Monthly Archives: May 2014

Mandarin Version of Death’s Mistress

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Chinese (Mandarin) version of Death’s Mistress just came in. I assume that is supposed to be Christine in the pic, as I can’t for the life of me see Dory in a tutu! Anyway, I have three to give away. If you can read it and want one, send me an email (KarenChance@hotmail.com). First come, first served. And please put Mandarin in the title so I know that you know it’s in a foreign language (had problems in the past). Thanks!

Street Food

Came across this, wondering about the favorite foods of the Avengers, and started thinking about the foods our group would prefer. Never got beyond street food, but thought it was fun so decided to post anyway.

Cassie: Georgia peach and walnut salad.

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Street food to Cassie basically just means food. Growing up at the court of a vampire, and then being on the run from said vamp most of her life, she never had a chance to learn to how to cook. She kept buying cookbooks in the three years she lived in Atlanta, until she had a whole row of them, teetering on a wonky shelf above the rusty white stove her landlord was always promising to replace but never did. But holding down two jobs takes a lot of time, and somehow, the most she ever learned how to make was crock pot chili and brownies-in-a-box. So she became a street food connoisseur. And fortunately for her, Atlanta had plenty of it.

Her favorite was from a couple of trucks that hung out in front of a small park not far from the travel agency where she worked. She often thought of them in the form of an angel and a devil sitting on her shoulders, giving her two diametrically opposite options. She had just returned from making her selection the night Tony’s thugs caught up with her, but didn’t have time to eat, running for her life taking precedence. So she’d always been glad that she’d listened to the angel that night, and it had been the Georgia peach and walnut salad that had been left to slowly wilt on her desk. If it had been the slow cooked barbeque ribs with black eyed peas, pimento cheese grits and coleslaw . . . well, now that would have been a tragedy.   

 

Pritkin: Fish and chips in greasy newspaper with a side of mushy peas.

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Pritkin doesn’t indulge very often, since street food is not the healthiest. But whenever he’s in London, he can’t resist dropping by a little hole in the wall in Blackfriars, with a massive glass counter in front because the place used to be a bakery. These days, the case sits empty, other than for smears of grease from the always busy fryer, since there’s only one thing on the menu. And only one question: with vinegar or without?

Pritkin thinks this is a stupid question. He just looks at the cook—no chefs here—when he’s asked. And after a moment, he gets a slight nod of approval in return, along with an extra dash of vinegar and salt.

The woman at the register has an additional question: eat in or takeaway? Technically, there are two tiny tables, squashed in between the wall and the case. But nobody ever uses them, since the only view would be the queue of local arses waiting on nirvana. Pritkin eats his guilty pleasure down by the river, ever wondering at how clear the water is these days. Sometimes, he’ll throw a chip to the fish, and watch the mad scramble that ensues. He wouldn’t like anyone to know, but he often cheats, tossing a small bit to distract the larger fish, and then letting the rest of his offering be devoured by the smaller ones on the sidelines.

He’d been a small fish among a swarm of predators once himself. He knows what it’s like. And then he’s off again, because he’s not prey these days, and he has work to do.

 

Mircea: Honeycomb.

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Mircea doesn’t do street food, or much of any other kind, since vampires don’t have to eat. But when he was a boy, his favorite guilty pleasure was a piece of fresh honeycomb from the market in Sighişoara. He’d get out of stuffy lectures from men in dour black gowns, dart through rooms and hallways reeking of incense, and then out into the narrow, dusty, winding streets, hoping, hoping, hoping. If he wasn’t in time, if one of those old priests had droned on for too long, he’d have to go away empty handed. But some days, some glorious days, he would be in time to catch her, old Irina with her face of a thousand lines and rough, farmer’s hands, and the bright slabs of honeycomb she was on her way to sell to the local baker.

The baker used it to make the pies and sweetened breads that he sent his lunkish assistant off to hawk from a cart. Sometimes, cook would buy some of these for the table, but Mircea never got more than a few bites. Mother didn’t think too many sweets were good for children. But after dinner, his father would silently slip him a coin, and the next day the race was on again.

Memory of that rare sweetness lingered, even after the change. The smell of it, wild and musky, with hints of the wildflowers the bees collected. The feel of it, the comb bursting on his tongue, which was thereafter tasked with extracting every wonderful drop from the tiny chambers. The taste of it, bright and syrupy, like distilled sunshine . . . . Until one day, watching his young daughter wolf down the sweets she also loved, he’d realized that he couldn’t recall the flavor anymore. Try as he might, it eluded him, finally faded, like so much else, into darkness.

The day he became a master, the first thing he did was to go find some honeycomb, and eat it like a beggar in the street. And laugh like a madman as it ran down his arm, sticky and gooey and overwhelmingly sweet—sweet like victory.

 

Jonas: Bangers and mash. 

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Jonas doesn’t do street food, exactly, but he was always very fond of the pub grub available in a little place a few blocks from his office. It was slightly embarrassing, being one of the tourist spots popular for the ambiance—by which they meant an old black and white timber structure from the 1400s that might come crashing down on all their heads at any moment. But it made the best bangers and mash in town, with succulent pork sausages, fluffy mashed potatoes and grilled onions, the whole covered in a rich brown gravy. He’d get a double order once a week and take it back to his office, where a certain someone would shortly thereafter pop in to join him.

He’d braved the crowds one day in early June, returning to his office with greasy bags of plunder. Which he transferred to the old porcelain plates he kept in a cabinet, because one did not entertain the pythia on paper. Not that he was sure she’d come. She’d rung up to cancel the week before, and had looked pale, almost to the point of translucency, the week before that. Stomach upset, she’d said; something hadn’t agreed with her, and she’d eaten almost nothing. But he hadn’t received a phone call today, and was whistling whilst he made preparations.

He’d been leaning out the window, trying to snare an early summer rose for his makeshift table, when his secretary came in. He had a message from the Pythian Court, short and terse. As if they assumed he would have been expecting it, and needed few details.

He hadn’t been expecting it.

He’d sat at his desk afterward, staring at the slowly congealing meal until his secretary came rushing back in. It had somehow ended up splattered on the wall, a brown mass sliming down the paneling, studded by bright green peas and broken china. It took them some time to clean up, and afterward, Jonas went home for the day, to a house that seemed darker and a world that seemed so much grayer.

He never ate it again.

Reader response to Q and A #50

This came in today on Goodreads. I answered it there, but then decided that maybe I ought to post it here as well, because answering it gave me a chance to articulate in one post how I personally see my books. Readers are, of course, going to see a book any damned way they choose after they plunk down their money for it, and that’s only right. But I think it can be useful sometimes to have the author’s viewpoint as well, if for no other reason than it lets you know what you’re in for if you do, in fact, choose to buy it.

The comment (it helps to read Q&A 50 first):

Sorry to say but I think I’m not the only one who would say that the romance/relationship element of this series is a HUGE driving force for us fans. If the intent was for the series to NOT be centered around Cassie’s romance(s) then maybe the very first book should not have been about Mircea putting a geas on Cassie that could only be broken by having SEX . . . with 2 versions of himself, simultaneously, in like the 3rd book of the series.

Please don’t get me wrong, I adore the series (and others like it) but I am getting kind of tired of writers getting annoyed by readers “mis-categorizing” their books. If you write books/series that have a really heavy romance/sexual element then sorry but that makes them Paranormal Romance not Urban Fantasy. Don’t get ticked off when the fans focus on that element & start to nit pick an obviously disrespectful relationship that comes across more as a Master/Property than a messy relationship where the man & his goons just can’t seem to wrap their century old brains around how a “human” woman should be respected.

That right there is why I personally detest Mircea, the vamp goons & the way they treat Cassie. She is NOT just some weak little kitteny human girl, her being the Pythia is supposed to be the whole reason Mircea wants to keep her “safe”, because she is so powerful. He is well aware of how strong she is & I’m sorry but all his actions up til this point show that to him, she is a pretty thing he enjoys but is more concerned about keeping her under his thumb than about her as a person.

That’s my two cents. I love the series, furthest thing from a troller, so I don’t think this person’s question was trolling at all because I agree with the comment/question. As do quite a few others I would imagine since my anticipatory comments about Reap the Wind are of a similar content & currently sit at the top of the review section with the most likes.

The Response:

I’m afraid that you misunderstood my meaning entirely. It also seems that you think all books with romance and/or sexual elements must be romance novels. So I would suppose then, that G.R.R. Martin, who includes a LOT more sex in his books than I ever have, must also be a romance writer? (Please don’t tell him that, by the way. He’ll probably kill off another Stark).

Instead, I would argue that it’s the focus of a book that decides what genre it is. As I said on Facebook in a reply to another reader’s comment, whether a book contains sex or not has nothing to do with its category. If 80% of a book focuses on sex/romance/relationship issues/cute banter between the leads, etc., then you are reading a romance novel. If, on the other hand, 80% of a book focuses on a fantasy plotline and fantasy elements, and the romance is there to support the main plot of the book instead of being the plot itself, then you are reading fantasy. And my books have always focused on the fantasy plotlines.

Yes, there is sex and romance in my books. It’s an adult series, and adult people have sex/get in romantic relationships, so why not? I refuse to cede the use of romance to the romance writers alone. Fantasy depends on having believable characters, and if every character acts like a monk . . . is that believable? Romance is also a very useful tool for a writer to have in her toolbox if it’s used judiciously. But that was the entire point of my post: romance in a fantasy is used for a specific end; it doesn’t exist for itself alone.

As far as Mircea is concerned, he is in the books, as is Pritkin, for plot related reasons. You’ll find out more about those reasons as the books continue. But judging him, as you are doing in your comment, as if he was a human man in a romance novel, with certain Alpha Male responsibilities towards his woman–no, just no. He is not human, he is 500+ years old, and he is not just Cassie’s lover, but also part of a magical organization fighting a war who needs her kept alive to assist with that. The actions he’s taken need to be seen in context–when were they done? Why were they done?–as well as seeing them as done by someone who, yes, recognizes Cassie’s power, but also recognizes her vulnerability in some areas.

Mircea is not going to act human because he isn’t. He also isn’t going to act like the lead in a romance novel, because he isn’t that either. He and other people in the books are beginning to reevaluate their initial impression of Cassie, and that is likely to continue. But it is a process, and their reactions to her in the past have made sense considering her age/experience level compared to theirs.

Look, don’t misunderstand me. I LIKE the romance genre; I think it can be a lot of fun. I am not trying to diss it here. But what I don’t like, and what those other authors whose comments upset you probably don’t like, is having someone pick up the books and be disappointed/angry because the characters don’t always act like those in their favorite romances. Authors WANT you to like their books. It’s how we pay the bills, okay? But that’s not going to happen if you go into a book expecting one thing and get another. A lot of romance readers like my books, but they like them because they’re different, and because they knew they were going to be when they picked them up. Not because they conform to rules of a genre I’m not writing in. I hope this clears up the confusion a little.

Q and A #50

Okay, so this is a little different. Lately, I’ve been getting these odd questions on Facebook which I’ve mostly been deleting. Because I assumed the asker was trolling, which let’s face it, happens on the internet on a pretty regular basis. But then I got another one today, and after pressing delete, I thought: wait a minute. What if she’s sincere? What if she’s genuinely confused? So then I felt bad. So, for what it’s worth, here goes.

The question du jour was: Do Mircea’s vampire’s disrespect Cassie because Mircea disrespects her, and they’re taking their cues from him, or what?

Okay, so this is a loaded question making certain assumptions which are open to interpretation. Like, that the vamps do disrespect her, which I would argue isn’t the case. You have to remember that they’re used to thinking of humans as fragile, weak little creatures who haven’t lived very long and don’t know much. They aren’t used to giving any human the respect they would give the average vampire, much less the respect due to a master, so it’s a learning curve. But they are learning.

It’s slow, and comes in fits and starts, and in time of stress they still have a tendency to revert to the old “protect the tiny flimsy creature” mentality. But things are changing. You can see that in how Marco’s conversations with Cassie change over time, how he lets her fight her own battles with the witches in Tempt the Stars, how he is realizing that she will come and go as she likes and he’d better just learn to roll with it, etc. The senate, too, just got a glimpse of what a Pythia can do at the end of Hunt the Moon, which prompted them to sign the alliance treaty Mircea had been working on. So disrespect? Not hardly. But changing minds takes time, and ideas that ingrained aren’t going to completely flip overnight.

The second part of the question was about Mircea. And while there’s a whole sea of things I can’t talk about with Mircea because of the risk of spoilers, I really don’t need to in order to answer this question. What I do need to do is make a point about the difference between the romance you see in romance novels and that which you find in fantasy books. Even fantasy books, like mine, that incorporate romance on a fairly regular basis.

In romance novels, the romance is the plot of the book. It is its own reason for existing. It’s why people are reading: to see these two characters come together, overcome their differences and live happily ever after. In a fantasy novel, the romance may be there in lesser or greater amounts, but there is a big difference: the romance is not the plot, it is there to serve the plot.

Example number one: Lord of the Rings.

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In Tolkien’s masterpiece, Arwen and Aragorn’s romance is kind of a big deal. Not because it takes up a lot of room in the book (it doesn’t) but because it provides Aragorn with his reason for doing what he has successfully avoided for most of a century, and go after his birthright. He doesn’t want to be king. He has major issues with putting himself in a position like Isildur’s where, if he screws up, he can take a whole kingdom along with him. He has a serious inferiority complex when the novels start, leading him to assume that the same weakness that destroyed Isildur is lurking in him, waiting for a chance to ruin everything all over again. So he does what you might expect, and runs as fast as possible from any hint of his supposed “destiny.”

At least he does until Arwen.

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Aragorn didn’t want the crown, but he did want her. And the only way to get her, as Elrond made clear, was if he became king. So, to win the woman he loves, he risks taking on the leadership role he doesn’t want, wins the war and becomes the king he was always meant to be. There was nothing else that was enough to make him risk that, besides the idea of losing the woman he had loved passionately, hopelessly, and for most of his life if he didn’t. The romance wasn’t a big part of the books in terms of space, but it was huge in providing Aragon’s motivation.

Example number two: Game of Thrones.

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Cersei and Jamie’s forbidden, incestuous relationship is one of the major pillars of the work.  If they hadn’t fallen in love, hadn’t gotten involved despite being siblings, hadn’t had three children from their relationship, then the War of the Five Kings would never have happened. There would have been nothing for Ned Stark to find out, nothing for him to write Stannis about, no challenge to the throne if King Robert’s children had actually belonged to him instead of being illegitimate products of incest. Cersei and Jamie’s relationship helped set up the whole series, and was central to almost everything that came after. But was it romance novel material?

Lol, no.

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Look, she’s all mad because he lost a hand. Just wait until the sept, Cersei.

My point is that, whether a romance is sigh-inducing, like Aragon and Arwen’s, or cringe-inducing, like the Lannister twins’, all fantasy romance is there for plot related reasons. It is not there for its own sake. It is not there to be some kind of primer on how to have the perfect relationship (although I would argue that getting relationship advice from romance novels is also probably not the way to go). It is not there just for the heck of it. It has a job to do.

So, back to Cassie and her guys. The plot related reasons her relationships exist have, in some cases, already become apparent, others will come out as the books move along. But her relationships all have a reason for existing outside of themselves. They are important, but not in the same way that they would be in that genre I’m not writing in. So can I please stop being asked why the men in the books are acting according to what would make sense for their characters in a fantasy novel, and not like leads in a romance? Can I? Please?

Thank you. Herein ends the rant.