So a little bit ago my dad, who is notorious for leaving his glasses lying around, was looking for them. We looked in the kitchen. We looked in the library, and I checked the bathroom while he went up to check his room.

Then I went into the living room and called, “I found your glasses, Dad!”

And I HAD found them.

On MY FACE.

*MY* glasses were lying on the coffee table, because I, too, have developed a terrible habit of leaving my glasses lying around (only since my eyes got to be about 45 years old, mind you, and Dad’s been doing it since at least his mid-thirties). I’d picked up Dad’s, which were on the kitchen table, after I’d eaten lunch.

I’d put them on. I’d thought, “Wow, God, how did my glasses get SO DIRTY since I last wore them?”

I took them off. I cleaned them. I thought, “Ugh, I didn’t do a good job, my right eye’s vision is poor.” I took them off again to check, but the lenses looked quite clean. I put them on and, no, my vision was still funny.

I took the glasses off AGAIN and tried to clean out the corner of my eye, in case that was where the vision problem was. Put them back on, nope, still fuzzy. “Christ,” I thought, “I only got a new prescription last July or something, has my vision changed again that much already?”

No. No, it hadn’t. Dad’s prescription and mine have always been quite close to interchangeable, but my right eye has always been worse than his, so while I was fine with the left lens, the right just wasn’t quite strong enough, BUT I DIDN’T REALIZE THE PROBLEM.

And NEITHER DID THE TWO PEOPLE WHO HAD _LOOKED AT ME_ WHILE I WAS WEARING DAD’S GLASSES!

It turns out that our glasses are shaped quite a lot alike, as well as being similar in prescription. Mine are purple, but dark enough, apparently, to be mistaken for Dad’s very similar black-rimmed glasses.

We’ve been laughing about it for about fifteen minutes now. :) :) :)

Last year I decided I want to re-read Michelle Sagara’s Chronicles of Elantra (more widely known as “the Cast books”) because I’d fallen a couple of books behind and while they’re not quite Big Fat Epic Fantasy, they’re big enough books that I kinda wanted a refresher before reading what I’d missed.

Now, I’d enjoyed them the first time through, obviously, or I wouldn’t have been re-reading them to begin with, but OMG I LOVED THEM EVEN MORE the second time through.
I think a huge reason I liked them even more is because there are a lot of characters and unusual names and complicated relationships, and reading the books originally was at least partially a challenge in just straight-up keeping track of who was who. But in the re-read, I absolutely, definitely knew who everybody was, and so every time someone ‘new’ would show up I’d be like “YAY! HERE’S HOW THEY FIT IN!” instead of “oh god okay and they are, um, who?” and that was just ENORMOUSLY enjoyable.

Anyway, so there I was charging along through the books and then I hit CAST IN PERIL, which is like book 8, and it turned out…I hadn’t read it. I thought I had, but also in reading the later books there’s a character I didn’t know exactly how they’d shown up and thought I must have just kind of forgotten, but…no, it turns out they show up in PERIL and I’d just totally missed reading it somehow (where ‘somehow’ is ‘I had a 2 year old the year the book came out, that’s excuse enough’). So then I started wondering if I had missed OTHER BOOKS…but I hadn’t, as it turned out. Not, at least, before the point where I *knew* I hadn’t read them yet.

Re-reading them all at once (well, okay, over about 6 months, because there are 15 of them and I did a lot of work last year) really emphasized the themes of found family and (in Frozen 2 terms) “do the next right thing”, which…I don’t know, in the world as it is today, those things were heartening to me. I think I actually liked Kaylin (our heroine) more in the re-read than in the initial reading, although *laughs* I gotta say:

There are readers and reviewers who were really annoyed with me for the amount of time it took Joanne Walker to face up to the fact that she had powers and she was gonna have to learn to use them properly because people were getting hurt because she couldn’t*. But it took THREE BOOKS–two, really, because by the end of THUNDERBIRD she’d accepted she needed to–and here’s Kaylin out there sliding into BOOK FIFTEEN and only just now resolving to actually LEARN TO USE her damn powers! So I’m like: really!? Like, they all were mad at ME for Jo’s slow learning curve which took place over like 2.5 books and 4 months when Kaylin’s been refusing lessons on her power for over a year of book time and for 9 or so years of having them?!

Which is neither here nor there, really. I just thought it was funny. :)

Anyway, Kaylin came off really well in a re-read of the series, and my already-considerable love for the supporting cast, particularly the Dragons, was multiplied. I kept laughing out loud at character interactions, and honestly, Michelle says she can’t write romance but these books have a MURDEROUSLY good slow burn with LAYERS of complication and I am here for until the end of damn TIME.

So if you’re looking for a solid, long-running fantasy series with an urban fantasy feel but set in an entirely secondary world, the Chronicles of Elantra are a good choice. The 15th book (16th if you count the novella CAST IN MOONLIGHT) is out later this month, and I’m super-duper looking forward to it now that I’m all caught up.

* I still maintain “putting my head in the sand and hoping REALLY HARD that this will all just GO AWAY” is an extremely common and natural human reaction, but holy shit people got upset about it. My editor, at some point, said to me, “I think maybe you like a little too much reality in your fantasy,” AND MAYBE I DO, BUT DAMN, PEOPLE! Like! Have you not met *people*!? And like! I know “omg i have magic powers YAY SO COOL!” is the more common fantasy book response to, y’know, omg, you have magic powers, BUT THAT’S PART OF WHY JOANNE DIDN’T THINK IT WAS GREAT! The whole idea was to have a character for whom this was problematic! A struggle! I was trying, right from the start, to make her different from Harry Dresden & Anita Blake (which were really the only two urban fantasy series out, when I wrote URBAN SHAMAN, altho by the time it got published it was a whole different story) both of whom were all in for their magic, so her trying to nope on out of there was BY DESIGN! And yet it really got up peoples’ noses. :)

Among many other things available at my Patreon, I’ve been writing a fic for the past several months. Someone there asked for a REDEEMER/Golden-Age-superhero crossover, and since Captain America is mentioned twice in REDEEMER, it seemed like the obvious choice.

Here’s a teaser chunk of what’s available on Patreon! Enjoy, and if you want more, you know where to find it. :)

***

Two years on, Rosie knew what a Redeemed soul looked like, how all the darkness separated and spilled way until only gold and light were left. She knew what pure and good and true and untainted felt like, like a breath of fresh cool air on a muggy morning, pushing away all the day’s troubles.

The boy sitting next to her in art class felt like that all the time.

She couldn’t hardly look at him for the shining of his soul, and maybe a little bit because he was about the prettiest person she’d ever laid eyes on, with yellow hair and blue eyes and shoulders God Himself must have made to carry the weight of the world. He mostly wore white t-shirts tucked into Levis, and Rosie usually lingered in the hall beside class until he’d gone by, so she could follow him in and admire the triangle his shirt made on its way to his waistband. And he could draw, too, way better than Rosie could herself, so she looked at his drawing pad a lot, and only peeked at him out of the corner of her eye.

It took about three days for him to wink at her when he caught her in the act. Rosie clapped her hands to her blushing cheeks, getting ink from her pen all over her face. Her classmate took a handkerchief from the back pocket of his jeans, and when she accepted it, said, “Steve Rogers.”

“Rosie Ransom, nice to mee–” Rosie, wiping up, broke off with a startled laugh. “Steve Rogers, for real? Like Ca–”

Steve Rogers took the smallest breath, just enough to hush Rosie’s exclamation, and in the silence, in the brightness of his soul, she knew for a fact, for the first time, that superheroes were real.

***
(more…)

Picoreview: Cats: I have seen it twice and have no regrets.

Simultaneously, there are an awful lot of things I’d have done differently. I’d have started by not casting Rebel Wilson, or doing *that* with her song. Especially the latter. A great deal could have been forgiven if they’d stuck with the stage show’s method of creating the cockroaches and mice (which is “have the cats dress up as the cockroaches and mice”, which was funny rather than horrifying and mind-bleeding, and as I use those words, I remind you that I actually quite loved this movie, which perhaps gives you a standard of 1. my trustworthiness about movies in general, and 2. how awful it was).

I also, and this is EXTREMELY KEY, would have put the dancers in unitards of appropriate cat colors, and used motion capture reference dots like they do with, say, Avengers. Apparently what they DID was just putting the performers in green suits and hope the animators could deal with it, which…

Look. I was not one of the people who ran screaming from the trailer. I was DELIGHTED with the trailer. I *genuinely feel* that the costuming and CGI here are the natural progression of the stage show into modern film production special effects. That said, you really have to use those tools correctly, and…they did not, in this case. In fact, given that there were NO REFERENCE DOTS for the animators to work with, it’s astounding they managed as well as they did. Those poor, poor animators.

But honestly, I did love it. It’s a surprisingly faithful adaptation of the stage show. They cut a couple of songs and added one as an Oscar contender and it should definitely not win. For inexplicable reasons they attempted to insert a Macavity subplot, which would be fine if CATS had ANY PLOT WORTH MENTIONING TO BEGIN WITH–

–and here I interrupt myself to say that a lot of people see its plot as “a bunch of death cult cats get together to see who is going to die next,” and I find that really interesting because I honestly never thought it was about death. It’s about the new life, the next life, because cats, of course, have nine. I genuinely never saw it about “choosing somebody to die,” because it’s right there in the text: Old Deuteronomy will choose the cat who will now be reborn and go on to a different Jellicle life. So I’ve been sort of dismayed by all the IT’S ABOUT CATS DYING takes, which I feel miss the point.

Anyway.

Idris Elba, unexpectedly, was quite terrible. My sister, with whom I went to the movie the second time, could not handle Ian MacKellan’s Gus lapping up milk and things, although I honestly thought he was really wonderful in the role. For reasons that were meant to induce tension and instead were sort of embarrassing (and tbf, even having loved it, a lot of it was embarrassing), they made Mistopholees incompetent, which was weird and wrong.

But overall, truly, the first time through I just enjoyed it hugely and the second time I was frequently sitting there just enjoying this unironically and then I’d look over to see my sister watching the film through the fingers pinching her the bridge of her nose, and then the absurdity, the absolute INSANITY of it, would strike me, and I’d start laughing.

I said this to Deirdre, who said, “I ENJOYED it, it’s just so fucking BIZARRE I’m questioning my entire childhood.”

Also Deirdre: this is EXACTLY like the stage show

Her son, who came with us: BUT WHY

Me, in Deirdre’s ear, at the Addressing of Cats, regarding Munkustrap: I love his emotional integrity

Nephew, simultaneously in her other ear: that guy is having paranoid delusions

Deirdre: 😂😂😂

I feel like this nicely sums up the possible spectrum of reactions to CATS. :) :) :)

Also my nephew, after several minutes of baffled ranting (“what IS a jellicle cat? Why did it have no plot? What was GOING ON with those mice?”): I think I want to see that again

So there’s that. :)

On the topic of “What IS a Jellicle cat?!?”, Dad got me a copy of Old Possum’s Book of Cats for Christmas, and I learned something: TS Elliot had written the poems for a 4 year old godnephew who called dogs “poor little dogs” which he pronounced pollicle dogs and cats “dear little cats” — jellicle cats. (Pollicle is much less of a stretch than jellicle, there, but I’m not a 4 year old in 1932 or whatever so what do I know.)

On one hand, this is totally unnecessary information for the show. On the other, IT’S ACTUALLY VERY USEFUL TO KNOW. Because although there’s AN ENTIRE SONG telling you what a Jellicle cat is, that song, and others in the play, are also full of contradictions. Like, I’ve spent my whole life unclear on why there are songs about Jenny Any Dots, whose coat is of the tabby kind with tiger stripes and leopard spots

when Jellicle cats are black and white

and Busterphor Jones, who’s not skin and bones

when Jellicle cats are rather small

on the other hand, Jellicle cats are roly poly but

Macavity’s a ginger cat, who’s very tall and thin

and so on and so forth full of inconsistencies. On a fundamental level I always apparently wanted ‘Jellicle’ to somehow correlate to a breed, and having learned this one stupid little bit of trivia about it being a small child’s word, I NO LONGER HAVE THAT NEED.

I don’t know if I’ve still got my CATS program from the Broadway show in 1987, but I don’t remember it *having* that bit of trivia, which I feel would have made my life just a little bit less uneasy for all these years.

Anyway, the truth is CATS works better as a stage show. The immediacy of the cats being on the stage, of the audience being there literally surrounded by the story, allows what my sister not incorrectly referred to as the FUCKING BIZARRENESS of it to slide away a little. I really don’t think it’s the makeup or the CGI. I think it’s the intimacy of theatre vs the remove and physical size of the movies.

I am, however, still *really hoping* that there’s gonna be a sing-along at my local theatre before it leaves… :)

I have a small, and I hope consistently growing, collection of short stories set in a post-climate-change future that I’ve taken to calling The Rising. “Keys”, written years ago for an anthology, belongs in that world, as does last year’s “Siryn” (Amazon || Apple || Barnes & Noble (Nook) || Kobo). So far they’re all retold fairy tales; “Keys” is a take on Bluebeard that I’m rather fond of. :)

“Keys”
a fairy tale of The Rising
Not so very long ago came the Rising, and the death of the world as it was. There are old tales to be remade in this new future, and echoes of the past that resonate through time.

Rich men survive in every era, and the wealthy baron they call Bluebeard is no different. He offers wealth and comfort and education to the youngest sister of a large family…but what price the keys to a kingdom?

Available at:
Amazon || Apple || Barnes & Noble || Kobo