FF Friday

Mar. 2nd, 2019 01:48 pm
cyphomandra: Endo Kanna from Urasawa's 20th century boys reading a volume of manga (manga)
Princess Princess Ever After, Katie O’Neill. A sweet short middle-grade graphic novel in which Sadie, the “big-boned” princess imprisoned in a tower by her older sister’s magic and her own self-doubt (she has befriended Oliver, the dragon set to guard her, largely by feeding him) is rescued by Amira, a princess of colour with “kick-butt hair”, who left her own kingdom to save people rather than get married to a prince. They, in turn, rescue a prince suffering under parental expectations, stop an ogre from destroying a village (Sadie tells him he’s a great dancer but his stomping is scaring people away. The ogre: “… Actually, I often wonder if my lack of creative fulfillment is because I never have an audience…”), and ultimately defeat Sadie’s sister. Then Amira leaves, to become a hero, and Sadie stays, to become a queen, but that’s not the end…

The creator’s website is here; she has a few other graphic novels that I will keep an eye out for (although they're published through the US, the author is an NZer).
cyphomandra: boats in Auckland Harbour. Blue, blocky, cheerful (boats)
I had a fabulous Chocolate Box! I received three gifts, all great:

I don’t seem to have written much about them on here, but Antonia Forest’s Marlows series (10 books about the same family, published over 34 years but covering a little over two years in book time, with each book roughly contemporary with its publication date) are hugely important to me as a reader and as a person; they are stunningly well-written, brilliant on character and, unfortunately, difficult and expensive to find. I re-read them frequently and always find something worthwhile (I’m reading Lucy Mangan’s memoir Bookworm at the moment, and it’s great to see her similar enthusiasm).

The fic I got is totally in keeping with canon, a post-series talk between Nicola (mostly the series protagonist, although she’s largely absent in The Thuggery Affair) and her adored older brother Giles, who is now fallen from grace. It’s great on character and on casting a new light back at events of the series, and at showing that Nicola is growing up, and the balance between her and Giles is starting to tip. Also, bonus naval details.

Suffer a Sea-Change (1910 words) by AJHall
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: The Marlows - Antonia Forest
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: Creator Chose Not To Use Archive Warnings
Characters: Nicola Marlow, Giles Marlow, Miranda West, Ginty Marlow
Additional Tags: Post-Canon, The Royal Navy
Summary:

"That long line of naval officers, all with their happy ships..."

The name "Marlow" has been a powerful talisman in the Royal Navy for generations. What would it take for that name to change from a blessing to a curse?

On the eve of Nicola Marlow's departure for Britannia Royal Naval College, she and her brother Giles talk.


I nominated a few original prompts and got two amazing stories:

the battle is coming, I’ve been waiting so long is a great piece of hidden identities and arranged marriages, with a fantastic title, and some lovely world-building details.

the battle is coming, i've been waiting so long (1110 words) by sorori
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Original Work
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Queen Who Fought in the War/Princess of Enemy Country She's Marrying to Seal the Peace Treaty
Additional Tags: Storyteller narrator, Final Battle, Fights, Weddings, War, Battle, Identity Reveal
Summary:

“Where is your general?” Shikang asked, panting. “He is a coward if he does not come out to fight me.”


“Here,” came the answering shout, and she was far from a coward.


and Blades has a would-be fighter and an older world-weary mentor, both female and both tropes I am very fond of, as well as lots of extremely tasty-sounding baking, which, ditto. Very nice.

Blades (1215 words) by kalirush
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Original Work
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Older Woman from Proud Alien Warrior Culture & Half-Human Teenage Girl Who Wants To Learn To Fight
Additional Tags: Baking, a lot of butter
Summary:

Ulli goes looking for a mentor: the legendary Aellaria Sunkiller.


I’m still working through the archive, but there’s a lot of great fiction and art there, and I hope to come back with some more recs.

For my own assignment I matched with [personal profile] thisbluespirit on Sid Halley and his father-in-law Charles Roland from Dick Francis, which I’d seen in the tagset and been very much taken with. I re-read Odds Against and Whip Hand for inspiration (I have these in a double edition that inexplicably published them in the wrong order, so the first time I read them I was quite confused) and read Come to Grief for the first time and thought it was fantastic. However, all the ideas I was getting were a) novel-length and b) required quite a bit of horse-research. So I went back to [personal profile] thisbluespirit’s prompts, and saw that she’d also nominated Sapphire and Steel, a canon I love dearly but have never written for, and found this important footnote - “I never not want random fantastical stuff in my mundane canons and having sensible people deal with the ridiculous in whatever way works for them.” So I had my concept. I rewatched some Sapphire and Steel and thought about time, and places and objects, and ended up with ships and bells.

I had my usual problems getting the start right - I had quite a bit of Sid riding in (and losing) a race based on the Carlisle Bell, the oldest British horse race (tweaked to make it jump rather than flat), and then a few chunks of Charles unconscious in hospital while Sid went back to Aynsford and encountered strange individuals, and then the deadline loomed over me like an iceberg and I finally found my way in. Many, many thanks to my betas, especially [personal profile] sovay who had less than 24 hours to look at it.

Stalk On (6074 words) by Cyphomandra
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Sid Halley - Dick Francis, FRANCIS Dick - Works, Sapphire and Steel
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Sid Halley & Charles Roland | Charles Rowland, Sapphire/Silver/Steel (S&S), Sapphire & Silver & Steel (S&S)
Characters: Sid Halley, Charles Roland | Charles Rowland (Dick Francis), Sapphire (S&S), Silver (S&S), Steel (S&S)
Additional Tags: Crossover, Case Fic, Timeline Shenanigans, The Royal Navy
Summary:



Far up in the stretches of night; night splits and the dawn breaks loose;
I, through the terrible novelty of light, stalk on, stalk on;
Those great sea-horses bare their teeth and laugh at the dawn.


W.B. Yeats, High Talk

Sid spends another pleasant evening at Aynsford.

cyphomandra: fractured brooding landscape (Default)
I read one book in July, partly because I was writing Dragon Rising but mostly because it was an absolutely fantastic book (thanks so much to [personal profile] sovay for the rec) and nothing else really matched up. I’m still thinking about it.

Between Silk and Cyanide: A Codemaker’s Story, by Leo Marks

Leo Marks’ father was Benjamin Marks, owner of the Marks & Co. antiquarian bookshop that features in (and at) 84, Charing Cross Road, and the first code Leo cracked was the price code his father used for the books. At 22 he was recruited into SOE and became the codes & ciphers chief. This book is a record of his time there; it’s stunningly well-written, bristling with intelligence and determination, as Marks battles to protect his agents by giving them the best and least breakable codes (the ultimate explanation of the title). He also reworks the coding department, training up FANYs to break the “Undecipherables” that accounted for so many transmissions, secretly cracking the Free French code so he can fix their undecipherables, and composing poems - sometimes scatological, sometimes heartbreaking - that the agents can use as keys that, unlike the previously used extant poems, could not simply be found by Nazis browsing through English poetry anthologies.

The average lifespan of a radio operator in Occupied France was about six weeks so many of the agents he briefed & trained were going to their deaths, and he doesn't shy away from this. Nor did he treat a known double agent any differently when he briefed him, despite knowing that the man would be executed en route to Occupied France and his body shoved out attached to a half-opened parachute, with misleading codes in his pockets. Much of the book is about his (correct) conviction that the resistance operating in the Netherlands had been taken over by the Germans, and his attempts to convince his superiors. Also in there are his friendships with the agents, his own (very briefly described) doomed romance, and a keenly ironic sense of humour (there are some particularly nice pieces relating to his fondness for swinging from ring to ring over the local swimming pool - this was obviously a thing as E.F. Benson's David Blaize does this in David at Kings, although Marks, who thrives on danger, does it fully clothed).

And fabulous writing. I think it's impossible to overstate this. It's also the first nonfiction book I've read by a Jewish person relating to WWII that doesn't spend any time with them being actively persecuted by the Nazis (Maddie in Code Name Verity is, I think, the only fictional one I've encountered). I read the library's copy but will be ordering my own.

Unexpected

Feb. 20th, 2019 04:46 pm
cyphomandra: (balcony)
I am reading Ruth Franklin's biography of Shirley Jackson, A Rather Haunted Life, which is good if rather depressing about Jackson's marriage and early death, and I was startled and pleased to have Jay Williams show up, who I know as the author of Time of the Kraken and the Danny Dunn series. I am not entirely sure how I'd pictured him but I was not expecting a charming "actor, musician and Communist" who is fascinated by magic (he worked on a never-published book on myth and ritual with Jackson's husband, Stanley Hyman), who loans Jackson & Hyman money when they're running low, gives a not-yet-married Jackson charms to bring on her period when she has pregnancy scares, and tells Hyman to stop sleeping around, or at least consider the possible effect on Jackson.
cyphomandra: fluffy snowy mountains (painting) (snowcone)
Helene Hanff, 84, Charing Cross Road (re-read).
Robin Stevens, Murder Most Unladylike, Arsenic for Tea, First Class Murder, Jolly Foul Play, Mistletoe and Murder, Cream Buns and Crime (first four re-reads).
Shira Glassman, The Second Mango (reviewed earlier).
Laura Amy Schlitz, A Drowned Maiden’s Hair
T Kingfisher, The Clockwork Boys
Nancy Garden, The Year They Burned the Books
Dick Francis, Reflex
Anthony Horowitz, The House of Silk


84, Charing Cross Road. )
Murder Most Unladylike series, Robin Stevens. )
Laura Amy Schlitz, A Drowned Maiden’s Hair. )
T Kingfisher, Clockwork Boys (Clocktaur War book 1). )
Nancy Garden, The Year They Burned the Books. )
Dick Francis, Reflex (re-read). )
Anthony Horowitz, The House of Silk. )
cyphomandra: boats in Auckland Harbour. Blue, blocky, cheerful (boats)
Dear Chocolatier,

Thanks so much for writing for me! Apologies for the lateness of this letter, and if you’ve started work already just go for it.

General likes: I like humour, especially character-driven humour. I like characters who are outsiders in some way, and I love seeing them become part of something larger, whether that’s a cause or a community. Bittersweet endings and angst, worldbuilding, quiet moments; cups of tea. I am fine with experimental writing formats and also with different art styles, from cartoon to stylised to realistic.

Do not wants: child death/harm (outside of canon). Non con. Earthquakes. Mundane AUs (except FFVII), ABO, mpreg.

FFVII. )

Gundam Wing. )

The Marlows - Antonia Forest. )

Original Work. )

I hope you have a fantastic Chocolate Box!
cyphomandra: fractured brooding landscape (Default)
As per request! I have now done six, so obviously I like them, and I am eyeing up a few more new ones at the moment.

So. An escape room is basically that: you’re shut into a room, and you have to work out how to get out within a set time. All the escape rooms I’ve done also have some sort of story arc to them, whether that’s finding something or escaping from someone, and the puzzles tend to be themed around that. Puzzles include finding/solving codes & riddles, opening locks (combination or key), collecting objects, putting things in sequence, triggering doors etc; most of the rooms have had more than one room. Some use digital media or audio messages, or other tricks like UV light or magnets. They are designed for groups, usually around four people - Escape Mate had a minimum of two, the lowest, and we had seven people at Break and Escape. All have some option for clues (usually limited to 3) and communication with the supervising staff. I haven’t (yet!) done any with actors.

Escapade, The Tavern. Locked in a mystical tavern from times long past, you’re on a quest to save the city. )

Escape Mate, The Lab (stop a deadly bio-weapon being developed and save the world!) and The Temple (the Death Gods are awakening and plan to bring about the end of days unless they can be stopped! )

Rotofobia, One Hell of A Kitchen. Fancy restaurant…kitchen… dinner… great food …what could possibly go wrong?! When you regain your consciousness last thing you remember was taking a bite of a sausage from your main course… then all black…you look around and it doesn’t look promising…and it`s freezing…you have 60 minutes to change your fate! )

Break and Escape, Evil Hospital. Ailey’s father was a doctor in a psychiatric hospital. One day the hospital was shut down by the government and her father has been missing ever since. Her father’s disappearance has always weighed on Ailey’s mind. She knew that she had to unmask the truth! )

Escape Masters – Zombie Apocalypse. The world has been invaded by zombies and you and your team are amongst the few survivors, but not for long. You’ve heard rumors of a mad scientist that may have found an antidote to protect humans against the zombies. Desperate to save your lives, you decide to break into his house in the hopes of finding the antidote. )

So. What do I like? An immersive setting and a story arc, as well as interesting and challenging puzzles; not all codes/keys, but I don’t mind if some of them are, and I do like some puzzles to be physical, as well as having hidden spaces/other rooms revealed. Hints are handy but I want them limited and, actually, what I’d really like in some cases would be an idea of how far I was through the puzzle so I can decide if I need a hint or if I have enough time to keep going. I like the puzzles to have some thematic element, and I do like puzzles where you go back to them later, or where the answer isn’t necessarily in the same space. And I do quite like horror in this setting, although it's not compulsory.
cyphomandra: boats in Auckland Harbour. Blue, blocky, cheerful (boats)
This year I wrote casefic for Robin Stevens' Murder Most Unladylike series. These are a fabulous series set in the 1930s with two teenage girls, Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong, who are detectives - there are eight books out so far (one is short stories and additional material), covering various traditional crime settings such as a country house, the Orient Express, the theatre, a boarding school, and Cambridge. They are very much Golden Age crime in style and detective format, but with a modern sensibility about some of the pitfalls works of that era fell into; there are numerous sympathetic queer characters (Death in the Spotlight spoiler removed, as I can't get spoiler text to work) and Hazel is Hong Kong Chinese (one of the recent books is set in Hong Kong, and it's fascinating seeing Daisy deal with an environment where she is out of place and ignored.

Anyway. I wanted to write casefic, but I did have to dampen down my original Between Silk and Cyanide-related urge to write WWII spy fic (which is so obviously where the series is heading - we're currently in 1936 and Hazel is starting to work on codes) because I could tell this would spiral rapidly out of control. So I cast round for shorter ideas, and one of the things that stuck was the fact that these books were set in a death-penalty era UK. Dorothy Sayers' books do grapple with this (obviously Strong Poison, but I think it's the end of Busman's Honeymoon where Peter is really wrestling with his role in the execution of the guilty party). Stevens has alluded to this but not put a lot on stage (entirely reasonably for books aimed at 10-12 year olds!). I also re-read my collection of Poirot's Early Cases to try and keep things short and ended up pinching the cigarette clue.

As usual I ended up finishing right on deadline (apologies again to my betas!) and there are still a few loose ends I would have liked to tweak, but it's mostly there. Detective stories were one of my earliest reading interests (after fantasy but before SF, comics, fandom etc) and it was great fun to write one.

The Case of the Suspicious Suicide (6307 words) by Cyphomandra
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Murder Most Unladylike Series - Robin Stevens
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Characters: Daisy Wells, Hazel Wong, Inspector Priestly, Lavinia Temple
Additional Tags: Case Fic, Boarding School, Detectives, Misses Clause Challenge, Female Friendship
Summary:

'Half a term!' said Daisy to me. 'What could possibly happen in half a term? It's just exams and Speech Day!'

Death in the Spotlight, Robin Stevens (2018).

Yuletide!

Jan. 1st, 2019 09:39 pm
cyphomandra: fluffy snowy mountains (painting) (snowcone)
This year I was lucky enough to get a game as a present - Merry Christmas Detective, for the Dark Parables video game fandom. For those who don't know them, these are hidden object/puzzle games with fairy tale retellings and a fondness for massively over-elaborate bedazzlements (if you need an axe it will be a) covered in jewels b) broken into 17 pieces in order to conceal it in a flower garden c) completely functional despite this once you assemble all the pieces). I find them very soothing. You play as the Fairytale Detective, a mysterious personage - you see their gloves, holding a casebook or a tape recorder, but nothing more. I was intrigued; and what I got was a backstory, and a catch-up on previous characters, all in the context of a game very much in keeping with canon. Fantastic.

Merry Christmas Detective (1016 words) by Anonymous
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Dark Parables (Video Games)
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Characters: The Fairytale Detective
Additional Tags: Twine game, Interactive Fiction, Riddles
Summary:

On a cold winter's night, the Fairytale Detective gets a box.


Also in the interactive fiction tag is this fascinating take on the opera Turandot; I am still playing it, but it is stunning, full of evocative writing and unexpected events. Possibly never having seen the opera may be handicapping me somewhat.

As you move towards the door, something like a shadow or a wisp of mist appears in your path; barely visible at first, then it takes shape, and you recognize the prince of the Kyrgyz. His peaked hat and high-collared robe are as snowy white as they were the day you sent him to the executioner, but now their embroidery, too, is pale and translucent. He stretches out a hand towards you. You start back in alarm, and the shade remains for a moment, looking at you, before it dissipates.

Even in death, they think you belong to them.


The Fourth Riddle (54 words) by Anonymous
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Turandot - Puccini
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: Creator Chose Not To Use Archive Warnings
Relationships: Liù (Turandot)/Princess Turandot (Turandot)
Characters: Princess Turandot (Turandot), Liù (Turandot)
Additional Tags: Interactive Fiction
Summary:

It's what comes after the riddles that's harder.


Back to fiction - I've read a lot, and I still have a lot of tabs open (especially longer ones). I really enjoyed this take on Nadine, trying - and failing - to find Randall Flagg in an AU of The Stand:

deep red bells (2397 words) by Anonymous
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: The Stand - Stephen King
Rating: Mature
Warnings: Creator Chose Not To Use Archive Warnings
Relationships: Nadine Cross/Randall Flagg
Characters: Nadine Cross, Randall Flagg
Additional Tags: Alternate Universe - Canon Divergence, Hitchhiking, Additional Warnings Apply, Yuletide Treat
Summary:

Nadine learns what she can about the great love of her life.


and this devastating character assessment of Guy in Rosemary's Baby, justifying everything:

Always Be Somewhat Suspect (3478 words) by Anonymous
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Rosemary's Baby (1968)
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: Rape/Non-Con
Relationships: Guy Woodhouse/Rosemary Woodhouse
Characters: Guy Woodhouse, Rosemary Woodhouse, Minnie Castevet, Roman Castevet
Additional Tags: Unreliable Narrator, Sexism, Banal Evil, Yuletide Treat, Implied/Referenced Rape/Non-con
Summary:

Nine months of Guy Woodhouse self-justifications, in reverse.


And, in contrast, from Madness - a perfect fandom fusion of From Eroica with Love and Pern. Funny, believable and oddly touching.

The Hatchling Job (1498 words) by Anonymous
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Eroica Yori Ai o Komete | From Eroica with Love
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Klaus von dem Eberbach/Dorian Red Gloria
Characters: Klaus von dem Eberbach, Dorian Red Gloria
Additional Tags: Alternate Universe - Dragons, Alternate Universe - Pern Fusion, Heist, Developing Relationship, Yuletide Treat
Summary:

K'Laus stares at the empty sand and tells himself he's wrong. Dorian couldn't. He wouldn't. There was no way that even Dorian would be audacious enough, stupid enough, to steal a queen egg directly off the hatching grounds.


Back to reading!

FF Friday

Dec. 8th, 2018 02:59 pm
cyphomandra: boats in Auckland Harbour. Blue, blocky, cheerful (boats)
Britta Lundin, Ship It.

Claire Strupke is 16 and obsessed with Demon Heart, a not-at-all similar to Supernaturalshow in which demon hunter Smokey teams up with Heart, a demon with a, uh, heart, to save the world. Obviously she ships SmokeHeart (the main slash pairing - all the women, apparently, get killed off) and writes enough fic to be well-known in the fandom and, when the actors come to a con near her, she asks them about it (this was the first time I had to backbutton out of the ebook and look at something else until my second-hand embarrassment subsided, although not the last), and is devastated when Forest, who plays Smokey, shoots her down in flames. To salvage the show's PR, the production team invite Claire along on the convention tour. Claire seizes the opportunity to try and convince them to make SmokeHeart canon - but, she's also met Tess, a fanartist, following the tour, who is openly queer and very attractive, even if she's hiding her own fannishness from her popular friends. Claire has always been open about her love for fandom, but her own feelings are much more complicated…

More discussion, vague spoilers. )

Assorted

Dec. 7th, 2018 10:40 pm
cyphomandra: boats in Auckland Harbour. Blue, blocky, cheerful (boats)
I am also attempting to post more often. These are things I could post about, ranked in descending order of how much I've already written - let me know if any appeal.

Mr Burns: A Post-Electric play
The NT Live (film) version of Angels in America: Perestroika
All the other theatre I saw last year
All the other theatre I've seen this year (warning: contains complaining)
Books read this year and not yet written up (see below)
Escape rooms I have done (5, so far)
All the books I consider myself to still be in the process of reading even if it's been years since I last looked at them

Books read and not yet written on. )
cyphomandra: fluffy snowy mountains (painting) (snowcone)
I am attempting to catch up on these by the end of the year...

A whole lot more graphic novels, as I bought some for my niece's birthday but (naturally) had to read them first.

Sharon Hale & Dean Hale (illustrator Nathan Hale), Rapunzel's Revenge. Rapunzel escapes Mother Gothel's tower and finds a steampunky-Western outside world that is failing due to Gothel's actions. She teams up with Jack (the Giant-Killer) in order to fight evil and restore balance. This didn't really grab me but I am a very hard sell on Western settings that are not actually Westerns. I also wasn't wild on the Rapunzel-Jack romance.

Victoria Jamieson, Roller Girl. Astrid and her best friend Nicole do everything together - until Astrid signs up for a roller derby summer camp (with minimal experience) and Nicole goes to ballet camp with Astrid's enemy. Excellent, good on friendship issues and acquiring practical skills, and great people.

Vera Brosgol, Be Prepared. Not the Jeremy Irons song from the Lion King that my daughter is currently fascinated by. Graphic novel memoir in which Vera goes to a summer camp for Russian speakers, which is not quite what she expected. Entertaining and well-observed, and I like the monochrome art.

Molly Ostertag, The Witch Boy. Girls in Aster's family grow up to be witches; men grow up to be shapeshifters. But Aster hasn't shifted yet, and he's fascinated by witch magic. This was fine and the characters are sweet, but it was lacking something as an actual story.

Eleanor Davis, The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook. Super-smart Julian Calendar discovers two secret science nerds, Ben and Greta, at his new school; they team up and fight crime. I liked this and it's fun, but I would have preferred one of the other two as a viewpoint character.

Mary Treadgold, The Weather Boy. Dutch boy goes to stay with his cousins in England; there's an obnoxious neighbourhood busybody accompanying him, his father is out at sea, and the main character (possibly Jan?) makes friends with a personification of the weather.

C.S. Pacat & Johanna the Mad, Fence (v1-4). Nicholas is the illegitimate son of a fencing coach and struggles to train without resources; at his first tournament he is easily beaten by the prodigious Seiji Katayama and vows to beat him. This means he somehow ends up on scholarship to an exclusive fencing school (with a surprisingly tiny fencing team) and, of course, rooming with Seiji. I like the idea of this and I like CS Pacat's writing, but there were one too many lurches in plot logic for me and also, remarkably little actually happening. Still. It's appealing, and I will read the next volume.

Alan Sisman, John Le Carré: the biography. Fascinating counterpoint to Le Carré's own memoir, The Pigeon Tunnel, which I read earlier this year; fills in the gaps, looks at the facts behind the stories, and attempts to grapple with Le Carré's impressively monstrous father, who casts a long shadow over everything. Lengthy but a smooth read, and Le Carré is one of those people whose career does not seem to ossify as they age (I'm thinking of Doris Lessing's memoirs, which were similar in nature).

Mark Siegel & Alexis Siegel, Five Worlds book 1: The Sand Warrior. Easily my favourite of all the graphic novels this month. A sand dance who struggles to control her powers teams up with a professional athlete and a slum kid (who have their own secrets) to save a gorgeously detailed world. Fascinating and rich, and I really like the colouring. Book 2 is out and book 3 is out next May; I'm presuming there are five in total but am not sure.

Stephen King, Misery. This was [personal profile] rachelmanija's fault, as she re-read it and then I picked up my copy just to check something (a process I know is always doomed) and re-read the whole thing. Fabulous. I always forget just how compelling the Misery book within the story is - it's the thing that I think the film glossed over.

Mary Stewart, Airs Above the Ground. Vanessa is having tea with a friend of her mother's who mentions seeing Vanessa's husband Lewis in newsreel footage of a circus fire in Austria; but Lewis told Vanessa he was on business in Stockholm. Vanessa seizes the opportunity to escort the woman's teenage son to Austria (where he was going) and investigate. It's fun, it's fast, the tense bits are genuinely tense (racing a rickety funicular railway train up to where someone is caught on the tracks) and there are amazing and heart-warming horse bits with Lipizzaners.

André Aciman, Call Me by Your Name. Read after I'd seen the film. Wonderful writing and very good, as the film is, on the emotions and distinction between late teenage and early adulthood; however, the book frames it as Elio looking back, and also goes on into the future, and that weakened it for me somewhat. Some of the supporting characters are also more well-developed, but then it doesn't leave me with the Psychedelic Furs soundtrack of the movie.

E.M. Channon, Expelled from St Madern's and Her Second Chance. EM Channon wrote schoolgirl books (The Honour of the House is one of my favourites, dealing with loyalty to family versus loyalty to school, and characters who have hidden depths beneath unappealing exteriors). In the first, a schoolgirl is (eventually) expelled for her understandable but regrettable attempts to ruin the school. The second, the sequel, has the expelled schoolgirl, now an adult, returning as a teacher and solving a mystery. Enjoyable. These are contemporary reprints and I need to track down some of her detective stories.

Yuletide!

Oct. 21st, 2018 05:14 am
cyphomandra: boats in Auckland Harbour. Blue, blocky, cheerful (boats)
Dear Yuletider,

Thanks so much for writing for me! I really enjoy Yuletide - it's my longest-standing seasonal tradition that doesn't involve food : D I look forward to seeing what you write and, although I've put some suggestions, all I really want is more from these fandoms, be that a fresh look or a revisiting of old favourites. Go with what intrigues you.

If you match on one of the others and get stuck - Some Velvet Morning is under four minutes long, listenable to here, and the lyrics are here.

General comments

I like humour that cares about the characters. I like characters who are outsiders in some way, and I love seeing them become part of something larger - a cause, a community. I like food as a way of showing character or worldbuilding. I like bittersweet endings. I like pretty much any style of writing - epistolary, experimental, Dickensian - and although I've previously been unkeen on second person narrators this would be fine as an option for Dark Parables, or indeed either of the others if it works for the story.

DNWs - animal or child death. Significant earthquakes.

Some Velvet Morning - Lee Hazlewood & Nancy Sinatra (Song). )

The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant - Stephen R. Donaldson. )

Dark Parables (video games). )
cyphomandra: fluffy snowy mountains (painting) (snowcone)
I have a story out! Dragon Rising, under the pen name Harriet Bell, in this charity anthology put together by [personal profile] rachelmanija to raise money for OutRight Action International, who work to protect the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people across the world. It's an excellent cause and her fourth anthology, and - as the name suggests - this one is MMF with one dragon shifter and two humans.

This is the first piece I've finished in ages that wasn't for a challenge, and it was a lot of fun to write (massive thanks to dashi for beta and to [personal profile] china_shop for heroically attempting beta on something that really wasn't her thing). I am currently reading everyone else's story and really enjoying them.


Available on Amazon
here.

FF Friday

Sep. 22nd, 2018 01:16 pm
cyphomandra: boats in Auckland Harbour. Blue, blocky, cheerful (boats)
Karis Walsh, Mounting Danger and Mounting Evidence

These are books 1&2 in the Mounted Police/Tacoma Mounted Patrol series, about (surprisingly) a mounted police unit in Tacoma; my library has yet to buy the third. I must admit that I was wistfully hoping for Dick Francis with lesbian leads. Not quite, and the first is closer (and a better book) than the second.

In the first, Rachel is ostracised by her fellow officers after turning a fellow cop in for domestic abuse; she is then put in charge of the mounted police unit after their captain is murdered in mysterious circumstances. In order to get everyone to work together as a team, she asks Cal, a professional polo player from an elite family, to help. This hits a lot of my favourite things - getting a struggling team to pull together, outcasts who need to overcome (unfair) prejudice, horse neepery - I like both leads and the relationship between them really sparks.

In the second, the upright hardass lieutenant Abby Hargrove from the first book is obsessed with atoning for her family's three generations of dirty cops, when she falls for a wetlands microbiologist, Kira, whose daughter is competing at a country fair that the mounted unit are patrolling. Abby has secretly given her old horse to Kira's daughter to make up for her brother's neglect of Kira's domestic abuse case (as in, Kira doesn't know it was from Abby, the horse being rather difficult to conceal). The crime plot in this is both obvious and jerky, the relationship less convincing (Rachel and Cal show up and have a sex scene before the two leads manage it, which doesn't help) , Abby herself far less confident than expected from her earlier appearance (or her job), and there is not nearly enough horse stuff. I stalled on this quite a bit and it's why I have yet to pick up the third myself, although I will check out the other Walsh books that the library does have (including Set the Stage).
cyphomandra: boats in Auckland Harbour. Blue, blocky, cheerful (boats)
Recs definitely welcome. There are plenty of other fanvids I love and that mean a lot to me, and I'm always keen on seeing more. This was prompted by seeing Gwyn's Dream, the first on the list, and watching it half a dozen times or so before deciding to track down some of my other favourites again.

Multifandom:

Dream (Angela McCluskey), by Gwyn. I don't think I can do better than Gwyn's own summary - "It's basically my love letter to the con, to vidding, and to fandom" - and it's a great mix of fandoms, old and new, unfamiliar and well-loved. It reminded me how much I loved Pacific Rim, something the sequel had muddied somewhat; it's about the miracle of that moment when the dream becomes real. Creator's post.

Starships! by bironic. (Nicki Minaj) I feel everyone should know this already, but if not, starships and the beings that love them, audience included. Bironic's post. Monochromatic remix by Jetpack Monkey.

Old Movie Stars Dance to Uptown Funk, (Mark Ronson, feat. Bruno Mars) by Nerd Fest UK. Exactly what it says, using 80-odd pre-1953 movies (and one later). Fabulous. I have no idea how the creator did this.

Fandom specific:

Miracle and Wonder (Paul Simon) by jm torres. Star Wars.The original trilogy. Just lovely. I can only assume Paul Simon had this in mind all along with his lyrics. Downloadable.

Haunted, (Poe) by Seah and Margie. Odyssey 5. I have never seen canon and this makes me want to and not want to at the same time; there's so much story here, so much to find out, and yet it's all there in this vid. Downloadable from here (scroll down. Way down.)

(and, if you want more great Poe vids to fandoms I haven't watched, Merryish's Hello for Stargate Atlantis is great. I totally would have watched more than bits of half a dozen episodes if it had been more like this, instead of just reading a ridiculous amount of fic. And buying Poe albums).

Invincible (Pat Benetar). Gundam Wing. I am not sure who did this. Possibly this does not make me all that happy given that it does a good job of reflecting the bleakness of canon, but I do like seeing all the Gundam boys again and the song choice is perfect ("And with the power of conviction/There is no sacrifice." Yeah, Heero, you just keep telling yourself that).

Femslashex

Aug. 23rd, 2018 08:52 am
cyphomandra: (balcony)
Dear Femslashex exchange partner,

Thank you so much for creating something for me! I'm really looking forward to seeing what you do. If you have an idea already, go with it; I mainly just want an excuse to revisit these characters and their worlds.

In general terms, I like humour, action, angst, and worldbuilding (not necessarily all together!). I like quiet moments between characters as well, though, and given the pairings I've chosen, fish-out-of-water moments where the ones who are used to action get something quiet and vice versa are always good. Bittersweet endings are fine, as are happy ones, but not totally bleak. As long as the characters are recognisable I like AUs (although my favourite, In Space, is really only going to work for my third request...) and I like stories that take canon and then go somewhere different. Any level of relationship explicitness is fine as long as it works for the characters.

For art, I am less inclined to photorealism and more towards something with a distinct style. Any level of explicitness fine; what I want to see is the connection between the characters.

Specific requests: Babylon 5, Doctor Who, Lord Peter Wimsey - Dorothy Sayers. )
cyphomandra: fluffy snowy mountains (painting) (snowcone)
Mary Stewart, Ludo and the Star Horse
Barbara Willard, Spell me a Witch
Molly Bang, Picture This: How Pictures Work
Betty MacDonald, Anybody Can Do Anything
Morris Gleitzman, Too Small to Fail
Geraldine McCaughrean, Stop the Train
Elizabeth Wein, The Pearl Thief
Nancy M Hayes, The Fourth Form Invaders
Sarah Laing, Mansfield and Me: a graphic memoir
Victoria Jamieson, All's Faire in Middle School


Ludo and the Star Horse was my favourite for this month, although if I'm picking new-to-me I liked Picture This for making me think and All's Faire in Middle School for entertainment.

April, assorted. )
cyphomandra: fractured brooding landscape (Default)
... is from Between Silk and Cyanide: A Code Maker's War 1941-45, by Leo Marks, recommended by [personal profile] sovay - thanks so much! It's wonderful: compelling, ferociously intelligent, and drily humourous.

A few years after the war ended (I shan't give away who won it - for those who may not know) the BBC [...] broadcast a tribute to the FANYs...


Marks is discussing a talk he gave to the new coding recruits from FANY (First Aid Nursing Yeomanry; all female), which was a) notorious (he left them for over an hour in a freezing basement with one chair, recorded their conversation, and then played it back for them to shock them into realise how easily casual conversation could be used against them, and how crucial their secrecy would be in keeping agents safe) and b) recorded in full, his talk included.
cyphomandra: boats in Auckland Harbour. Blue, blocky, cheerful (boats)
Roxane Gay, Hunger: a memoir of (my) body
Ruth Arthur, A Candle In Her Room
Lois Lowry, Anastasia on Her Own
Philip Pullman, La Belle Sauvage
Courtney Milan, The Suffragette Scandal
Courtney Milan, Talk Sweetly to Me
Courtney Milan, The Heiress Effect
Courtney Milan, The Governess Affair
Courtney Milan, The Countess Conspiracy
Lee Child, The Midnight Line


Roxane Gay, Hunger: a memoir of (my) body. Roxane Gay's book is a painful and compelling read; it's about being fat, or more particularly being a fat woman who became so in response to others taking her body away from her. It is exactingly particular on the shame she suffers for doing so, and the desires - the hungers - that also make up her life. It's not right to say I enjoyed reading it, but I'm glad I did; what I'd like to read next are her Black Panther comics, and I've just ordered World of Wakanda from the library.

Ruth Arthur, A Candle in Her Room. Three girls move to an old house in Pembrokeshire and find a strange wooden doll, Dido, in a trunk; the doll exerts a malign influence on one of them that will echo down through three generations. )

Lois Lowry, Anastasia on Her Own (re-read). Anastasia's mother, a children's book illustrator, flies out to California to consult on a film project; Anastasia and her father figure that taking care of the household will be simple, especially once Anastasia makes a list. Naturally, her younger brother Sam gets chickenpox and Anastasia has to stay home to look after him, and the domestic disasters mount up to a final dinner party with Anastasia's putative boyfriend (she has a cordon bleu romantic dinner planned) and an annoying ex of her father's. Although I like the personalities of the family and their interactions I think the time in which I would have found the overall plot funny is now well past.

Philip Pullman, La Belle Sauvage. The title is the name of a boat belonging to Malcolm, a pot-boy in his parents' inn up-river from Oxford; unhelpful schoolmates repeatedly change the v to an s. This is the story of Lyra as a very young baby, left at the local priory; Malcolm meets her and is entranced by her, and this entangles him and Alice, a slightly older girl who works with him and is initially antagonistic, in all manner of dangerous events. I liked this more than I expected to. Malcolm is great, as is Dr Hannah Relf, a scholar studying alethiometers. There is an impressive set-piece flood that has a slightly jarring fairy encounter halfway through, and the main bad guy is a creepy sexual predator with an abusive relationship with his daemon, an hyena, and I could have done with quite a bit less sexual predation in favour of more of the concrete fantastic (the bears, the witches) that we got in The Golden Compass/Northern Lights rather than watery allusions. I did feel it fell apart a bit towards the end and I'm still not sure how I feel about Alice as a character/plotline.

Lee Child, The Midnight Line. Reacher sees a West Point class ring in a small-town pawn shop window, deduces a few things about the woman it must have belonged to and sets out to track her down. The Reacher books have some of the worst titles ever in terms of my ability to link the title with what happens in the book and in addition it's been a long time since I really enjoyed one. This is not great. It's not as bad as Make Me and there are a few nice moments, but I'd be much better off trying to work out which Dick Francis books I haven't read yet.

Courtney Milan, The Suffragette Scandal, Talk Sweetly to Me, The Governess Affair, The Countess Conspiracy. Most of the Brothers Sinister series )

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