Picoreview: Terminator: Dark Fate: This is the sequel I’ve been waiting for since I was eighteen years old.

Look. I’ve got a lot invested in Linda Hamilton, okay? She and Ron Perlman taught me to love both poetry and my name. She remains the single physical icon I would emulate if I…had a personal trainer and an unlimited budget and a massive feature film promoting me…;) I love her. I’ve thought for a long time that I love her more than her acting skills are worth, but actually, having watched Dark Fate, I’m not at all sure about that anymore. She’s better in this than anything I’ve ever seen her in, and that’s partly because the role is well written, partly because she’s old enough to be out of fucks, and partly because, tbf, she’s been in a fair amount of awful stuff. :)

But Dark Fate is straight-up the movie I’ve been waiting for since 1991. It’s the first Terminator film since T2 that understands who the hero of these stories is, and honestly, to me, that’s everything. I was trying VERY HARD not to go in with high expectations, because it’s been 28 years and a lot of bad movies (and one pretty decent tv show, even if I’m an outlier who does not care for the actress who played Sarah Connor in that show), and really there was absolutely no way Dark Fate could live up to my hopes.

And I would be lying if I said it met my expectations. The truth is that it exploded my expectations immediately and left me wide open for just seeing what the hell happened next. I had a tension headache at the end of it, okay? I was all in.

The opening night audience applauded when Hamilton made her entrance. (The second time I saw it, the woman beside me fist-pumped violently.) At the end credits, the woman I was with on opening night seized my arm when Mackenzie Davis’s name came up on screen and she blurted, “Is that her? Is that the name of my future girlfriend?” (I assured her it was. :)) She and Hamilton played off each other like oil and water, they were great. The third woman in the film, Natalia Reyes, whose journey parallels Sarah’s in T1, probably did a better job than Hamilton did in the role 35 years ago. They were all terrific, but Hamilton holds the film together and I was there for it.

Gabriel Luna, as the new Terminator, actually has a chance to act, and dear stars up above that man is charismatic. Holy moly. HOOOLEEEE MOOOOLEEE. And Arnie, who is actually a very funny man, gets to be deadpan funny in this, which is honestly all I could ask for from him.

But it’s Hamilton’s show, and she knocks it out of the park. I’ve seen it twice and hope to see it at least two more times before it’s out of the theatre. It kills me that it’s not doing well at the box office, because I really, truly think it’s the best Terminator film in decades, but being good doesn’t necessarily mean able to overcome, what, three other sequels? and a tv show? At the box office. Yeah. I’m really hoping positive word of mouth will give it legs, though.

(There appears to be two kinds of responses to it. John Scalzi and me are on the “holy shit YEAH” side and other people are…not. :))

I dunno. Because of the polarized responses, I feel like it’s hard to say OMG GO SEE IT to everybody. But at the same time…OMG, GO SEE IT! :) :) :)

A big ol’ galaxy. A whole load of aliens. One unlucky human, thrust into the middle of their war…

I’m running a crowdfund to do an 8 page comic book (unless we hit our next stretch goals, which might make it a 12 or 16 page comic book)!

Starshot is what happens when I want to write a space adventure like Farscape or Guardians of the Galaxy, and what happens when a friend points me at the AMAZING Katie Longua, whose bright, delightful style is exactly right for this all-ages comic!

We’ve just hit our THIRD stretch goal, which includes cover art prints for everybody who gets a physical copy of the comic, and now we’re aiming for the stars with a mega-goal of another €1000 for 4 more pages, or €2000 for EIGHT more pages of story!

Wanna meet the characters? OF COURSE YOU DO!

So this is what the script says, for the character design:

Beth is crouched on the floor, looking up at four very angry aliens: a MONSTER, a PLANT, an ANIMAL and a HUMANOID.

KLIC is obviously the kind of creature that would prefer to eat your face first and ask questions second. It hisses a lot.

Meet Klic! Klic thinks Klic is a Slytherin.
Klic is wrong.

MAG is a Quite Small plant-based life-form who could look as human as Zhaan or as plant-like as Groot, or anywhere in between. They have a very large club to hit you with.

Meet Mag! Mag thinks they’re a Hufflepuff.
They are wrong.

TRAFF is an exceptionally dashing creature: Disney’s Robin Hood, except not a fox. Girls want to date him. Men don’t understand why. He have a very large laser-shooting sword to slice you with.

Meet Traff! Traff thinks he’s a Gryffindor.
He is wrong.

XENDRA looks essentially human, perhaps with pointy ears and suspiciously excellent hair. And a very large gun to shoot you with.

Meet Xendra! Xendra thinks she’s a Slytherin.
Xendra…is correct.

aaaaaaaaaand finally, OUR HEROINE, BETH!

Meet Beth! Beth is the only one who would understand sorting the crew by Hogwarts houses, but she thinks she’s Han Solo.
She’s not wrong.

I’m really excited about this project, which is going to be GREAT FUN! Artist Katie Longua will be working on it in November, and we expect to deliver the print editions by March 2020! Come join the fun! #TheStarsAreOurs

The Starshot crowdfund campaign is here!

I’m trying to get flu shots for Young Indiana and myself. This should not, you would think, be particularly hard. (You would, in fact, perhaps THINK that the schools do them, but they don’t.)

It’s super easy for *me* to get a flu shot. I can just stop by any ol’ pharmacy and do that. But Indy isn’t old enough to get a shot at a pharmacy, so I made us appointments at the GP for Thursday afternoon. “It’ll be €25 each,” the receptionist said.

“We both have asthma, which puts us in the risk group. It’s supposed to be free,” I said.

“Oh,” she said, “the shot is free. The €25 is the nurse’s administrative fee.”

-.-

Okay. Fine. Whatever. Then this morning I decided, mmm, it’d be better to do them on a Friday, so that if Indy’s knocked on his ass from it, he has the weekend to feel better instead of dealing with feeling bad at school. So I called up to cancel the Thursday appointment.

“We’re very sorry,” a different receptionist said, “I don’t have you down for an appointment at all.”

“Well,” I said cheerfully, “at least we won’t miss the appointment then. Can I reschedule for this Friday or Friday next?”

“I have 11:30am Friday next,” she said.

Obviously that’s not gonna do, since, y’know: school. But the nurse isn’t available on Friday afternoons! Isn’t that great?

Honestly, this should not be that hard. And yet here we are.

I was looking something up and came across this bit of, like…angst with…like, a faintly smutty edge, that I posted on Patreon a while back, and I thought I’d post it here now. :)

***

Thin, expressive lips, always teasing with a smirk that hid the promise of a heartbreaking smile. She knew the other one better, though. The one made of real laughter, changing hazel eyes to green. The one that came with the way he would play with his clothes, a black coat with a red lining. Sitting, he would flip its skirt open, creating a crimson slash that led the eye directly where he wanted it to go. A flash of leg, like an ingenue, before folding the skirt again and opening the collar, drawing attention upward to the hollow of his throat; to the sparkling, glittering grin above it that said he knew exactly what he was doing.

That was the smile she knew, the smile she felt against her own lips. “Actors,” she said when he did that, and his laugh held a confessional note. But then he offered his hand, a gesture almost too small to be seen, filled with the agonizing fear of rejection. It happened that way with them every time, as if they’d promised themselves it wouldn’t happen again and in promising, somehow made each time the first. Their first kisses remained that paralyzing sway of seeking, not daring to imagine the gift was a given: smiles touching, breath mingling, parting again. Gazes searching, touch fluttering, heartbeats wild with hope and need. Laughter and delicate hands burgeoning into hunger and certainty, but the kisses, his lips, her mouth, always questioning, testing, tasting, to see if this thing was real. It never was, and always was.

There were worlds between them. Not unbridgeable, maybe, but broad enough for possible to seem improbable. Days, even weeks together were still filled with stolen moments, the dance of coming together and parting again. Pulled two separate ways, him by his life, her, by hers, both of them imagining that no one else knew. Sometimes she knew that was a lie; sometimes she saw others notice the caught moments, the ones where all that mattered was the fluidity of his body, the intensity in the meeting of their eyes, the lifetime that passed in a glance. Every minute together went too quickly, and every day apart made those minutes seem all the less real, until they happened again, another first time. A dozen first times, before the exquisite feel of his lips on her throat undid her, and she whispered words that were too real by far for what they were.

He went still above her, not the frozen hope of a man trying to hold on a moment longer, but an emptiness, as if everything he was had fled and left a shadow in its place. His fingers, curled against her cheek, were suddenly cold, and all she could see was the blackness of his hair, his face hidden beneath its waves. He said, “Ah,” and in that one word conveyed all the remoteness of the uncaring depths between the stars. “So that’s where we are now.”

We. Or maybe you; with the rushing in her head, with the heat of knowing the words should never have been spoken, with the sickness of knowing they couldn’t be unsaid churning in her belly, she wasn’t really certain which word he’d used. It didn’t matter. Answers fought to escape: it doesn’t matter, we don’t have to be, I don’t know, it’s easy to be in love when you feel this good, I didn’t mean to say it. She couldn’t say any of them, only stuttered a few syllables that meant nothing. After a moment he began moving again, stiffly, all the grace and passion gone. His lips wouldn’t meet hers again, nor his gaze, and she pushed his shoulders away. “Stop. No. I don’t want it like this.”

He moved back, drawing a sheet over himself. Caped in it, a pale shoulder exposed in frames of red, color of passion cooled by the ice in his eyes. “So, what, you’re just servicing me?”

Fury flushed her cheeks. “I’m not the one who went all mechanical here. Look, I didn’t mean to say it, I didn’t know I was going to, I don’t even know if it’s true. It could be.” The last confession was barely her own voice, so soft and full of pain. It hurt everywhere, in the shallowness of her breath and in the palms of her hands. Closing her eyes helped; at least she couldn’t see the rigidness of his jaw that way, or the pinched set of his mouth. Couldn’t see the scars in his eyes, the ones that told the story of a boy who had not thought himself loved, growing up, and who trusted no one who used that word with him now.

She did not want to be the fix for those scars, even if she could be. “It is true,” she said, her voice still light and not her own, and with her eyes still closed so she couldn’t see whether the words cut him or not. “I wish I hadn’t said it, but it’s true. I am…” Her lip curled, teeth bared before she spoke through them. “I am so happy, when I’m with you.”

His brother—his opposite in all ways, big and blonde and considered not too bright—opened the door and walked in, blasé as a college roommate letting himself into a dorm. Their apartment wasn’t much more than that anyway; a bed in the living room where the couch should be, another bed in the single bedroom. He stopped in the doorway, looked between them, and said nothing, only walked past them into his own room. She turned her head, watching him in a kind of numb bafflement, knowing he wasn’t as dull-witted as his reputation had it; he was one of those who had seen their caught moments, and had both the wit and kindness to say nothing.

A Cracker Jacks box flew out of the bedroom and hit her lover in the head. He flinched hard and his brother came out again. Walked out the door, leaving his opinion hanging in the air: “You’re an idiot.”

She rose, dressing mechanically. He picked up the box of treats, never taking his eyes from it. She was on her way out the door, shoes in hand, she would put them on in the hall, she only wanted to be out of that room, out of that life, forever, and the door was closing behind her when he said, “Wait.”

Low word. Broken in its syllable. Scarred, in the way she could not fix. And because she was a fool, she stopped. Waited, her heart breaking with every beat, her breath slicing cold shallow cuts in her chest.

“He liked someone, when we were little. So much he was terrified to talk to her. She gave him a box of Cracker Jacks one day, and a kiss.” He lifted his eyes, gaze green green on her profile. She would not look at him; stopping had been too much already. He got to his feet, came to the door with his black hair long and loose and the crimson sheet falling to his hips, marbled expanse of pale skin framed by those shades. She saw it in her mind’s eye, vivid enough to undo her; if she turned to look at him she would be lost. She always was. That was the danger of him, and she had exposed herself too much because of it.

“I’m sorry,” he said, close enough behind her that his breath warmed her shoulder. “I’m sorry. I’m not…good at this. But he’s right, I’m an idiot, and I’m…sorry. I’ll try to be better.”

There were promises in the last words, implications that this might not always be new, not always a test, after all, and because she was an idiot, too, she turned. He offered her the Cracker Jacks box and in doing so almost lost his sheet, the armor he wore draped about his hips. He seized the one, dropped the other, and she caught it. His gaze jerked to hers, hope searing through his eyes, and she saw the impulse there, the intention to shutter that emotion and lock her out. It was exquisite agony that he fought it, left the question unasked but brilliant in his angular face, and it cut through her like a blade.

They stood so close to one another. So near, with all the terrible distance of the world between them, and on their lips, a kiss. A question. An exchange of breath, asking, testing, fighting to see if this was real.

Well, if last month’s release, THE QUEEN’S BASTARD, was sex, politics, murder and betrayal, than its sequel, THE PRETENDER’S CROWN, is betrayal, murder, sex and politics, more or less in that order. :)

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Assassin. Seductress. Bastard.

Witch.

Belinda Primrose has lied, murdered, and seduced her way through the deadly courts of Echon, all in the name of solidifying her queen mother’s power. Now war follows in her wake, and with it, the underpinnings that have held her in place for all of her life. She has trusted her father, been loyal to her mother, and waited patiently for answers that, once revealed, prove that those who should love her best see her as nothing more than an instrument to be played toward their own ends.

But Belinda has come into the strength of her witchpower, a magic she shares with Prince Javier, pretender to her mother’s throne, and with the sensual witchlord Dmitri, whose talent with the witchpower is beyond anything Belinda could imagine. Their craft has been used to manipulate, shape, and evolve the future of Echon…but even a power from beyond the stars cannot break the will of a daughter betrayed by everything she has ever known.

After a lifetime of service, Belinda will finally shape a future of her own…and change the destiny of a world with her choices.

A SECRET TRUTH about this book–about the Inheritors’ Cycle–is that I originally imagined TQB and TPC to be a single novel. I planned it to be Belinda’s Story, and the next two books were going to be someone else’s story.

Obviously that didn’t work out super well. QUEEN’S BASTARD weighed in at around…*laughs* I remember that the contract said “130K,” and I was like “It’s not going to be 130K. Maybe 150.” My editor said “We’ll put 130 in to keep you honest.” I just checked the original manuscript for TQB, which was 580 pages and 139,000 words. TPC was 717 pages and 180K, so we’re talking about a book that would have been the size of GRRM’s A CLASH OF KINGS if it had been published as one volume.

(That woulda been cool, huh? Maybe someday I’ll do a single edition hardback volume? :))

Anyway, I’m *ridiculously* pleased to be re-releasing this series, and I hope you all rush out and buy the books and enjoy them very much!

THE PRETENDER’S CROWN is available now!
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