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I keep referencing this list, but hadn't posted it anywhere, though I have posted pieces of it as I add them. Because of [profile] abenn's encouragement, I am posting it now and will keep it at the top of my LJ for future reference.

Suggestions always welcome, by the way.

Life To Do List )
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nearly gone cover


Book: NEARLY GONE by Elle Cosimano
Genre: YA thriller
Series: Nearly series book 1.
USA Release Date: Currently available.
Source: Won this in a giveaway from The Hanging Garden.
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Recommended?: Yes, particularly if you love smart, flawed girls, math and science riddles, and serial killer stories. It's a wonderful book with amazing characters, and I can't wait for the next in the series.

Summary:

Bones meets Fringe in a big, dark, scary, brilliantly-plotted urban thriller that will leave you guessing until the very end

Nearly Boswell knows how to keep secrets. Living in a DC trailer park, she knows better than to share anything that would make her a target with her classmates. Like her mother's job as an exotic dancer, her obsession with the personal ads, and especially the emotions she can taste when she brushes against someone's skin. But when a serial killer goes on a killing spree and starts attacking students, leaving cryptic ads in the newspaper that only Nearly can decipher, she confides in the one person she shouldn't trust: the new guy at school--a reformed bad boy working undercover for the police, doing surveillance. . . on her.

Nearly might be the one person who can put all the clues together, and if she doesn't figure it all out soon--she'll be next.


Review:

I loved this book. I had no idea people were calling it Bones meets Fringe when I read it, but that comparison really captures how I feel about NEARLY GONE. I love Bones, I love Fringe, and the combination here is fun and absolutely entertaining.

Nearly Boswell is a delight. Yes, there's some idiot ball holding, or rather, she rushes headfirst into situations without giving it enough thought, but that worked for me. She's book smart, she's driven, and she's lonely; it makes sense to me that she's tempestuous and headstrong and a little bit naive about her invincibility. Not a superhero invincibility, but the way some teenagers can feel untouchable, even when they've already experienced pain and loss. Nearly chases a missing father, obsesses over cryptic clues in personal ads, and feels lost as she makes her way through high school, but she is wonderful, flawed and smart and strong, and I loved reading her story.

If anything, I wanted more of Nearly, especially her ability to taste emotions when she brushes against skin. That little fringe science twist to her abilities intrigued me, and I would love to see her use of that developed further. (Since there is a sequel, I hold out hope.)

The only thing that fell a little flat for me was the romance with Reece, the reformed bad boy working undercover. Something about the dynamic between them felt unbalanced, probably that whole undercover thing, though I did love the other people working with him. I hope I grow to like Reece more in the next book, because my guess is that he'll continue to be her love interest.

I loved the way Cosimano wove the clues through the personal ads, mixing science and math and riddles in wonderful ways. Between the clues and Nearly herself, I was sucked into this book, and could not put it down until I'd devoured it all. Seriously cannot wait for the next book, and Cosimano is going on my auto-buy author list.
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As I've talked about before, Izzy is not a huge fan of other dogs. (Well, that's not entirely true; she was fine with other dogs at the off-leash dog parks in Kansas City, as long as she was off leash. Once she was leashed, while we arrived or left, she was as barky as ever. And she likes my dad's dog.) We're still working on getting her used to individual dogs. Since we moved, there's not as many dogs out and about on the street for her to deal with, even though the neighborhood is full of dogs. (There is a dog in the house behind this one. She doesn't bark at it, even when it yips and yaps all day, but she does growl sometimes when it's getting loud.)

This morning, we had a visit from a dog right in our backyard. It's not fully fenced, there's an open spot near the driveway, but Izzy doesn't run off, so as long as I'm sitting in the front living room, which J gave me for my space, she can go in and out the open sliding door. She started acting weird and stalked outside, but no barking and no attacking anything. Still, her behavior was strange enough I went to check on her, and found a big male dog just hanging out. Izzy didn't attack him, didn't even really bark at him until I brought her inside, but she did not want to let him near the house or me. She did come straight back to me when I called, which I wasn't sure she'd do faced with an actual threat.

Though he was collared (it looked like one of the jump rings had broken, letting him off a yard chain), he didn't have any sort of identification. I tried to get a leash on him, but he thought it was a big game, and he took off before I could get close enough to touch.

So, Izzy protected the house without attacking another dog, and came back as soon as she was called, even though she was face to face with a threat. I'm so proud of her! (It's a good thing she didn't attack, too; she probably could have won the fight, but he was a big, heavy dog, and he could have done serious damage.)

Of course, when we went for a ride this afternoon, she freaked out over a wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube man, so.

Niece is supposed to move in this summer with her dog, so we'll see how that socialization goes.
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Current active projects include:

UK Horror Series
(This series cowritten with Sarah.)

1: Talking Dead
Young adult supernatural adventure. Ghosts, vampires, killers, oh my. Status: Second draft complete and with early readers. Outline for the third draft completed, rewrite well under way. Sarah and I spent awhile struggling with a new chapter from a new POV, but we finally finished it this weekend. Here's hoping the next few chapters go much faster.

2: Monsters & Magic
Young adult supernatural adventures. Flirtatious werewolves and incorporeal monsters. Status: Second draft outlined, on hold until draft three of Talking Dead is complete. Also retitled, because music is no longer an applicable word.

3: Supernatural Slumber Party
Young adult supernatural adventures. It’s a slumber party of supernaturals, see? Status: First draft complete. Editing.

4: Wicked Witches
Young adult supernatural adventures. Witches, dude. Always with the witches. Status: First draft complete. Editing.

5: The Monster Mash
Young adult supernatural adventures. The world goes BOOM. Status: First draft complete. Editing.

Stand Alones
Werewolves in Love
New adult romance. Werewolves, murders, and the constant sea. Status: Outline complete, first draft in progress. I've been struggling with writing lately, it feels like I've forgotten how to tell a story, so I went back to an outline I finished a few years ago, and started a draft from it. If I lose the thread of the story, the outline is already there.

Love in the Time of Percussion
New adult romance. Marching bands, rock bands, and snarky flirtations. Status: Outline in progress.

Sex, Love & Drums
Young adult contemporary romance. Status: Outline in progress.

Chase the Sun
Young adult contemporary. Sisters on a road trip. Status: Outline in progress.

Essays
Still working on figuring out this whole pitching thing. It is not going well, but I will keep trying.
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Had to take a couple days off for health reasons, but I'm back with the next step of the Lover's Chain. Still following Seanan McGuire's Lover's Chain tutorial. The tenth step is the decalet, which at first glance looks like hell in poem form. I am writing a love poem to a monstrous final girl.

The decalet is a ten line poem made up of two five-line stanzas. It has both internal and external rhyme schemes (WHAT?!), and is a counted syllable poem, ten syllables per line. I'm ready to throw up my hands and quit. This was not the poem to come back to after a break.

The external rhyme scheme is ABCDE EDCBA, and the internal rhyme scheme is EDCBA ABCDE. (WHAT WHAT?!) Yeah, okay, I am terrified.

A = blood, buds, flood (mud, flood, bud)
B = kiss, hiss, remiss (hiss, miss, dis, bliss, amiss, abyss, remiss)
C = bright, light, quite, right (bite, might, fight, sleight, quite, right)
D = mine, treeline, fine (fine, design, align, line, nine, dine, wine)
E = death, breath

1EA My bringer of death, dressed in tulle and blood,
2DB touched your lips to mine, peace in your sweet kiss.
3CC The moon, full and bright -- we bathed in its light,
4BD ignored the soft hiss, wind through the treeline,
5AE and the pale white buds floating on a breath.

6AE Remember my flood of fear for you, Beth--
7BD no, that'd be remiss -- fear of you is fine
8CC when you are not quite the girl I loved right
9DB off. Our hands align, return back from the abyss,
10EA of my fear of death buried in the mud.

Dear god, that's a hell of a form poem. That last line isn't working for me; I'm running short on the "eath" rhyme, and I think I'm going to have to force a rhyme there, because the repetition of death isn't working for me, even though I'm trying to tie it into her fear of Beth, the final girl, the killer, the salvation.

6AE Remember the mud of fear for you, Beth--

10EA my fear, dying 'neath the trees in the mud.

Lover’s Chain

1
The moon rises, bright and full, and with it comes peace.

2
Bloody, bruised, you escape death;
Come, darling, rest, catch your breath.

3
You wore a dress I love, bell skirt swinging;
we danced beneath the bright moonlight.
Kiss me, you said, and I obeyed — left us breathless, joyful, clinging.

4
Behind us, woods, empty and dark.
Silent, but for the crunch of broken leaves.
“Wait,” I said, chilled and leery.
You kissed me, you smiled — I’ll be right back.

5
I shiver, cold damp air on bare skin,
branches tremble in the wind, drop leaves.
It crashes through the brush nearby, big, furred — my breath goes thin.
Branches tremble in the wind, drop leaves.
I shiver, cold damp air on bare skin.

6
I froze, terrified, face to face with a beast.
It opened its long muzzle wide, flashed sharp, shiny teeth.
You were safe, my love, I thought, at least, at least.

Then you appeared, one hand on my arm, dragging me away beneath
the lowest branches, silver at your fingers, brow creased.
My hero, but you left me, fear holding me still, in the broken heath.

7
You ran, dress red-black as blood in the moonlight.
Darted through brush, over fallen branches,
until the monster, heavy, furred, rose on its haunches,
and you leaped, silver knife carving the night.

You ran, dress red-black as blood in the moonlight,
straight into the monster’s reach.
Knife flashed, blood, and with a howl-like scream, it launched into the fight.

8

Teeth, claws, weight — it tore into you, until
you stood above the fallen monster, bloody and free-
falling backward, knife, tangled hair, fallen and still.
Teeth, claws, weight — it tore into you, until
you punched up, knife flashing, fisted, iron-will
stronger than I’d ever seen, my gorgeous girl, wild, gutsy.
Teeth, claws, weight, it tore into you until
you stood above the fallen monster, bloody and free.

9

I am not the damsel in distress;
you are no shining armor knight.
You came to me, blood-soaked, and I confess
in that moment under the pale moon light

I was scared.

Your lip curled, flashed teeth, that grin.
I gathered myself, reached out
and you settled into my arms, warm as sin,
Touching you, I almost forgot my doubt.

10

My bringer of death, dressed in tulle and blood,
touched your lips to mine, peace in your sweet kiss.
The moon, full and bright -- we bathed in its light,
ignored the soft hiss, wind through the treeline,
and the pale white buds floating on a breath.

Remember, like mud, my fear for you, Beth --
no, that'd be remiss -- fear of you is fine
when you are not quite the girl I loved right
off. Our hands align, back from the abyss,
and I see your wealth, strength like a flood.
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Still following Seanan McGuire's Lover's Chain tutorial. The ninth step is the novet. It is two quatrains with a single line between them, and the standard rhyme scheme is ABAB C DEDE. Seanan's has the same meter for each line, but she doesn't say that's required, and I can't find anything elsewhere about the novet, so I'm just ignoring that part. (This is why I'm not great at form poetry. I start ignoring the parts I don't like. Except the damn rhyme, apparently.) I am writing a love poem to a monstrous final girl.

1A I am not the damsel in distress;
2B you are no shining armor knight.
3A You came to me, blood-soaked, and I confess
4B in that moment under the pale moon light

5C I was scared.

6D Your lip curled, flashed teeth, that grin.
7E I gathered myself, reached out
8D and you settled into my arms, warm as sin,
9E I remembered what our love was all about.

I'm not pleased with the last line, so it will need some tweaking. Though it's very different from the thought I started writing, I think I'm going for doubt instead.

9E Touching you, I almost forgot my doubt.

Lover’s Chain

1
The moon rises, bright and full, and with it comes peace.

2
Bloody, bruised, you escape death;
Come, darling, rest, catch your breath.

3
You wore a dress I love, bell skirt swinging;
we danced beneath the bright moonlight.
Kiss me, you said, and I obeyed — left us breathless, joyful, clinging.

4
Behind us, woods, empty and dark.
Silent, but for the crunch of broken leaves.
“Wait,” I said, chilled and leery.
You kissed me, you smiled — I’ll be right back.

5
I shiver, cold damp air on bare skin,
branches tremble in the wind, drop leaves.
It crashes through the brush nearby, big, furred — my breath goes thin.
Branches tremble in the wind, drop leaves.
I shiver, cold damp air on bare skin.

6
I froze, terrified, face to face with a beast.
It opened its long muzzle wide, flashed sharp, shiny teeth.
You were safe, my love, I thought, at least, at least.

Then you appeared, one hand on my arm, dragging me away beneath
the lowest branches, silver at your fingers, brow creased.
My hero, but you left me, fear holding me still, in the broken heath.

7
You ran, dress red-black as blood in the moonlight.
Darted through brush, over fallen branches,
until the monster, heavy, furred, rose on its haunches,
and you leaped, silver knife carving the night.

You ran, dress red-black as blood in the moonlight,
straight into the monster’s reach.
Knife flashed, blood, and with a howl-like scream, it launched into the fight.

8

Teeth, claws, weight — it tore into you, until
you stood above the fallen monster, bloody and free-
falling backward, knife, tangled hair, fallen and still.
Teeth, claws, weight — it tore into you, until
you punched up, knife flashing, fisted, iron-will
stronger than I’d ever seen, my gorgeous girl, wild, gutsy.
Teeth, claws, weight, it tore into you until
you stood above the fallen monster, bloody and free.

9

I am not the damsel in distress;
you are no shining armor knight.
You came to me, blood-soaked, and I confess
in that moment under the pale moon light

I was scared.

Your lip curled, flashed teeth, that grin.
I gathered myself, reached out
and you settled into my arms, warm as sin,
Touching you, I almost forgot my doubt.
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Still following Seanan McGuire's Lover's Chain tutorial. The eighth step is a triolet, an eight lined rhymed poem with repeating lines. It has an ABAAABAB rhyme scheme. I am writing a love poem to a monstrous final girl.

I love triolets because of the repeating lines, but I am not fantastic at them because of the rhyming. I think the first two lines are the most important, because the first repeats so often and because the second ends the poem. I want a strong ending, a strong final line for my final girl.

1A Teeth, claws, weight -- it tore into you, until
2B you stood above the fallen monster, bloody and free-
3A falling backward, knife, tangled hair, fallen and still.
1A Teeth, claws, weight -- it tore into you, until
4A you punched up, knife flashing, fisted, iron-will
5B stronger than I'd ever seen, my gorgeous girl, wild, gutsy.
1A Teeth, claws, weight, it tore into you until
2B you stood above the fallen monster, bloody and free.

Lover’s Chain

1
The moon rises, bright and full, and with it comes peace.

2
Bloody, bruised, you escape death;
Come, darling, rest, catch your breath.

3
You wore a dress I love, bell skirt swinging;
we danced beneath the bright moonlight.
Kiss me, you said, and I obeyed — left us breathless, joyful, clinging.

4
Behind us, woods, empty and dark.
Silent, but for the crunch of broken leaves.
“Wait,” I said, chilled and leery.
You kissed me, you smiled — I’ll be right back.

5
I shiver, cold damp air on bare skin,
branches tremble in the wind, drop leaves.
It crashes through the brush nearby, big, furred — my breath goes thin.
Branches tremble in the wind, drop leaves.
I shiver, cold damp air on bare skin.

6
I froze, terrified, face to face with a beast.
It opened its long muzzle wide, flashed sharp, shiny teeth.
You were safe, my love, I thought, at least, at least.

Then you appeared, one hand on my arm, dragging me away beneath
the lowest branches, silver at your fingers, brow creased.
My hero, but you left me, fear holding me still, in the broken heath.

7
You ran, dress red-black as blood in the moonlight.
Darted through brush, over fallen branches,
until the monster, heavy, furred, rose on its haunches,
and you leaped, silver knife carving the night.

You ran, dress red-black as blood in the moonlight,
straight into the monster’s reach.
Knife flashed, blood, and with a howl-like scream, it launched into the fight.

8

Teeth, claws, weight -- it tore into you, until
you stood above the fallen monster, bloody and free-
falling backward, knife, tangled hair, fallen and still.
Teeth, claws, weight -- it tore into you, until
you punched up, knife flashing, fisted, iron-will
stronger than I'd ever seen, my gorgeous girl, wild, gutsy.
Teeth, claws, weight, it tore into you until
you stood above the fallen monster, bloody and free.
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Still following Seanan McGuire's Lover's Chain tutorial. The seventh step is the hexadine, a two stanza, seven line poem. The first stanza is four lines, ABBA rhyme scheme, and the second stanza is three lines, ACA rhyme scheme. The first line of each stanza is the same. I am writing a love poem to a monstrous final girl.

Because the first line of each stanza is the same, I'll start there, using it as an anchor line.

You ran, dress red-black as blood in the moonlight.

(It is also at this point that I realized I switched tenses on step five. Each poem is separate, so I am debating as to whether I can let that remain or rewrite it to make it all match.)

1A You ran, dress red-black as blood in the moonlight.
2B Darted through brush, over fallen branches,
3B until the monster, heavy, and wide and furred, rose on its haunches,
4A and you leaped, silver knife carving the night.

Yeah, I realize that B rhyme is pretty forced, but I wanted haunches anyway.

1A You ran, dress red-black as blood in the moonlight,
2C straight into the monster's reach.
3A Knife flashed, blood, and with a howl-like scream, it launched into the fight.



Lover’s Chain

1
The moon rises, bright and full, and with it comes peace.

2
Bloody, bruised, you escape death;
Come, darling, rest, catch your breath.

3
You wore a dress I love, bell skirt swinging;
we danced beneath the bright moonlight.
Kiss me, you said, and I obeyed — left us breathless, joyful, clinging.

4
Behind us, woods, empty and dark.
Silent, but for the crunch of broken leaves.
“Wait,” I said, chilled and leery.
You kissed me, you smiled — I’ll be right back.

5
I shiver, cold damp air on bare skin,
branches tremble in the wind, drop leaves.
It crashes through the brush nearby, big, furred — my breath goes thin.
Branches tremble in the wind, drop leaves.
I shiver, cold damp air on bare skin.

6
I froze, terrified, face to face with a beast.
It opened its long muzzle wide, flashed sharp, shiny teeth.
You were safe, my love, I thought, at least, at least.

Then you appeared, one hand on my arm, dragging me away beneath
the lowest branches, silver at your fingers, brow creased.
My hero, but you left me, fear holding me still, in the broken heath.

7
You ran, dress red-black as blood in the moonlight.
Darted through brush, over fallen branches,
until the monster, heavy, furred, rose on its haunches,
and you leaped, silver knife carving the night.

You ran, dress red-black as blood in the moonlight,
straight into the monster's reach.
Knife flashed, blood, and with a howl-like scream, it launched into the fight.
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Still following Seanan McGuire’s Lover’s Chain tutorial. The sixth step is the triat, a six line poem made up of two three-line verses. Again, it rhymes, and has an ABA BAB scheme, but no fixed syllable count or scansion pattern. I am writing a love poem to a monstrous final girl.

I froze, scared, terrified, faced face to face with a beast.
It opened its long muzzle wide, flashed sharp, shiny teeth.
You were safe, my love, I thought, at least, at least.

There Then you were thereappeared, one hand on my arm, dragging me away beneath
the lowest branches, silver at your fingers, brow creased.
My hero, but you left me, fear holding me still, in the broken heath.

I like it, but I want some stronger images, so I’ll play with the word choice.

Lover’s Chain

1
The moon rises, bright and full, and with it comes peace.

2
Bloody, bruised, you escape death;
Come, darling, rest, catch your breath.

3
You wore a dress I love, bell skirt swinging;
we danced beneath the bright moonlight.
Kiss me, you said, and I obeyed — left us breathless, joyful, clinging.

4
Behind us, woods, empty and dark.
Silent, but for the crunch of broken leaves.
“Wait,” I said, chilled and leery.
You kissed me, you smiled — I’ll be right back.

5
I shiver, cold damp air on bare skin,
branches tremble in the wind, drop leaves.
It crashes through the brush nearby, big, furred — my breath goes thin.
Branches tremble in the wind, drop leaves.
I shiver, cold damp air on bare skin.

6
I froze, terrified, face to face with a beast.
It opened its long muzzle wide, flashed sharp, shiny teeth.
You were safe, my love, I thought, at least, at least.

Then you appeared, one hand on my arm, dragging me away beneath
the lowest branches, silver at your fingers, brow creased.
My hero, but you left me, fear holding me still, in the broken heath.
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Still following Seanan McGuire's Lover's Chain tutorial. The fifth step is the paradine, a five line Italian poem with three unique lines, with a 1, 2, 3, 2, 1 pattern, with an ABABA rhyme scheme. I am writing a love poem to a monstrous final girl.

I've never written a paradine before. I like repeating lines, so this should be fun, if hard. (Making repeating lines work without it feeling forced is difficult. I'm not sure I can pull it off.)

Once I have my first line, I need rhymes for skin that fit with the monster in the trees. Thin, bin, win, fin, chagrin, twin, spin, original sin.

1A I shiver, cold damp air on bare skin
2B branches tremble in the wind, drop leaves
3A it crashes through the brush nearby, big, furred -- my breath goes thin
2B branches tremble in the wind, drop leaves
1A I shiver, cold damp air on bare skin

I'm reasonably satisfied with how this fits into everything else, and some punctuation will finalize everything.

Lover’s Chain

The moon rises, bright and full, and with it comes peace.

Bloody, bruised, you escape death;
Come, darling, rest, catch your breath.

You wore a dress I love, bell skirt swinging;
we danced beneath the bright moonlight.
Kiss me, you said, and I obeyed — left us breathless, joyful, clinging.

Behind us, woods, empty and dark.
Silent, but for the crunch of broken leaves.
“Wait,” I said, chilled and leery.
You kissed me, you smiled — I’ll be right back.

I shiver, cold damp air on bare skin,
branches tremble in the wind, drop leaves.
It crashes through the brush nearby, big, furred -- my breath goes thin.
Branches tremble in the wind, drop leaves.
I shiver, cold damp air on bare skin.
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Still following Seanan McGuire's Lover's Chain tutorial. The fourth step is the quatrain, four lines, no rhyme scheme or syllable count. I am writing a love poem to a monstrous final girl. I am not a huge fan of rhyme, so I'm going to eschew a rhyme scheme for this step in the chain.

Previous imagery includes a full moon on the rise, bloody skin, defying death, breathless, dancing beneath the moon, and kissing beneath the moon.

Per Seanan, this should end on a note of hope.

Behind us, woods, empty and dark.
Silent, but for the crunch of broken leaves.
"Wait," I said, chilled and leery.
You kissed me, you smiled -- "I'll be right back."

Well, it's sort of ending on a note of hope. Unless you are familiar with horror movies. Which of course you are, and of course you know what calling her the final girl means -- so still a note of hope.

Lover’s Chain

The moon rises, bright and full, and with it comes peace.

Bloody, bruised, you escape death;
Come, darling, rest, catch your breath.

You wore a dress I love, bell skirt swinging;
we danced beneath the bright moonlight.
Kiss me, you said, and I obeyed — left us breathless, joyful, clinging.

Behind us, woods, empty and dark.
Silent, but for the crunch of broken leaves.
"Wait," I said, chilled and leery.
You kissed me, you smiled -- I'll be right back.
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Still following Seanan McGuire's Lover's Chain tutorial. The third step is the triplet, three lines with no fixed rhyme scheme. I am writing a love poem to a monstrous final girl. For simplicity, I am doing a standard ABA rhyme scheme.

Previous imagery includes a full moon on the rise, bloody skin, and defying death. I need to avoid a death rhyme because I've already used it, and as previously discussed, I'm avoiding certain common rhymes.

Free writing to go with previous imagery: torn clothes, sharp knife, bruised flesh, killing, running, lost, night, empty house, cornfield.

You wore a dress I love, starry silver, deep blue, full skirt swinging;
we danced beneath the bright moonlight.
Kiss me, you said, and I obeyed -- left you breathless, joyful, clinging.

I went back and forth on whether I wanted "full skirt swinging" or "swinging skirt," but in the end, I wanted the swinging-clinging rhyme. As much as I like the description of the dress, I thought some of the words slowed it down too much. We'll work into that more later.

It wasn't until I edited it out that I realized I had too many uses of "full" too close together, so full skirt has to become something else.

Finally, I decided I disliked that the narrator left the final girl breathless, joyful, clinging. It's far stronger a story to have them both so happy, so lost in each other.

Lover’s Chain

The moon rises, bright and full, and with it comes peace.

Bloody, bruised, you escape death;
Come, darling, rest, catch your breath.

You wore a dress I love, bell skirt swinging;
we danced beneath the bright moonlight.
Kiss me, you said, and I obeyed -- left us breathless, joyful, clinging.
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the_chance_you_wont_return_cover


Book: THE CHANCE YOU WON'T RETURN by Annie Cardi
Genre: YA contemporary
USA Release Date: Currently available.
Source: Won this in a giveaway from The Hanging Garden.
Rating: 4/5 stars
Recommended?: Yes, particularly because of the wonderful, nuanced portrayal of mental illnesses.
Content Note: Parent's nonspecific mental illness with delusions and people's reactions to it, including shame and anger. Decent depiction of anxiety in main character.

Summary:

When your mom thinks she’s Amelia Earhart, navigating high school, first love, and family secrets is like flying solo without a map.

Driver’s ed and a first crush should be what Alex Winchester is stressed out about in high school — and she is. But what’s really on her mind is her mother. Why is she dressing in Dad’s baggy khaki pants with a silk scarf around her neck? What is she planning when she pores over maps in the middle of the night? When did she stop being Mom and start being Amelia Earhart? Alex tries to keep her budding love life apart from the growing disaster at home as her mother sinks further into her delusions. But there are those nights, when everyone else is asleep, when it’s easier to confide in Amelia than it ever was to Mom. Now, as Amelia’s flight plans become more intense, Alex is increasingly worried that Amelia is planning her final flight — the flight from which she never returns. What could possibly be driving Mom’s delusions, and how far will they take her?


Review:

Alex Winchester is an amazing protagonist in this story of love and mental illness. Alex's voice is delightful, sharp and funny without being bitter, with a razor edge to her wit. She's been placed in a terrible situation; tasked by her father to protect her younger siblings from her mother's mental illness, she's dealing with her own anxiety while trying to survive high school, including driver's ed and a confusing (and absolutely adorable) flirtation with her first crush.

I have bipolar disorder (which presents with OCD and anxiety). I'm always leery of the portrayal of mental illness in young adult books (and all media), particularly when the narrator is not the one with the mental illness being addressed. Too often, it's the "sane" character reacting to the things the person with the mental illness does, in a way that very much others people with mental illness. Not so here, in part because Alex deal with anxiety herself, a foil to her mother's delusions, but also because Cardi uses a deft hand writing both mental illnesses without blame or pity -- her characters remain nuanced and human, flawed and wonderful because of their flaws. Despite how much the mental illnesses drive the story, the characters never become just their mental illness.

I particularly liked the way the doctors struggled to find the right medication to treat the delusional disorder. I run into a lot of people who think meds are a miracle cure, but that's not how they work; there is a lot of trial and error, and it meant a lot for me to see that portrayed realistically here.

THE CHANCE YOU WON'T RETURN is at turns funny and romantic, heartbreaking and entertaining, and an absolute joy to read.
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Last night I ended up teaching a class about Twitter use with no more than five minutes notice. There's a local nonprofit computer group that meets each month, mostly seniors, and Jake usually teaches a short lesson on some sort of tech issue after their business meetings. This month, they requested a class on Twitter, but he doesn't use it. I freaking love Twitter, and that's how I ended up giving a lesson to a bunch of delightful, if super politically conservative, seniors using my 100% liberal twitter account. It was awesome.

The best part was bonding with them over pro wrestling. After we went through the technical part of setting up an account, fixing privacy settings, and starting to tweet, we talked about Twitter's appeal, and one of my examples was how it allowed me to connect with other people watching and loving the same thing I am. I used last weekend's Wrestlemania hashtag as an example, because locally, I don't know anyone who loves wrestling (and Jake and Nephew love to mock me about it), but I can watch live and interact with thousands of people all over the world. The class loved that concept in general (I also talked about how when I'm housebound due to illness, it helps stay connected, how news, local, national and international, breaks on Twitter before more traditional media, etc.), but all these little old ladies also started talking about their memories of watching wrestling as children, with their grandfathers and fathers, and how much they loved it. When I first mentioned pro wrestling as the example, Jake laughed. I don't think he expected it to go the way it did.

Basically, it was an awesome class, I loved it, and I can't wait to go back next month to teach one on Facebook.
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Still following Seanan McGuire's Lover's Chain tutorial. The second step is the couplet, two lines of rhymed poetry. As Seanan suggests, I'm trying to avoid more standard rhymes, such as love and dove, eye and die and lie, etc.

As I mentioned yesterday, I'm writing my Lover's Chain to horror stories, or more particularly, as I decided last night, watching clouds over the moon, to a monstrous final girl.

With that in mind, I still want to avoid what I think are more common rhymes along this theme, so I don't want to end a line on moon or sky. This may prove difficult, considering the imagery and tone I started with in the compliment focuses on the moon: The moon rises, bright and full, and with it comes peace. This feels like an end to a final girl's story, and if that's where I'm beginning this courtship with her, I'll need to go back and capture some of the more complicated concepts of her story. Later steps in the Lover's Chain use more complicated poetry forms. Both of these thoughts are things I'm keeping in mind as I work on the couplet.

Based on Seanan's example, the couplet is a great place to expand upon the imagery that will be threaded throughout the rest of the poems. Brainstorming final girl words include blood, fight, death, monster, transformation.

First attempt:

Blood-soaked, broken, you escaped your death;
come with me, darling, rest, catch your breath.

I like pieces of this, but not the pacing itself. Plus I want the tone to better capture the awe I feel for the final girl. She's amazing. She's strong. She's won, but at what cost?

Second attempt:

Bloody, bruised, you escape death;
Come, darling, rest, catch your breath.

I like this better. It's tighter, flows better, and better captures that sheer shock and awe of her survival. This final girl will show you something new.

Lover's Chain

The moon rises, bright and full, and with it comes peace.

Bloody, bruised, you escape death;
Come, darling, rest, catch your breath.
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Inspired by my friend Chanda, I'm attempting to write a poem a day for National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo). Even though I did NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) for a number of years in the 2000s, I had no idea NaPo was a thing that existed until Chanda asked if anyone was participating.

My history with poetry is fractured. I didn't like poetry until I was working on my undergrad (in writing and publishing), and first discovered Daphne Gottlieb's WHY THINGS BURN (and then FINAL GIRL), and I fell in love with poetry. I wrote a lot during undergrad and a few years after, and was a member of Prescription Strength Poetry, so participated in guerilla poetry performances, but poetry was one of the things I set aside when I went to law school. (My writing time went to legal writing and fiction.) I'm not great at poetry, nor do I always understand it well, but I've missed it, and I'm glad to be making this attempt.

A few weeks ago, I read Seanan McGuire's series of essays about the Lover's Chain, and now that I'm doing NaPo, I decided to give it a try myself. Historically, the Lover's Chain was used by Victorians to conduct courtship. I am going to use it to write a love letter (poem, I suppose) to horror stories. Or something.

The first step of the Lover's Chain is a one line compliment. Per Seanan's series, it establishes imagery to be used throughout the chain, as well as the tone.

Compliment: The moon rises, bright and full, and with it comes peace.
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she-wolf-poster


Movie: She-Wolf of the Woods
Source: online streaming
Content: NSFW, nudity, violence
Summary: Our short film, SHE-WOLF OF THE WOODS is an extraction from one of the story strands in our feature film of the same name. In it, we take a glimpse into the world of Amy Shields, a beautiful and unlikely forest ranger. Amy is a She-Wolf’s apprentice and has a taste for flesh. She likes her women for fun and her men for food. Bound to her master through an ancient curse, Amy spends her days scouting the Scottish Highlands for loners and fulfilling her ritualistic duties in the ways of the hunt.

Trailer



Initial Thoughts

She-Wolf of the Woods was the talk of the werewolf sites I regularly haunt (e.g.g, Werewolf News, Howl Out Cast), and I've been excited to watch it since the first time I heard about it. A Scottish indie horror comedy about queer women werewolves? SOLD. A woman filmmaker spent her own money to create an "homage to horror films and popular culture from the 70s, 80s, and 90s"? SOLD OMG JUST GIVE IT TO ME ALREADY.

No, really, look at that tagline: She'll huff and she'll puff - then she'll eat you.

HOW COULD I NOT LOVE THAT?

Review

Since this is a short film easily available streaming online, I'm going to do a review instead of a direct recap.



I love this movie. It's ridiculous and cheesy and delightful, with the feel of an old school sexploitation horror movie with a werewolf story at the heart of it that makes me want more. (I have hope that we'll get more, too; I want the full length film to exist. No, I need. More queer women werewolves being monsters in Scotland, PLEASE.) I can't believe how awesome this film looks considering its low, low, low budget.

The main character, Amy Shields, is played to perfection by Toni Benedetti. In just over thirty minutes, she manages to convince me of the line she's walking between human and monster, and her hunger for violence and transformation is a wonderful, nuanced thing. Even when she's licking and stabbing trees as a substitute for men, I believe there's a dark hunger driving her on, and rules she's desperate to follow but wishing she can break.

One of the moments I love best is when Amy is in a pub and tries to order a sour mash bourbon on the rocks. When the bartender won't give it to her, there's a dramatic back and forth where it looks like she tries to control him, force him to do her bidding -- and completely fails. She's a temptress and a danger, but she's not the true supernatural power here.

Tyne Roberts plays Lucille, the titular werewolf, and she is a delight. From a simple special effects budget consideration, her transformation is amazing, far better than many I've seen with bigger budgets. The transformation itself is weird, though. I love the sex transformation as a concept, but some of the visual choices (the patchy fur and the appearance of the spin cracking and changing) didn't work for me. (Particularly the patchy fur on the face and the play-doh looking prosthetics in a couple scenes.) That spine arch seemed like a fantastic nod to The Howling, though.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I freaking loved She-Wolf of the Woods, and I want the full length movie immediately.

One thing I do want to touch on is the way the movie plays into the treatment of a female werewolf as a monster with uncontrollable sexual urges. So often in stories of lone werewolves (or, as here, a werewolf with an apprentice), male werewolves are treated as sad creatures turned against their will who should be pitied, even if they need to be put down because they are monsters (e.g., American Werewolf in London, Oz from Buffy the Vampire Slayer), while female werewolves embrace their hungers, sexual and supernatural, and therefore are dangerous predators as humans and as beasts (e.g., She-Wolf of the Woods, Veruca from Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Women who embrace their sexuality and sexual desires, who admit they want sex and they want it now and they want it this way not that, are treated as dangerous, not to be trusted, destruction wearing sexy flesh. The monster in the woman isn't the werewolf so much as it is her love of sex, and that metaphor sucks.
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Writing

High: No high this month. I'm struggling a lot with my solo writing (it feels like I've forgotten how to write a book on my own, how to outline a story, even), and due to a number of things, Sarah and I didn't do nearly enough cowriting. It's frustrating and disheartening.

Low: Yeah. Also, great things are happening for the members of my writing group, and I am trying to deal with my envy. I hate that, because I love them and they are awesome and deserve wonderful things, and yet, still, I feel very much like a failure in pretty much all areas of my life right now. So that sucks.

Reading

High: I absolutely loved SHADOW CABINET by Maureen Johnson, the third book in her Shades of London series. LOVED IT. Ghosts and murder and mysteries and secrets, tell me more tell me more.

Low: After reading a ton in January and February, I slowed down a lot in March. This is mostly because I struggled with everything in March; the joys of bipolar disorder, let me show you them.

Listening

New category!

High: I finally listened to the Ryback episode of Talk is Jericho. I first started liking Ryback during his storyline with Heyman not too long ago, where it was basically a romance between them, and I loved it so hard. Since then, he's just been ridiculous and wonderful and over-the-top; he's the Big Guy, his chant is FEED ME MORE, and I just cheer every time I see him.

And then I listened to this podcast, and my adoration was complete. He talks about being fired, feeling like a failure, life falling apart, and how he came back from that; he talks about vision boards and positive thinking and making goals; he talks about highs and lows. Not only did this cement how delightful I find him, but it was something I really needed to hear right now. I've never been so glad I decided to start way back at the beginning of the Jericho podcast and listen all the way through.

Low: I am struggling (word of the month, apparently) to find time to listen to podcasts, and that makes me feel guilty, even though there is LITERALLY NO REASON FOR THAT GUILT. So that's been fun. Stupid brain.

Wrestling

High: Usos + Naomi being my favorite wrestling family. Naomi getting to be a part of the Flying Usos at Wrestlemania 31. Individual wrestlers being a delight.

Low: I still feel incredibly disconnected with and uninterested in most of the WWE storylines right now.

Socializing

High: Sister-in-law and I went to see Special 20 at a semi-local bar last weekend, and it was a fantastic show. I love local bands, these guys were fun to watch and sounded great, and they had a couple Johnny Cash covers that blew my mind.

Low: There was a weird moment of concern trolling as we were leaving the bar, from a complete stranger. There will be an essay about this later, so more then.
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CrimsonBound


Book: CRIMSON BOUND by Rosamund Hodge
Genre: YA fantasy/fairytale retelling
Series: None
USA Release Date: May 5, 2015
Source: Won this in a giveaway from The Hanging Garden.
Rating: 4/5 stars
Recommended?: Yes, especially if you love monsters and magic and girls who fight and believe despite everyone around them.

Summary:
An exhilarating tale of darkness, love, and redemption inspired by the classic fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood, from the author of Cruel Beauty.

When Rachelle was fifteen she was good—apprenticed to her aunt and in training to protect her village from dark magic. But she was also reckless—straying from the forest path in search of a way to free her world from the threat of eternal darkness. After an illicit meeting goes dreadfully wrong, Rachelle is forced to make a terrible choice that binds her to the very evil she had hoped to defeat.

Three years later, Rachelle has given her life to serving the realm, fighting deadly creatures in a vain effort to atone. When the king orders her to guard his son Armand—the man she hates most—Rachelle forces Armand to help her hunt for the legendary sword that might save their world. Together, they navigate the opulent world of the courtly elite, where beauty and power reign and no one can be trusted. And as the two become unexpected allies, they discover far-reaching conspiracies, hidden magic . . . and a love that may be their undoing. Within a palace built on unbelievable wealth and dangerous secrets, can Rachelle discover the truth and stop the fall of endless night?


I haven't read CRUEL BEAUTY yet, but I did a little research after I received this book, and it didn't seem like I needed to have read CRUEL BEAUTY in order to understand CRIMSON BOUND, so I went ahead and dove in. I had high hopes going into this book: I love Little Red Riding Hood retellings, I love creepy woods and monsters, and that cover is a killer, just gorgeous.

CRIMSON BOUND was a wonderful introduction to Hodge's writing. I loved a lot about this book, but my favorite things are Rachelle's characterization and the descriptions of the woods. Rachelle is angry and strong, violent, and fighting an inner darkness that she believes will destroy her and anyone she cares about someday. There's evil in her world, and it is coming for them, and even though those around her mock, she believes, and that belief is strong enough I believe too. In short, she's amazing, and I love her.

Hodge has an interesting writing style here. There's a lot of fairytale feel to it, which makes sense, but I had a hard time connecting with the world. I loved the world building, the lurking woods and the monsters within, what Rachelle was to be and what instead she became, but there's a dreamy quality to the tone that made me feel at a distance to the writing quite often. I struggled a little getting into the story, and any time I put the book down, I struggled a little when I picked it up again. However, the descriptions of the woods and of Rachelle's fighting were solid, and wonderful.

I wish there were more female characters being awesome, and more of a specific female friendship in particular. I wish it was bloodier, darker; I love horror, though, and have a high tolerance for this type of violence non-sexual violence), and pretty much always want bloodier, darker, scarier. There were times the story felt stretched out, slowed down, in ways that didn't always work for me, generally when the romance plots took the lead. I wanted so much more from the shadow forest and its citizens, the creepiness as it lurked just out of sight, and the horrors that could unfold.

Overall, though, I enjoyed CRIMSON BOUND. Rachelle is a joy, fierce and dangerous and driven, and her world complicated, political, entertaining. I highly recommend CRIMSON BOUND, and can't wait to go back and read CRUEL BEAUTY. I look forward to more work from Hodge, because this was an excellent read.
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