Winter Sunlight

(no subject)

Good post about self-publishing at [personal profile] rachelmanija's journal (dropping this link on my way out the door; we're off for four days in the wilds of Canada). I added some details in the comments about my own self-pub experience. It's hard to find solid numbers because people in self-publishing really don't like talking about how much they're making or not making, which is fair, but it also means there's a lot of misinformation and misconceptions around.

This entry is also posted at with comment count unavailable comments.
Winter Sunlight

Things I'm into: X-Men and Cable (and Deadpool)

I took a recent dive into the Cable side of the X-Men comics and I regret nothing.

I've been reading X-Men comics for nearly my entire life, starting with the Claremont version in the mid-80s. But I never actually had any interest in Cable, who was introduced around the time that my interest in superhero comics took a nosedive (the early to mid 90s were not a good time for comics) and started reading mostly indies and manga instead. I remember him as basically a walking testosterone fantasy in the form of a large slab of muscle with a giant gun, usually depicted via Rob Liefeld's special brand of art (muscles! pouches! tiny feet!).

So imagine my surprise to find out that this dude is pure fangirl catnip. He was raised to be a sort of savior/messiah by a cult 2000 years in the future (which is part of the reason - but only part of the reason - why one of his nicknames in the fandom is G.I. Jesus); he suffers from a "techno-organic virus" (don't ask) that forces him to constantly use his telekinesis to keep it from overwhelming and killing him (hence his default state is "in constant pain and exhausted"); throw in a highly conflicted relationship with his "we didn't meet until I was older than you because you sent me into the future to be raised by a cult" dad Cyclops, a snarky-affectionate bond with his arguably-best-friend Deadpool, and a loving-yet-difficult relationship with his adopted daughter Hope (who he raised in a post-apocalyptic wasteland while being pursued by a time-traveling killer; long story, but you haven't lived 'til you've seen Cable, who is basically 400 lbs of solid muscle and guns, running around with a baby strapped to his chest); plus, he's actually a genuinely sweet and surprisingly laid-back guy (when he's not going partial-supervillain and trying to take over the world with the best of intentions, and/or coming up with plans that involve his own death - seriously, I've been reading these comics for a week, and he's already died THREE TIMES), and a lot of the Cable-focused comics are really good, particularly the X-Men Messiah Complex/Second Coming storyline (this is the one that introduces Hope), and the entire run of Cable & Deadpool, which is both hilarious and adorable.

... so yeah. I'm having fun! And since he's been in almost everything Marvel puts out on the X-Men side of things since the early '90s (except when he's dead), there's plenty to read. If you haven't read any of his comics, the Cable & Deadpool series from the early '00s is actually a really good place to start (collected as Deadpool & Cable just to make things more difficult). It's funny, sweet, and both the writing and art are really solid. If you, like me, have a thing for gruff reluctant mentor/dad-figures and their adopted little girls, the Cable series from the late '00s has the Hope storyline (it starts in X-Men: Messiah Complex and finishes up in X-Men: Second Coming, but in between there's like 50 issues of solo Cable comics which are mainly focused on Cable and Hope running around in the desert while he raises her from a baby and teaches her to shoot big guns and survive in the wilderness, and various people they meet along the way.

A side note on that storyline: one thing I absolutely love about it is that there's not even a whiff of Mr. Mom-type, guys-can't-take-care-of-babies nonsense. He's actually good at it! The things he doesn't know are things you legit wouldn't know if you hadn't been around small babies (like the finer points of what to feed them), but he's completely dedicated to this kid from day one, he's competent at taking care of her, and he works his ass off making sure she's fed and protected and safe. It's great.

(The one thing I do kinda wish is that they hadn't made Hope yet another red-headed Jean Grey type. For one thing, since her costume is strongly reminiscent of Jean's, it makes her difficult to recognize in pictures. Making things even worse, there's an entire subplot in the Cable comics where he romances a woman who is ALSO a red-haired Jean Grey type and basically looks like a grown-up Hope. It's not that there's even a hint of anything inappropriate in the relationship that he and Hope have - they're completely adorable, and have turned into one of my favorite things in Marvel comics from the last decade - but c'mon, X-Men writers, there are more looks for women than "long red hair", y'know.)

This entry is also posted at with comment count unavailable comments.
Tags: ,
Winter Sunlight

Random recent stuff

SSR Confidential works (the Agent Carter gift exchange I run) are all revealed and non-anonymous. We had 42 fics, art, and vids, way up from last year!

I just finished redoing my Patreon pledge levels (again), in preparation for starting the comic updating again in July. My new reward levels are geared towards trying not to have any necessary or semi-necessary Kismet content locked at a high level (I want all patrons to be able to see all the Kismet backstage stuff and whatnot), but also offering some nice stuff at higher pledge levels, including rewards for people who might not be into Kismet, as such - while hopefully not causing myself a huge amount of extra work. New reward levels are:

• $1 - gets all the behind-the-scenes stuff (some of which is locked, some not)
• $2 - gets a free ebook any month I have a book out (e.g. Metal Wolf this month)
• $5 - gets snail mail, postcards and whatnot, once or twice a year
• $10 - gets mailed hardcopies of Kismet books when I have a new one out (this one hasn't changed, but I also haven't had a new Kismet book out in longer than I really want to admit to)

This is not meant to guilt anyone into backing my Patreon or anything, just pointing and saying, "Yo, Patreon over there."

And Kismet starts again in July, YAY. I really didn't meant to take six months off, especially since I've left the most recent page only half colored for this entire time. THAT leaves a good impression, all right. >___>

This entry is also posted at with comment count unavailable comments.
Winter Sunlight

FF Friday - Just Like a Dream

Just Like a Dream by Nina Justice

I grabbed some cheap F/F from LessThanThree Press recently and this was one of them, a modern-day lesbian version of A Midsummer Night's Dream. The protagonist inadvertently summons a fairy fixer to fix her love life, but falls in love with the fixer instead, while magical Cupid-related shenanigans engulf her family and friends.

Unfortunately it ended up being not really my thing; it's too farcical and lightweight to really engage me with either the characters or the worldbuilding. If you're looking for a fast read that's light and fun and PG-rated, this might work better for you than it did for me, though!

This entry is also posted at with comment count unavailable comments.

Mystery of the Witches' Bridge by Barbee Oliver Carleton

Mystery of the Witches Bridge by Barbee Carleton

So as [personal profile] rachelmanija mentioned in her review of this book, we were able to get together in person recently (which was awesome; hi Rachel!) and we got into a conversation about childhood book favorites, which led to discovering that she's the only other person I know (at least the only one I've talked to about it) who remembers this book! I really loved it when I was a kid, despite having a copy that was missing the cover and a few pages, which meant it took me forever, as an adult, to figure out the title and author in order to pick up a used copy on Amazon. But eventually I got my hands on it, and I remembered that I'd enjoyed rereading it, but it's been long enough that I've forgotten most of the details, so we decided to reread and post about it at the same time.

It's not hard to see why I liked this so much as a kid. It's got good character arcs, a nicely plotted little mystery, and a very strong sense of place. It's set in the salt marshes off the coast of Massachusetts, which as a kid, I didn't even realize was a real place (although there are distinct references to real places, particularly Boston, that are obvious to me now). I remember thinking of it the same way you think of a fantasy land, as a sort of vague coastal "somewhere" with stone causeways, old hayfields gone back to treacherous quicksand, and waterways winding through endless fields of grass punctuated with islands. Rachel and I were trying to think of other books set in that area, and couldn't come up with any. The unique setting, vividly described, is half the fun of this book. I've been in similar places to this -- not this exactly, but marshy river estuaries along the sea, and this book really gets that eerie, lonely feeling of the grasslands and wide-open sky.

The general plot is Treasure-Island-esque kids-adventure-story catnip. Thirteen-year-old orphan Dan Pride comes home to the rambling stone house of his Puritan ancestors, filled with secrets, neighborhood feuds, and possibly buried treasure somewhere on the old Pride property. The emotional plot and mystery plot go together well, and I really enjoyed Dan's building friendships with the other characters in the book. Basically it's a fun, fast read with a fantastic sense of place, and I can tell I'll be reading it again.

This entry is also posted at with comment count unavailable comments.
Tags: ,
Winter Sunlight

FF Friday: Passing Strange by Ellen Klages

Passing Strange by Ellen Klages

I read this because of a recent rec at [community profile] fffriday and really liked it! It's set in San Francisco, mostly in the early 1940s, with some fantasy elements, but mostly historical fiction strongly grounded in the city's early lesbian scene. (I've been researching SF for something I'm writing that has a few chapters in the city in an earlier decade, and research materials or even fiction set in SF in the first few decades of the past century is really hard to come by, so that was one reason why I wanted to read this -- just to get a better feel for an early San Francisco. And it didn't disappoint; the sense of place is really strong.)

Romance is typically rather formulaic (for a good reason, obviously!), but with this one I really couldn't figure out where it was going, or even who the focus couple was going to be at first. It was twisty and surprising, and the entire cast of characters were very vivid and believable, especially given how many of them there are and that it's only a novella-length space to develop them in. Definitely recommended if you like historical fiction. (Though it doesn't sugar-coat the historical era either, just fyi; it's an optimistic book and is a romance with an HEA, but there's some pretty rough stuff getting there, so if you're looking for pure light escapism this might not be the thing.)

This entry is also posted at with comment count unavailable comments.
Tags: ,
Winter Sunlight

Prompt call (DW edition!) - now closed to new prompts!

Since the DW/LJ people get left out of the Tumblr prompt calls, here's one just for you. :) Leave me a character(s), relationship, or pairing and a prompt in a comment. As Tumblr people can attest, I'm not always that reliable about filling prompts and it can take me F O R E V E R, so don't feel bad if I don't write yours; it's not personal.

Anyway, I will try to write at least 100 words for each prompt I get. Prompts for missing scenes, future scenes, or AUs of any of my existing stories are also welcome, if there's anything you want to see more of!

Read more...Collapse )

Now closed to prompts!

This entry is also posted at with comment count unavailable comments.
Winter Sunlight

Read all the Cherryh: Port Eternity

This was apparently one of her earliest Alliance-Union books in terms of publication dates (published in 1982) but I'm glad I read it after reading enough of the other books in the 'verse to get a strong sense of how much people fear jump-space and how profoundly important it is for humans traveling through jump to drug themselves so they don't remember it. This is a book about what happens when you don't, and what actually IS between, and why ships or individuals getting lost in the between is a thing that happens sometimes.

I wanted to like this book more than I did. It's got a lot of great high-concept stuff going on: the trapped and haunted spaceship for all your Something Is Outside The Ship creepiness, the ship full of slaves forced to play-act a doomed Arthurian romance for the amusement of their mistress who end up somewhere their play-acting can become real, the clone-people whose entire lives are templated off pre-programmed tapes inadvertently using entertainment tapes to template themselves into more complex emotional lives. The general idea of azi developing more complex emotions and being, essentially, forced to become more human when they're stuck somewhere that their programming doesn't apply was the main thing I wanted (and didn't get, to my satisfaction) from the first section of Forty Thousand in Gehenna. And since we spend the entire book inside the head of an azi narrator, there is a lot of background thinky stuff about what are emotions, really, and what counts as "real" emotions. Are Elaine's (and the others') feelings of love and loyalty any less real because they were programmed to feel them? Are naturally born humans any less programmed? And so forth.

There's also the deeply creepy worldbuilding detail that Elaine, and others like her, are "terminated" at age 40 because her line of azi are designed to be ornamental, and once they stop being pretty, they're killed; the only way to avoid this is to find a way to be "clever" or otherwise useful. Elaine is clearly terrified of this fate while trying to convince herself that she's not because she has no right to her own life, she's only an azi. This seemed particularly relevant because we'd just been talking in the Chanur discussion about the way the Chanur books upend our own society's screwed-up relationship with male vs. female aging, where males in hani society are considered useless once they're past their reproductive prime. It was clearly something on Cherryh's mind at the time, because this book deals with the same issue in a different way: in Union, people like Elaine are meant to be looked at, their sole function is to be beautiful, and once they're no longer young and lovely, they're killed. (It's not specifically a female issue in this book, because that's also the intended fate of her fellow azi Lancelot, who is also around mainly for ornamental purposes. But it's pretty obviously a related statement on youth and attractiveness.)

(Randomly, the back-cover blurb describes the azi as "androids", apparently missing the point that they're genetically human, they're just clone-people. But in retrospect I guess the book doesn't really go into the details of Union, so if you're not already familiar with the universe, it's not that obvious what, exactly, the azi are, just that they're driven by programming more than ordinary emotions.)

... The main problem I had with the book, though, is that it's a bunch of very passive and in some cases unlikeable people stuck on a spaceship in the middle of nowhere, with no one but each other to interact with. The first half of the book in particular was extremely heavy on descriptions of people sleeping and entertaining themselves with the 24th-century equivalent of movies. I liked Elaine as a protagonist but I just wished there had been more ... well ... happening, which is an ironic comment given that the book was about a bunch of people trapped in a situation of DOOM and possibly under attack, but somehow the book's narrative style managed to leech out a lot of the suspense.

I also have zero emotional connection to the Arthurian mythos, which the entire book is built around, so that was probably also an issue. If you're more into the idea of Camelot In Space than I am, you might enjoy this book better.

But there was still a lot about it that I liked, particularly the vivid and creepy descriptions of in-between space and the survival aspects of trying to adjust to the idea that they might be trapped for the rest of their lives with no one to depend on but each other. I ended up wishing some of the ideas that were developed in this book had been developed in about three times the space (it's a short book, more novella-sized than full novel sized) so that we'd had more of an opportunity to get to know the characters better and to really deal with the ins and outs of azi psychology that this book merely brushes across. Which, come to think of it, is probably why she wrote Cyteen later on. This book strikes me as an early attempt to feel around the edges of some of the issues of identity and self that Cyteen addressed head on.

(... or at least I assume it does. I did read Cyteen a very long time ago, but I don't really remember anything about it now except "clones". It's one of the ones I'll be getting to soon-ish; it's in the pile!)

Also, giving me more fuel for my theory that Cherryh's id is pretty much my own, this is another book that revolves around a little group of found-family-ish types who are all up in each other's space all the time. As well as everyone living together on the ship, the azi prefer sleeping in a big cuddle-pile because they're more comfortable with other azi around them. It also comes thiiiiiiis close to a canonical threesome or possibly foursome, but then veers around it at the last minute; awwww. (You can headcanon it in very easily, though.)

This entry is also posted at with comment count unavailable comments.
Winter Sunlight


Last night I finally got around to doing something I've been meaning to do for ages, which is reading through the archives of the Prohibition-era noirish webcomic Lackadaisy. I've probably set a world record for procrastinating on reading it, because I've been aware of it for almost the entire time the artist has been doing it (... it started in 2006), and in fact have been following her on Tumblr for the last couple of years because her art's really pretty and I wanted the reminder that I need to sit down and read this thing, since I figured it would be 100% my cup of tea.

And it really is. It's gorgeous, funny, bleak, and sharply characterized -- a lot more of all of these things than you'd realize from the first few pages, which are Looney-Tunes-esque hijinks with a hapless, incompetent bootlegger going through various mishaps trying to get a shipment of moonshine for the stylish boss he's got a crush on. (Just FYI, the characters are all cats, but you get used to that pretty quickly.)

And once the plot starts to kick in, it turns out that these aren't sanitized bootleggers; they're really awful people. We first meet one of the main characters drenched in blood and wielding a hatchet after coolly chopping up an informant to be fed to pigs. One of the characters can't climb stairs because his knees don't work; we later learn that this is because one of the other protagonists kneecapped him (probably in self-defense). One of the sweetest, nicest characters in the comic goes axe-crazy when threatened and backed against a wall, and the others actively encourage this despite the horrendous psychological toll it's clearly taking on him and the fact that he doesn't even want to be in the gang, because they're cash-strapped and need cheap muscle.

So basically it's not feel-good, edges-sanded-off noir, but it's also got that thing I fall for every time, with a broken group of people being each other's family and scrambling through the wreckage of their lives and the fallout from their own poor life choices trying to put something together that's better than what they had before. (Though in this case, it's more of a broken, dysfunctional family than a happy one.) I really loved all of them by the time I caught up with the newest updates, even the ones I didn't really like at first.

And the art's just gorgeous. I mean, look at this. Or this. Or here.

Being as it's noir, and there's also a hurtling-towards-disaster kind of feeling overall, I suspect that no one's going to come out well; I wouldn't be surprised if the whole thing ends in a blaze of glory shootout or something like that. I fully expect to have my heart ripped out by the end. But I loved it enough to go and pledge to the artist's Patreon just to see the behind-the-scenes bits and process art. I recommend it highly, especially if you like period stuff.

Once you've read the main story, definitely read the side comics and character bios too; they're hilarious.

The comic archive starts here.

This entry is also posted at with comment count unavailable comments.
Winter Sunlight

A passing thought about the Amber books

In addition to reading ALL THE CHERRYH, I've been rereading bits and pieces of the Amber books lately, mostly to help with my first-person writing voice (it's not the only thing I'm rereading for that purpose, but I really like Zelazny's style and would much rather pick up elements of that than some recent first-person urban fantasy novel). Amber's one of those things I'll probably always reread now and again; I still really love it, even if certain flaws are more apparent to me now.

I'm aware, for example, of the parochialism of pastoral, England-derived Amber being the template world for the rest of the multiverse. But one of the things I was thinking about today is that, for Amber supposedly being the archetype of a city, on which all other cities are based, we sure don't see much of it, do we? And it's not like Zelazny is bad at sense of place. The books are full of vivid, interesting places; it's one of the things I like about them. It's just that Amber never really reads to me as "city." All the qualities I would associate with a city, especially a city that provided the template for the whole concept of "city" -- busy, crowded, bustling, metropolitan, full of commerce and different accents and ideas -- is just ... not even remotely what Amber is; it seems to mainly consist of a palace with a vaguely hinted-at town surrounding it. What Amber should be is a trading nexus for nearby Shadows, with people constantly coming and going. What it actually seems to be is a small, insular city-state whose urban elements are mostly just as a support structure for the ruling family.

Which isn't something that would have occurred to me to wonder about, except that Amber is specifically mentioned as the template of city, the ur-city, and it's not only incredibly non-city-like in nature, but it's also very vaguely described. Unlike, say, the forest of Arden, which is very solidly realized as a place and, even if Zelazny's idea of a primordial ur-forest isn't quite mine, it still gets the concept of ur-forest across. Amber as an ur-city is a lot less convincing.

This entry is also posted at with comment count unavailable comments.
Tags: ,
Winter Sunlight

Read all the Cherryh: Forty Thousand in Gehenna

Well, that sure was a 1970s/80s sci-fi novel ...

I was reading this one simultaneously with Finity's End, but ended up switching over to the other one because I was enjoying it a lot more. This book is very bleak in places, even more so than you'd expect for the premise (a colony on an unexplored world loses touch with the homeworld; the book then follows multiple generations who grow up and die and change, as well as the very alien aliens they share the planet with) -- therefore, due to the generation-saga nature of it, just when you get to know one set of characters, they die, while most of what they used to know is lost. Also, you know how a lot of sci-fi is fundamentally "problem solving" in nature? This book is basically the opposite of that -- the entire plot hinges around the characters being absolutely terrible at solving problems. (Although in very human ways.) I was also generally baffled by the overall incuriousness of the colonists and the people who eventually reestablish contact; you have a whole entire PLANET you know nothing about and you just kind of ... sit there, not looking at it? (This generally seems to be a thing in the Alliance-Union 'verse re: planets, which I'm becoming aware of from reading a bunch of these books back to back. People, not just as individuals but as a society, are oddly incurious about them.)


All of that being said, I got a lot more engaged with the book in the last third, when it follows the same group of characters long enough to get attached, and has some interesting points to make about civilization vs. barbarism. Which are spoilery.

SpoilersCollapse )

This entry is also posted at with comment count unavailable comments.
Winter Sunlight

Read all the Cherryh: Finity's End

Another new read for me, and oh man, I really loved this one! Especially all the slice-of-life-on-a-spaceship details of life on board a merchanter ship. I mean, basically this is a boarding school novel IN SPACE, with extra bonus family feels, and of the Alliance-Union books I've read so far, this is the first to really go into details of worldbuildy stuff like how the ships are set up, how they trade, how jump really works (e.g. what's going on when they talk about the weird side effects of dumping velocity when they come out of a jump), and so forth from a ground-level, characters'-eye perspective. A side effect of the tight third-person POV she tends to use -- her characters generally don't explain things to the reader that they already know, and this is the first of the merchanter books I've read that's told largely from the POV of a character who isn't used to the ships, so we get to see how it's all set up as he learns about it. It also really expands the Alliance part of the universe, since we get to see so many of the space stations and get a feeling for them as unique places, along with all the changes that have happened since the war -- in a similar way to how we got to see the in-depth functioning of prewar life in Jupiter's asteroid belt in Heavy Time.

I think everything else I have to say about this book is spoilery, so it'll go under the cut ...

SpoilersCollapse )

This entry is also posted at with comment count unavailable comments.
Winter Sunlight

Read all the Cherryh: Rider at the Gate & Cloud's Rider

I really enjoyed these! For one thing, these are probably the most Alaska-esque books that I have ever read in SFF, considerably more so than a lot of books which are supposed to be set on ice worlds or frontier planets. I mean, I don't think these books are actually supposed to be evocative of Alaska, but they really, really are. They just felt accurate - not just the physical details of the weather and terrain and frontier lifestyle (although that, too), but the psychology of it: the way people deal with scarcity and isolation and knowing that every time you go out the front door, something might try to kill you. (Though we don't have to deal with swarming packs of psychic predators, thankfully. We just get thousand-pound killing machines that can run as fast as a horse, i.e. bears. One of the weirdest things to me about hiking in Illinois was having to train myself out of constantly being alert and paranoid and searching the trees for dangerous predators, because there just WEREN'T any.)

So yeah. Alaska. I think it took me awhile to get through the second book in part because the claustrophobic air of snowed-in isolation was a little too evocative of real life and we just got DONE with winter, dammit. I have generally been impressed with Cherryh's ability to psychologically inhabit her characters - it's one of the things she does very well, getting inside the nitty-gritty details of what it would feel like to live your whole life on a space station or to be part of an alien lion-person clan. But it takes it to a whole new level when she's doing it with a kind of lifestyle that I've experienced and I'm pretty sure she hasn't (she's from Oklahoma, ffs!) and really nails that too.

Plus, this series is about wilderness scouts who are telepathically bonded to carnivorous psychic horses. In a lot of ways these books, the first one especially, feel as if they were written exactly for me, at least in terms of the worldbuilding. I didn't find myself bonding as closely with the characters as I normally do in Cherryh books, for whatever reason. The worldbuilding, though. Gah. I could just wallow in it. I brought up the possibility to [personal profile] rachelmanija that I actually read these books, or parts of them, when I was a kid, because some of the worlds I came up with and wrote about as a kid were eerily similar to this, but then I looked up the publication dates and the first one was published in 1995, when I was in college, so I couldn't have. Apparently it's just convergent evolution between my own childhood creative urges and the Alaska-esque worldbuilding + telepathic horses, which I was also thoroughly into as a kid and used to write and draw about a lot, as one does when one is a horse-crazy 9-year-old living in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. (Though I still find it slightly eerie that, apparently, I managed to independently come up with something in the mid-80s that was damn similar to this book, small enclaves of humanity living in a wilderness that can only be navigated by guides in telepathic partnership with native horselike creatures. Mine were called wilderhorses - "wilder" is pronounced like "builder" - and night-riders were the people who rode them, and Cherryh's are nighthorses ...!)

Anyway, these books take place on a forested, mountainous planet that has been partially colonized by humans who have lost contact with their world of origin. Their technology is roughly mid-1900s - they have electricity, internal combustion engines, metal and petroleum refining, telephones, etc. They are restricted primarily to a scattering of smallish, walled towns because this planet's wilderness is extremely difficult to penetrate. Basically, it's psychic.

Everything native to the planet is telepathic - something like CS Friedman's Coldfire books, but aggressively so, using their natural psychic abilities to tempt, confuse, and distract their prey; the general aggregate of the telepathic sendings of the planet's wildlife exists as a sort of collective psychic background noise called the ambient. Humans, having no natural telepathy of their own, have no defenses against it. Hence their partnership with nighthorses, local apex predators who are intelligent enough to be interested and curious about humans anyway, and sought out humans on their own to find out more about them. They're not quite human-level intellects, more like on the level of a very smart dog. Being around humans makes them smarter, or at least more capable of long-range planning, whereas being around them enables humans to participate in the ambient - picking up and receiving the thoughts of anyone around them (human or otherwise). You can imagine how popular that is in a city-type living situation. Consequently, the nighthorse riders are a separate class, absolutely necessary for safe travel through the wilderness, but distrusted by suspicious townsfolk and kept outside the walls of the planets small, pallisaded towns. The plot of the first book concerns a nighthorse gone rogue, capable of driving everyone and everything around it insane, and the hunters sent to stop it, as winter closes on the mountains. The second book picks up from where the first one left off and deals with the following winter in the mountains.

I tore through the first book like wildfire, but found the second slower going, in part because it ended up focusing mainly on characters from the first book who weren't my favorites (I didn't dislike them at all, and they definitely grew on me; they just weren't the ones I really wanted to be reading more about), as well as - as mentioned above - the author's ability to depict claustrophobic, snowed-in isolation a little too well. But yeah, fun books, really liked 'em, probably picking up at least the first book for myself (they were borrowed), and there's a lovely found-family vibe by the end. Recommend. :D And God, I'm glad bears aren't telepathic.

Feel free to mention spoilers in the comments!

This entry is also posted at with comment count unavailable comments.
Winter Sunlight

Fic: Keep You Always (Heavy Time/Hellburner)

AO3 appears to have died on me, so I'm just going to have to inflict my Hellburner accidental baby acquisition fic on all of you. :P (To be crossposted at AO3 whenever it stops being dead.)

I think actually, as far as things I've written in this fandom that don't require canon knowledge, this one works pretty well. There's not really a whole lot of necessary background beyond "space opera" and the fact that I'm attempting to pastiche Cherryh's style. Also, babies that I decided to dump on the least baby-appropriate characters in my entire range of fandoms.

And wow, it's been awhile since I've posted fic directly on DW or LJ.

Title: Keep You Always
Fandom: Heavy Time/Hellburner (Alliance-Union)
Pairing: Canon ones, plus faint ot4-ish undertones
Rating: PG
Summary: "You're off duty," Graff said, "not doing anything, and everyone up top has their hands full. And I trust your team with a baby."

"Why?" Meg all but wailed at his back. "I don't trust us with a baby!"

Or: Accidental baby acquisition, Hellburner style.

ETA: Now on AO3.

Keep You AlwaysCollapse )

This entry is also posted at with comment count unavailable comments.
Winter Sunlight

FF Friday: The Cage by A.M. Dellamonica

F/F Friday is a project recently started by [personal profile] rachelmanija, described thusly: "Every Friday, review, recommend, or discuss an FF book, short story, or other work." There is also a community on Dreamwidth, [community profile] fffriday.

So I'm going to rec a really delightful lesbian werewolf novelette that is available for free online: The Cage by A.M. Dellamonica! 

(This review is also cross-posted over on my Mar Delaney blog, to give me something to put there.)

Jude, the narrator, is a contractor (in the carpentry sense) with a broken-woman problem and a string of fix-upper ex-girlfriends. So of course she falls for another one, Paige, a single mom who is raising an adorable baby. A perfectly normal baby. Nothing weird about this baby, no-ma'am. Oh, by the way, she needs to hire Jude to help her soundproof her basement and put cage bars on the windows. For ... a band. That is recording in her basement. And trashed the place last full moon. Yep, that's totally it.

So basically this is a story about how the Vancouver lesbian community comes together to help raise a baby werewolf, and two slightly broken people start to fix each other up. It's cute and sweet and funny, with a great sense of place and interesting worldbuilding -- the story is set shortly after werewolves were revealed to humanity for the first time, and the antagonist is a self-proclaimed Buffy-type werewolf hunter who is a serial killer from the point of view of the werewolves. The characters were a lot of fun (Paige is a bit flatter, but I absolutely loved Jude's narrative voice) and I loved the sense of community in the story. Sometimes it takes a village (of lesbians and other social misfits in the queer community) to raise a baby werewolf!

This entry is also posted at with comment count unavailable comments.

Read all the Cherryh: Merchanter's Luck

I got slightly more votes on Downbelow Station, but I feel like I need to write about Heavy Time/Hellburner first, before I can properly discuss it (because a lot of what I have to say about Downbelow Station relates to my pre-existing love of those books), and that's going to take awhile because I have a LOT to say about those.

So I'll talk about Merchanter's Luck right now, since it's a fairly short, simple book that I read for the first time a few weeks ago (and absolutely LOVED - despite being a relatively less-known standalone of hers, I think it insta-jumped into my favorites of hers on a single read).

This book belongs to the Merchanter/Company Wars branch of Cherryh's Alliance-Union universe. (Most of which are standalones; they can be read in any order.) Interesting little fact I stumbled across the other day: this book was apparently also the entire reason why Downbelow Station was written. She came up with this one first, but needed to work out the political/social backstory for it, and she did that by writing Downbelow Station ... which ended up being much better known. But this was the first book she wrote dealing with the merchanters.

The merchanters, in Alliance-Union, are matrilineal clans of traders whose lives are centered around the ship on which they live and work. In the grand tradition of "introduce the world and then break it", the female protagonist of Merchanter's Luck is someone who does not fit in her closely knit family and their matriarchal-utopian world. Allison is fiercely ambitious, but she is stuck as a junior member of the crew/family, and unlikely to ever achieve the status she craves. So she's on the lookout for a ship of her own.

Enter Sandor, the captain of his own ship, looking for a crew.

What fascinated me about this book is how the back cover blurb suggests a fairly standard romance, and in fact I went into it in part to find out how Cherryh would write a "boy meets girl" story, but it turns out not to be that at all. Or, I should say, it kind of starts out as that -- Sandor and Allison meet and flirt; she's on the prowl for male company, and Sandor's on the prowl for someone to help him run his ship (and also fascinated by her). And then everything goes Pure Cherryh and veers off in a different direction entirely. (A direction that my id liked very much.)

Spoilers under the cutCollapse )

This entry is also posted at with comment count unavailable comments.
Winter Sunlight

In lieu of writing ...

Mar Delaney (my F/F romance-writing alter ego) now has a mailing list and a Facebook page!

I also got my Lauren Esker mailing list cleaned up and moved to a new email list provider. Fingers crossed that I haven't screwed something up horribly, but I think it's live and ready to start sending emails again (and taking subscribers) at its new home.

This entry is also posted at with comment count unavailable comments.