liners.

9780767927055The first name on page 66 of Leonie Swann’s Three Bags Full is Melmoth, Sir Ritchfield’s twin brother who “left the flock” as a lamb and is something of a legend and boogey-sheep among the flock.

He’s known for wise, confusing statements and advice… not cheesy one-liners, but maybe all my human foes hear are bleats, which might seem cheesy, I suppose. But the idea of Melmoth as a henchman—henchsheep…. I like it. An ordinary human villain who uses other people as her weapons is also followed by a wandering sheep who left his flock and has gained wisdom from walking the world but now puzzles the sheep that he left. He’ll be my right hand sheep, the one always by my side.

(Point of interest: Melmoth is sheep 13 on that cover, the lower of the two nearly identical horned rams.)

Love interest: Hey. Sometimes the bad guy gets the girl. He may have to manipulate her 13449693or kidnap her into fulfilling the love interest role, but it’s not unheard of. Evil people can find love too! Pick a random book, flip through the pages. The first name you find is your love interest.

The first name on page 73 of Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle, Book One: The Raven Boys is Gansey. Of course it is.

The Hero: and finally, your Arch Nemesis! Get yourself a 9781338099133_default_pdprandom book, flip to a random page, and pick the first name you see! NOW FIGHT!

Fate decides I cannot use two books from the same series. The first name on page 63 of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (and it’s filled with names since each line starts with a speaker) is Albus. Albus Severus Potter.

All right… so: I, Strange House, am an everyday sort of villain, and I have a squad of other everyday sort of people who are my weapons and strength. My theme song is Something Corporate’s “If You C Jordan.” Some punk in high school named Jordan left me very bitter, and perhaps that’s why I’m so cruel and my heart’s so twisted now. I love Richard Gansey III. He’s easy to love. Not surprising. He can be the one who makes this a fantasy novel, the one to bring the magic and believe in it.  My right-hand ram is Melmoth, the wanderer who disappeared, who left the flock, who broke the rules.  He will bleat fiercely at my enemies.  He will say very wise, poetic things, but no one will understand.  One day Albus Severus Potter will defeat me by passing. Maybe he’s on his way to defeat someone else, and I’m his collateral damage. Yeah… I’m kind of liking this.

Someone draw Melmoth and I? Maybe with Gansey? Or me being pushed down by Albus on his way to somewhere else with Melmoth trying to catch me, looking scared?

SJ Bouquet, Dash, that was really fun.

*It has just been pointed out to me that I… am not named Strange House.  I am Whole House, which I like a lot better actually.

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Challenge: Legal Theft: Binary (381 words)

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Dread is bubblegum and hot pink. It spews from big lips and big eyes and big breasts. It cinches like an impossibly narrow waist. It smells like fake tans and cosmetic. It’s heavy on shoulders I can’t bare because it will be a distraction to the boys in school, because men will use my bare shoulders as an excuse to touch and to catcall and to chase and to capture and to smother and to crush and to tear. These are facts I’ve understood if I haven’t been able to vocalize them since I was old enough to have these blonde haired models splay their legs to sit horseback bare-butted because tight dresses wouldn’t let them ride. Their legs don’t spread wide enough and they never came with pants; they were meant to stand tall and straight and pretty on feet bent unnaturally by high heels that I’ve lost in corners and under the bed. These dolls were never meant to act. They were never meant to do.

There’s the lesson. Stand straight, wear heels, wear lipstick and eye shadow and eyeliner and mascara. We’ll tell you that you can be anything, but you can do nothing, and you need to remember it.

To do anything is unnatural.

Know your limits.

Know your place.

Know your worth.

$9.99 the package says.

That price tag is like a ball and chain around legs that must sting from the bite of a razor because a manufacturer needs more money and they say that my natural hair is ugly, is unkempt, is unsanitary. It hobbles legs that shouldn’t touch one another at the thighs but do, that chafe beneath skirts that are mandatory for formal occasions.

There are no choices in this aisle. There are only limits and boundaries.

This, it says, is girl. This is feminine. The next aisle over—the aisle of blue and trucks and heroes and weapons and tool kits—is not for you. Those are what you cannot be. And here is what you are and what you cannot do.

Stand straight, wear heels, cover up your face, eat less, bend and break your bones, pinch your body till it fits in the plastic mold and you can stand with pride beside these dolls on the shelves, an example.

This week I challenged my friends to join me in the muddy, bloodied waters of gender conformity and nonconformity because it is a topic that’s been thrust into the limelight of late and it’s been on my mind. This was not really the piece I intended to write. I intended to explain how I think gender is a man-made problem and any adherence to a binary is foolish. Instead what you got was an imagined walk down a fictional but too realistic aisle in a toy store—you all know the one—and everything it makes me feel and says to me now. I didn’t want to write this piece because it’s been said before—again and again and again—but I’m still hearing that there are only two choices, defined by blue and pink, by male protagonist and female protagonist. I know things have improved and the aisle that I describe is largely that of my childhood in the 90s, but if people are still toting this binary defined by marketing, apparently, I still need to write and publish this piece.

Good night.

Trebez from Machete Diplomacy joined me in this challenge. Her piece, “Rib to Rib,” is way more subtle. Thanks, Trebez!

Challenge: Legal Theft: The Creation of the Vatrin (292 words)

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Vofa looked down on the world that he had created, a world of green trees; gray rock; rich, dark earth; and red clay, where the gentle doe moved silently between branches, soft sheep grazed in fields, the wolf paused to sniff the air, and the dove flew bright as a sunray over all.

My world, Vofa thought, is wide. It will be good if I have some on this world who can carry my flame and aid those whose flame flickers and weakens in sickness.

Once more Vofa bent to the earth. From a mountain’s peak—this mountain’s peak—he scooped up a handful of stone. This stone he molded. He gave the creature nibble hands that he did not need to use to walk, leaving them always free to direct the fire as Vofa’s hands did. He gave him a sharp mind and a conscience bent towards compassion.

Into the other creatures, Vofa had sent a spark that burnt within the creatures as if on a wick, tethered to the creature and finite. In this, he thought, I will need more. He will need fire that he can siphon off to use to help others. His fire must be more than what is needed to sustain him alone.

He hollowed out the stone as he had with the others. This time he did not touch his finger to the wick and set alight the creature, but poured forth his fire into him, letting it fill up the empty spaces between the organs as water seeps between rocks in a jar. He left it to flow freely inside the creature like the creature’s blood. That firelight flickered in his newly opening eyes and exhaled on his breath.

The creature smiled at Vofa.

This has been a legal theft challenge issued by myself.  Legal theft has gone through a mutation.  The nature of challenge is no longer confined to a first line.  Last week’s (which one day I hope to catch up on and do) was to use two dogs.  This week I challenged my friends to write me a creation story (because I’d earlier threatened to do so, and I knew I had several in my back pocket that just had not been written).

My friends were good enough to accept that challenge.

Gwen at Apprentice, Never Master wrote “Honey Wine and Sweet Iron” (442 words).

Kate Kearney at More Than 1/2 Mad wrote “Khaalida, The Necromancer.”

C.C. at Creatures, Critters, and Crawlers wrote “Reaper.”

Trebez at Machete Diplomacy wrote “It Started With A Wish.”

Bek at Yeah. But So What? Everybody’s Weird wrote “Legends” (206 words).

Challenge: A Quest!

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I’m going on an adventure! (And there’s going to be magic, and royalty, and an epic quest, and a dark lord at the end.)

I’ve borrowed this book tag from Gwen at Apprentice, Never Master.

Step 1: Choose eight non-fantasy books from your bookshelves. (I’m bending the rules already. I haven’t got a lot of non-fantasy novels in my collection. Though I could probably dig up eight, I may not remember their plots all that well; it’s probably a lot of classics. I’m choosing the last eight novels that I read, two of which do happen to be realistic fiction.) If you choose fantasy books, no one will come after you with pitchforks, but you’ll probably laugh less.

Step 2: Draw the names of those eight books out of a hat in random order then answer the following questions:

0-545-22224-9What word does the title of your first book begin with? If it’s “the,” your quest will be made with the sole aim of destroying a magical object which becomes addictive to anyone who holds it too long. If it’s anything other than “the,” you’ll simply be looking to find a magical object which is rumored to be able to save the world or maybe grant one wish to the discoverer.

Book 1: No Such Thing As Dragons by Philip Reeve.

Looks like I’ve stumbled into a fairy tale with a wish-fulfilling object.

While you’re holding your first book, open it to a random page. The first object you see on the page has just become magical. This is what you’ll be destroying or seeking out, depending on the previous question. Are you in trouble?

The first object I saw was a path. I kind of like the idea of the path. This magical path through the mountains will lead you to your heart’s desire maybe.

25851271Where is your second book set? This is where you must go either to destroy your magical object, or to find it.

Book 2: The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin.

I’m searching for this magical path in eastern, small town USA, probably nearer the coast.

7736182Open your third book to a random page. The character whose name you see first ages up to around 700 years old and becomes the wizard who starts you on your quest. On a scale of Gandalf to Dumbledore, how grumpy is s/he?

Book 3: The Heroes of Olympus, Book One: The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan.

The first character I see on this page is Drew. Really? All the awesome people who could show up, and it’s Drew? She is actually likely to be a fairly unpleasant 700-year-old wizard. She’s a fairly unpleasant teenager. Why does she send us on this quest for the wish-fulfilling path? Probably she doesn’t mean to. Probably she tried to find it herself, and never succeeded, and mentioned it in passing while grumbling over her unfulfilling 700 years.

21060Open your fourth book to a random page. The character whose name you see first is the soldier who has joined your party for mysterious reasons. S/he may possibly be rugged, taciturn, scarred, carry a named weapon, or any combination there of. What’s his/her secret?

Book 4: Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith.

Well, the first name on the page is Merinder’s, which is a family name, but at this point in the story refers to the tyrannical king, Galdran. There’s someone speaking, though I don’t remember whom, to the “I” that is Mel, but I’m probably stuck with Merinder, huh? If I had to guess, Galdran’s secret is that he is a terrible fighter, really, and on the run from a coup that toppled his rule and would have his head if it found him.

8755776Open your fifth book to a random page. The character whose name you see first is now royalty. Possibly an heir to the throne, possibly just a second or third child allowed to go on adventures with Mommy and Daddy’s money. Every quest needs one. How useful is s/he?

Book 5: The Mortal Instruments, Book 5: City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare.

The first name on the page is Hodge’s. Poor, dead Hodge’s. Jocelyn is speaking. If I took Merinder, I probably should take Hodge, but it’s been so long since Hodge was among the living that I don’t remember a whole lot about his character other than what roles he played in the plot. So I’m taking Jocelyn. And she’s an awesome princess. She’s probably running away from a marriage that she doesn’t want and has been adventuring since escaping. Whether or not there’s a child left with some wizard may be a question for a campfire confessional.

1513207Open your sixth book to a random page. The character whose name you see first joins the party and immediately starts a not-so-friendly rivalry with the royal member of your party. It is never relevant to the plot. Why don’t they like each other, and what nicknames do they give each other?

Book 6: The Dark Is Rising Sequence, Book Two: The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper.

Will Stanton doesn’t like Jocelyn Fairchild. Her wild red hair and wild laugh remind him of Maggie, and she carries too many secrets, which only add to his distrust of her. Jocelyn doesn’t like Will. Will claims to defend humanity but he seems too gentle and carries no weapons. Jocelyn thinks that Will is all talk. Jocelyn’s insults are probably more acerbic versions of “boy” and “child” (because I’m not very good at inventing biting insults).  Will is usually above name-calling. But he will snip at her. He calls her wild and irresponsible and reckless, and generally treats her like a child.

9780142402511Open your seventh book to a random page. The character whose name you see first has exactly two useful skills: cooking and extreme loyalty. Of course, this makes him/her the most important member of the party.

Book 7: Looking for Alaska by John Green

The Colonel is extremely loyal and a good cook. Ehn. Yeah. I can see that. But he’s secretly extremely intelligent and good at making plans. He’ll be a good one to have forgotten about in a fight.

26143217Open your eighth book to a random page. The character whose name you see first now has all the dark powers you can imagine. S/he is the ultimate Dark Lady/Lord. Are you in trouble?

Book 8: The World That Forgot How to Dance by Olivia Berrier.

Ellsie is our Dark Lady. She performs magic by dancing. A few quick steps and she encases us all in a ring of fire or a tangle of chain. Her dancing has gotten even better since the end of this book. And with Lester beside her, she’s revived some of the old, darker magic—all in the attempt to revive magic and bring magic and magic-practitioners out of hiding. Somewhere her ideals must have gotten a bit skewed. There’s some very interesting backstory I’m sure as to how she became a villain and why she wants to keep us all from reaching the magical, wish-fulfilling path. Maybe it’s magic only works once and she wants it to work for her? She’d be a fairly formidable foe, really, but I have some fairly powerful friends in this fight—Will and Jocelyn specifically. Galdran and the Colonel will be less help—though I think the Colonel can engineer a rescue plan pretty well. He just might get tripped up not quite knowing how to combat magic.