What Stace had to say on Wednesday, August 5th, 2015
On Mysteries

Around 7 pm on the evening of November 30, 1948, a man and his wife took a walk along Somerton Beach in Adelaide, Australia, and noticed a man slumped against the seawall about sixty feet away. As they watched, he lifted his right arm–rather weakly–and let it fall to his side again. The two didn’t think much of this, and kept walking.

About half an hour later, another couple noticed the man. This time he didn’t move; in fact, insects were visibly flying around him. The couple figured he was just drunk, and moved on.

The next morning–around six-thirty–a group of people on horseback noticed the man, still in the same position. This time, someone called the police (actually, the person who called was John Lyons, the man who’d seen that weak wave at seven the night before; he’d gone back to the beach early, saw the crowd on horseback, and realized they were looking at the same man, in the same position).

The man was dead. He has never been identified. Nor has a cause of death ever been positively established–the autopsy assumed some sort of poison was probable, but no toxicology tests found any poison (and of course, many poisons were not able to be identified in 1948).

He carried no wallet, and the labels in his clothing had been removed. His fingerprints were taken, but no matches were found. Police distributed pictures of him to all the major newspapers and contacted relatives of all the missing persons they knew of in hopes of identifying him, but no one came forward.

None of his other physical characteristics helped, either. He had a few small scars, mostly on his inner left wrist and inner left elbow. He had attached earlobes, a very rare physical trait (incidentally, Hugh Dancy from Hannibal has this same trait, and I had to force myself to stop looking at it during the first few episodes because that, combined with the way they’d styled his hair, made him look really Hobbit-y to me. I digress, and spoil the mysterious mood). This earlobe attachment is a trait found in only one or two percent of the population, just like the way the upper cavity of his ears was larger than the lower one. His feet were uncalloused and his toes had grown close together in a way that made his feet seem almost pointy; combined with his high, tight calf muscles, this led some to believe he was a dancer.

The items in his pockets yielded nothing that led to an identification, either. At the time of his death he was carrying an unused train ticket from Adelaide to Henley Beach, a bus ticket from Adelaide to Glenelg, a half-full pack of Juicy Fruit gum, a quarter-full box of Bryant & May matches, one or two combs (I’ve seen it listed as both one and two), and an Army Club cigarette pack which held seven cigarettes of another, more expensive brand called Kensitas. When he was found, a half-smoked cigarette sat on his right shoulder, possibly dropped when he made that last wave at pedestrians on the beach.

About six weeks after he was discovered, a suitcase was discovered in a train station locker. Circumstances indicated strongly that the suitcase belonged to the Somerton Man (it had been deposited at the train station at 11 am on November 30 and never claimed, among other things) and authorities were very hopeful, but this too yielded nothing of real use; a few items in the suitcase were labeled either “T. Keane” or “Kean,” but no missing persons named “Kean/e” were reported, and it’s believed that Somerton Man, knowing his own name was not Kean/e, thus didn’t bother to remove labels that couldn’t be traced back to him.

The contents of the suitcase were perplexing in other ways, too. Some items were American, others Australian. He had airmail cards, which indicated he’d been sending–or planned to send–mail overseas. He carried stenciling equipment, but his clean, well-manicured hands indicated he didn’t do that kind of work for a living. He had a soapdish with a hairpin in it. He had a small screwdriver, and a cut-down table knife.

None of that helped identify him.

Then, in April 1949, an expert was brought in to re-examine the body. The expert, John Cleland from Adelaide University, found a previously-unnoticed small pocket in the man’s trousers, which contained a tiny, tightly rolled piece of paper. On that paper was printed, in elaborate script the words, TAMAM SHUD. Cleland immediately recognized this phrase from THE RUBAIYAT OF OMAR KHAYYAM; translated, the phrase means “Finished,” or “The End.”

However, no one could find an edition of the RUBAIYAT which contained those words in that script. Remember, this was at a time where copyright laws were not as well-enforced, and it wasn’t unusual for a publisher to simply put out its own edition of a work without permission, or for people to have their own copies bound, or any combination thereof. The edition which contained those words in that script was not found…

…until July of 1949, when a man from Glenelg came forward with a copy of the RUBAIYAT and an interesting tale. He’d found the book, he said, tossed into his car at Somerton Beach the year before. Someone had torn the words “TAMAM SHUD” out of that copy, and the tear exactly matched the paper in the Somerton Man’s pocket.

The book yielded a couple more clues, too: two phone numbers on the back cover, and indentations that, when examined under ultraviolet light and traced, appeared to make up some kind of code:

somertonmancode

…which really didn’t help them at all. Neither did discovering that although the book’s copyright page claimed it had been published by a New Zealand company called Whitcombe & Tombs, Whitcombe & Tombs claimed they’d never published an edition that matched the one that had belonged to Somerton Man.

They tried calling the phone numbers, one of which belonged to a woman called “Jestyn,” who had worked or was about to work as a nurse. Jestyn–who died in 2007, and whose real name is now known to have been Jessica Harkness Thomson–said she had once given a copy of the RUBAIYAT to a man named Alf Boxall, but not that copy. That was proven when Mr. Boxall was found alive and well, and still in possession of his intect copy signed by Jestyn.

jestyn claimed not to know anything about Somerton Man, but it’s widely believed that she did know who he was; her reaction on seeing the bust taken of his face was apparently rather obvious. And her eldest son (also now deceased) had the same unusually shaped ears as Somerton Man. But just because a genetic trait is rare doesn’t mean people are automatically related, and just because a man had a woman’s phone number doesn’t mean she knows him, etc. etc. All Jestyn could tell the investigators is that around the time Somerton Man was found, her neighbors had told her some man showed up looking for her at her house, but she didn’t see him and didn’t know who he was. (Jestyn, by the way, lived only blocks from where Somerton Man was found.)

No one has ever cracked the code written in the book.

Somerton Man was finally buried in June 1949, unidentified.

You guys, this KILLS ME. Who was he?!? How did he die? Was he a spy, as some people theorize? What was his relationship with Jestyn? Why did she look like she totally knew who he was but deny it? What was he doing there? Was he there, as some theorize, to see her, and the boy who might have been his son? Did he commit suicide, and TAMAM SHUD was all he needed as a note–but why was it hidden, then?

I’m going to talk more about unsolved mysteries and such later–this is getting long–but here’s the reason I’m specifically bringing up this case.

Professor Derek Abbot, who did this fascinating AMA about the Somerton Man and is considered the world’s authority on the case, and who runs these very informative Wiki pages, has started a petition to get the Adelaide authorities to exhume Somerton Man for DNA testing.

Please sign it. There are apparently some poor people in this world *coughtotallynotmecough* who literally stay awake at night wondering about this case (and others like it) and wishing like hell that there was some sort of closure because we seriously want to tear out our hair from curiosity.

And we’ll talk more about mysteries and the lure of them and the unbearable frustration of the unsolved later.

ETA: Just to be clear, the above is by no means an exhaustive list of the facts and curiosities in the Somerton Man case (also sometimes referred to as the “Tamam Shud” or “Taman Shud” case). There’s tons more curious and interesting info to be found if you follow the links or Google it or whatever.

What Stace had to say on Friday, July 31st, 2015
Argh

Okay, there will be a new post on Monday, because I’ve had a cold (I’m finally better now) and this week got sooo far away from me.

But I’m still here, I just don’t have a finished post and it seems silly to post it late on Friday night.

So, see you Monday, for some ranty goodness and such.

(I’ve just spent like an hour trying to find an adorable image or funny gif or something to put here, but couldn’t find a good one. So no funny image for you. Sorry.)

What Stace had to say on Saturday, July 18th, 2015
Another Year, Another Key Lime Pie Cake

Some of you may recall several years ago that I concocted a key lime pie cake for Mr. K.’s birthday, and it turned out very nicely. It’s actually become something of a tradition–if three years is enough time to call something that–that Hubs gets something key-lime-y for his birthday (last year I made a key lime pie ice cream, which was okay, but I put too much lemon in it so don’t consider it a major success).

Anyway. Thursday’s key lime pie cake (Mark II) was a roaring success: white cake with layers of key lime, whipped cream and crumb-crust.

Read the rest of this entry »

What Stace had to say on Monday, July 13th, 2015
GoT and stuff

The hubs’s work sometimes involves working with various charities, and last night we all headed down to Castle Drogo for the “Jazz at Drogo” event to support Cancer Research UK. It was a lovely event despite the weather (the music wasn’t my thing, but oh well) and the girls had lots of fun wandering around the gardens, which really are gorgeous, and getting a peek inside the castle during a reception at the beginning.

It turns out that the castle was named for its original owner, Julius Drewe, and the town it’s near/on the edge of, which is called Drewsteignton. It further turns out that Drewsteignton is named after its founder, a Norman baron named Drogo de Teigne, also known as Drewe de Teigne. So apparently “Drogo” means Drewe. Which immediately put me in mind of…

Hello. I'm King Drew.

Hello. I’m King Drew.

My friends call me Andy.

My friends call me Andy.

…which I know is kind of silly, but it made me giggle a bit anyway. (And really, any excuse to post pictures of this man is a good excuse, isn’t it?)

We enjoyed this latest season of Game of Thrones, though yeah, it wasn’t the best season there’s ever been. I’m kind of amused by all of the “new” theories popping up about Jon Snow, though, which aren’t new at all. I mean, I’ve (still, to my shame) never read the books and I figured this one out some time ago; that’s not meant as an insult to anyone who didn’t, but it’s ingenuous of a few TV reviewers to behave as if this is something they just invented.

For me (and for a lot of others, I think), reading the reviews and recaps is kind of an essential part of the whole viewing experience, which is amazing since ten or fifteen years ago we didn’t have anything like that. Now it’s a whole cottage industry, isn’t it, with written reviews and whole YouTube channels dedicated to discussions of TV shows. I’ve watched a few of those–I often watch movies or TV or listen to podcasts or whatever (look, I am SO modern and hip!) while washing dishes or cooking or puttering in the kitchen, as is my wont.

Anyway. I have an odd little theory of my own, which is probably utter crap. But here goes.

So this is the Night’s King:

Hiya. My name is not Drew.

Hiya. My name is not Drew.

There’s a whole little backstory to the Night’s King in the books, wherein (I’ll spare you from clicking, but this article on Vulture is interesting) he was the 13th Commander of the Night’s Watch (Jon is the 998th, so that’s a lot of years in between) and fell in love with a creepy white-skinned women and blah blah blah love turned him Eeevil and such. And his name isn’t recorded anywhere, and there are a few suspects, but some people think he was a Stark.

I think he was a Targaryen. Because dragonglass and fire. And dragons, which, see any resemblance?

Not the best angle for comparison, but it's hard to get imaginary creatures to pose for pictures.

Not the best angle for comparison, but it’s hard to get imaginary creatures to pose for pictures.

(By the way, in one of those recap shows, they were discussing the CGI of S5 Ep9. “He looked just like a real dragon!” one of the guys enthused, and while I knew what he meant, I had to pause it because I was giggling so hard at the idea that this gentleman thought dragons were real, and was pleased that the CGI guys had managed to recreate them so well on screen for those who had not yet made the journey to see one themselves. Presumably at the zoo in Valyria, or something.)

And maybe a dragon who “turns to the dark side,” or something, can be destroyed by the things that come from dragons, or, I dunno, I thought it was kind of a fun little idea, anyway. If I’m right I’ll be amazed. But half the fun of shows like this is having theories and imagining ways to predict where they’re going or what something means; not in a bizarre “The Shining is about the subjugation of Native Americans” way, but in a fun, “hey, this would be cool, wouldn’t it?” way.

Anyway. I’d intended to blog about something else today (actually it was supposed to go up last week), but I didn’t have it finished for today and I wanted to get something up, so here it is. I am still hard at work, oh me oh my.

Oh, here’s a rather dumb little gif.

nightskingapples

What Stace had to say on Wednesday, July 1st, 2015
I Aten’t Dead

Good lord! I cannot believe it’s been so long since I’ve updated here. And this is not going to be a long post (sorry), but I do have some nice long posts planned for the next few months.

I’ve been very busy–mostly working (I have given myself carpal tunnel, bleh) but also dealing with some family-related things; my MIL has been ill and there’s been some time-consuming things going on with the girls–nothing bad, just time-consuming.

I know that you’re all eager for news of the sixth Downside book (which I have tentatively titled UNHOLY LUCK), and I can say that it looks like a Feb 2016 release date is planned. So not long now! I’m also working on a new project, and of course I have the next Terrible-POV book, and a few other things which I can’t wait to tell you about (and will, as soon as they’re more than files on my hard drive).

I’m so sorry I’ve been neglecting the blog. See, I’m a bit of a procrastinator and a big Avoider Of Things. So I’ll post something, and for the next week or so I think, “Oh, I just posted.” Then the next few weeks are full of, “I don’t want to post some crappy little meh thing, I’ll wait til I have something valuable to post.” Then comes the “Oh, I’d love to blog about That and That and This, but I’ll write it at the weekend when I have some free time.” Then the weekend comes (and seriously, this isn’t like a one-time thing, this happens constantly) and I think, “Better to just write it and post it directly.”

Then I think of writing it, and realize it’s, like, Friday at 5:00, and think, “I’ll wait until next week, so I can post it early in the week as opposed to the very end.”

This goes on for a month or two, and then I start panicking. “It’s been So Long, so loong, since I posted, I’d better have something really big to say, or they’re gonna be so mad at me.”

Next comes, “I don’t want to come back to the blog with a big old rant about something, like I didn’t stop blogging for a while at all. I need to find a nice little thing to post, to dip my toe back in the water, so to speak.”

Oh, and there’s also the “I’d love to blog about X issue, but my blog isn’t that kind of blog.”

And the “I’ll post it on Facebook. Lots of people are on Facebook, right? So it’s an update from me but I didn’t have to go into my website, which makes me feel guilty and bad because it needs to be updated.”

All of this, btw, has a strong undercurrent of, “Damn it, Stace, nobody gives a shit about you scrubbing your floors or making window screens out of net curtains or the nest of blackbirds outside your bedroom window and how you bought a bird feeder/bath, and how stupidly enthralled you’ve been watching the birds while you wash dishes. They want news and they want book info, and you’re just going to piss them off if you tra-la-la onto here nattering on about whatever random crap pops into your head. Don’t waste your time blogging about other stuff; just get the fucking book(s) done. THEN you can blog again.”

There was also a period of “Shit, WordPress has issued like three updates, and I can’t even get into my site because I’m still running the old version, ack!”

Then we reach the big Avoidance phase, where I just pretend the blog doesn’t exist. This is where I was, until about a month ago, when I skipped back to the “I have stuff to say, just not enough time to say it,” and “They’ll want a big update,” and “I need to stick my toe in first before posting big long rants.”

So here is my toe. It is very sorry it’s been away, as is the rest of me (well, the rest of me is sorry that all of me has been away; it doesn’t really care about my toe).

And I DO have stuff planned. I have some thoughts about happy endings and moral superiority, and various other things, and I do want to prep some fun stuff that I’ve had planned for a while.

…assuming anyone wants to hear about it, of course.

I have missed you all, and am so grateful for your comments on Twitter and Facebook and all of the emails I’ve received.

What Stace had to say on Wednesday, January 21st, 2015
Spoilers

(No, there are no spoilers here, or rather, not of any of my work. I promise.)

A few weeks ago I had the misfortune of catching the movie The House at the End of the Street on TV. I say “misfortune,” because no one watching this thing could ever feel that they were experiencing anything but bad luck, or the laughter of fate. It’s not that it’s an awful movie; that’s the problem. It’s not interesting enough to be awful. It’s just dull, a series of nothing moments that lead to nothing, and every time the movie makes you think something interesting is about to happen, it decides instead to show you another very dull or pointless thing.

This isn’t a movie review, or rather, the movie itself isn’t the subject of this post. Spoilers are the subject of this post, and it was conversation about this movie that inspired that subject, so I’m talking about the movie as background and example. And along the way I’m just saying–for informational purposes, really–that The House at the End of the Street pretty much sucked, despite its rather interesting and spooky-sounding premise.

Here is that premise: A girl and her mom move into a big expensive house on a secluded street. The house across the street (or behind them, I’m not exactly sure; what I do know is that neither house was actually at the end of a street) was the scene of a murder years before, wherein a teenage girl murdered her parents and then presumably drowned, though they never found her body. The movie give us one moment of “Hey, what’s that? That’s creepy” when Elisabeth Shue (who plays the mother and looks gorgeous) sees a light on in that house, and looks scared by it. Lucky for us, though, the movie is quick to reassure us–almost immediately, in fact–that there’s nothing to be frightened of, there’s just a dude living there. No ghosties or anything, just the son of the murdered parents/brother of the murderous sister, who is around twenty-one now. He was away visiting an aunt when the murders occurred, so of course, like any normal young person, he wants to keep living all alone in the big huge secluded house fifteen miles outside of town where his parents met their violent ends at the hands of his sister. Makes sense to me, sure.

So. There’s some dumb scene with a subplot or something with some guy who skeeves all over Jennifer Lawrence (and, okay, I’m sorry, but I don’t get it. I do not see the “OMGMOSTBEAUTIFULGIRLEVERANDSOCHARMINGANDTALENTEDTOO” thing. Sure, she’s a pretty enough girl, but so is just about every other young actress. JMO.) and her walking home from a party; it’s a ten-mile walk, we are told, so it makes sense that she wouldn’t try to get someone else to take her or attempt to call a cab or anything. A Mysterious Guy drives past and asks if she needs a ride; she wisely says no, but then it starts to rain and she gets in the car after all.

It turns out–here’s where the post topic comes in–that this guy is Ryan, the suburban murder-house hermit. It turns out he’s taking classes at community college, slowly making his way toward, and saving up for, a four-year college education. Anyone might be forgiven for thinking, “Dude, if you sold that enormous chunk of real estate you rattle around in by yourself, you could skip the community college,” but apparently it’s all Ry-ry has to remember his family by, and that’s why he stays, all by his lonesome in a house where his family were slaughtered in a town that openly loathes him. Yes, Ryan, I’m sure your parents would want you to struggle and be ostracized in their death house because pictures just aren’t enough sometimes.

Anyway. We meet Ryan. He drops Jennifer Lawrence at her house and goes home. We watch him for a minute or two as he wanders around, a tiny lone figure in a huge house, and makes some soup from a can or something (it might have been spaghetti-Os? I don’t recall). He puts the food on a tray and heads downstairs into the basement, where he pulls back a rug on the floor to reveal a trapdoor, which he lifts, which reveals a whole ‘nother underground hallway–I mean, not a tunnel, but a full-on hallway–which leads to a locked door (he leaves the key above the doorframe, because why would you keep that key with you?), beyond which is a small bedroom, and in that bed is a girl in a slightly ragged nightgown with semi-ratty blonde hair. The girl sort of grunt-screams and tries to attack him, but he sedates her with one of those tranq syringes it’s so easy for people to acquire just in case. “Calm down, Carrie Ann,” he says, and we in the audience stop rolling our eyes and guffawing long enough to gasp! In shock! Carrie Ann is the name of his murderous sister! Clearly he, when he was a teen, dug and remodeled this sub-basement to keep his sister a prisoner because he loves her and can’t let the law or a hospital have her (or maybe his parents did so, because they wanted an extra guest room and thought it would be fun to treat their guests like prisoners at a gulag? Maybe they just really wanted to dig out a secret room under their house as an experiment in engineering? Maybe they planned to mine coal in secret, for kicks?)! Clearly, this is why he stays in town–it’s not the memories, it’s so he can keep his sister locked in this sub-basement rather than keeping her in some other above-ground bedroom somewhere nobody knows them and thus would not recognize her! Clearly he keeps her there because it would be awful to alert the authorities and thus get her the help she needs! It makes perfect sense!

Now. At this point we are barely thirty minutes into the film. We have just met Ryan, and the camera has essentially stayed with him from the moment he meets Jennifer Lawrence all the way through his fascinating food-making and into the basement to his conversation with and drugging of Carrie Ann.

I went hunting around for reviews and such of this film, and found many that mentioned this plot point: Ryan lives in the house and keeps Carrie Ann in his basement.

Every one of those reviews had someone–often numerous people–bitching about the “spoiler.”

You guys, something the movie shows you in the first half-hour is not a spoiler. It’s a plot point.

When a movie introduces you to a major character in that first half hour, and follows him back to his house to show you-the-viewer what’s in his amazingly professionally-finished sub-basement, that’s not a spoiler. That is a character and plot point that the movie wants you to know before it goes any further.

When a movie’s trailer essentially says to you, “ZOMGYOUGUYS CARRIE ANN’S LIKE TOTALLY STILL OF THE LIVING CHECK IT OUT” by showing you characters conversing with and about Carrie Ann…that’s not a spoiler. It is a plot point. (Seriously. That shit is in the trailer. See for yourself.)

A spoiler is something the movie makers (or author/s or songwriter/s or whatever) want to keep hidden. When M. Night Shyamalan made The Sixth Sense, he did not, in the trailer, show any bits of the film’s final scenes. He did, however, include the kid whispering, “I see dead people,” which tells you that it’s not a spoiler to say the movie is about a kid who sees dead people. In fact, even without the trailer, it’s not a spoiler to say the movie is about a kid who sees dead people, because not only is that a pretty intrinsic part of little Cole’s character, which we as viewers are shown this pretty much right away when we’re introduced to him, but it’s an intrinsic part of the movie’s plot.

So, to get to the essence of my point, I personally think any events which take place in a movie’s first half hour or so–or the first third or so of a book–or any character points which are brought to light while we are introduced to that character, are not spoilers. They’re plot points which must be laid in place before the rest of the story can unfold. Every damn thing is not a spoiler.

What do you think?

(Oh, and if you’re curious, the House at the End… movie goes on to be a basic, and very dull, sort of quasi-slasher movie, where people do stupid things for stupid reasons and it never occurs to anyone to call 911 like a normal person would do, and it’s all just dull, dull, dull. It’s not even fun to make fun of, it’s so dull and insipid.)

Also not a spoiler: I’ll have some news for everyone soon.

Also also not a spoiler: I have been very busy lately, making lots of new words.

What Stace had to say on Friday, November 14th, 2014
FIVE DOWN updates!

Okay, if you pre-ordered or have ordered since I posted Wednesday, you should have received either:

fivedowncover23

A. The file in the format you requested; or

B. An email from me asking what format you need.

If you pre-ordered or paid and have NOT received the file, please email me and let me know right away! I am 99.9% certain that everyone is taken care of, but in a situation like this I don’t want to assume and have you end up not getting something you should have.

Please note that all emails and files were sent to the email address listed by Paypal! (Unless you specifically requested otherwise in the Notes or Instructions.) So if you use AwesomeReader@gmail as your primary account, but have your Paypal set up under your old AwesomeReader@hotmail account or something, any correspondence from me would have gone to the hotmail account.

Now. As for the PDFs: I am having an absolute bitchfuck of a time trying to get the Table of Contents to work. I’ve done all of the things I was supposed to do and fiddled with all of the things I was supposed to fiddle with and it is just not. fucking. happening. So, rather than make anyone wait any longer, I’ve sent out the ToC-less PDFs, so at least you have them. I think this weekend I’m going to try re-formatting the entire thing from scratch, and see if maybe that fixes it. In that case, I’m happy to send new files to you PDF folks.

Also! It is UP on Amazon! It’s right here, for your Amazon-purchasing pleasure. (Link will open in new window/tab.)

I’m still waiting on B&N, sigh.

But, for you Nook-ers (or anyone else who does not want to buy from Amazon/doesn’t have a Kindle/whatever) you can still buy it directly from me.

The price is $3.49 (US$). Paypal is apparently set to GBP, in which case it’s apparently £2.20 at today’s exchange rate. Please let me know in the Instructions or wherever what format you want: .mobi, .epub, or PDF. (If you forget, no big deal; I’ll just email you and ask which you need, which is not a problem.)





Whatever you decide to do, thank you! It’s really exciting to see how enthusiastic you all are, and the lovely comments you’ve made so far about the new story PLAYING WITH FIRE have really been awesome to see. I’m so, so glad you like it!

What Stace had to say on Wednesday, November 12th, 2014
FIVE DOWN is available!

If you pre-ordered back in July, you should have* woken up this morning (awakened this morning? I never know which is right) to find a shiny new copy of FIVE DOWN, the Downside anthology, in your email inbox!

fivedowncover23

Yes, it’s finally here! I know, it seems like it took forever, and believe me it feels that way to me, too. But I’m really, really happy with how it turned out, and I hope you will be, too.

As the title implies (and the cover outright says), it’s five stories. They are:

RICK THE BRAVE (from the HOME IMPROVEMENT: UNDEAD EDITION anthology)
HOME (a Heroes & Heartbreakers original)
CLOSE TO YOU (a Heroes & Heartbreakers original)
KEEPING IT CLOSE (web original)
…aaaaaand a brand new novella (33k words) called PLAYING WITH FIRE, which has spontaneous combustion and divided loyalties and a confrontation and big decisions and a character or two who I’m pretty sure will be back again in later books.

Which does NOT mean that you MUST purchase and read the anthology in order to not be lost in later books. Think of PLAYING WITH FIRE as sort of like FINDING MAGIC: nice background, but not absolutely necessary. I dislike the idea of forcing people to buy extra content/previously published content if they want to understand later events, so I haven’t done that here. But I do think PLAYING WITH FIRE is a nifty novella, and Chess actually gets to have a little fun with another Church employee, which was kind of cool to do. Plus, again, spontaneous combustion!

I added a little intro to each story, just a note on where the idea or characters came from, or what influenced it, or whatever. I didn’t do much of that with PLAYING WITH FIRE, though, to avoid being spoiler-y.

I have begun the process of getting the book uploaded to Amazon and B&N. iBooks/iTunes is going to be quite a bit trickier, I’m afraid, since I no longer have a Mac–I actually have not even installed iTunes on this computer–and that seems to be a necessary part of the process. So we’ll see how that goes (we had some difficulty getting WRONG WAYS DOWN onto iTunes as well; it took like an extra couple of weeks).

BUT!

This book is different, and the process is different, so here’s what I’m doing.

You may remember how we ran KEEPING IT CLOSE through Paypal, and then I sent out the completed story file to those who requested it? It worked pretty well, I think, so I’m going to do the same here. If you do not want to wait for the anthology to be loaded onto your ebookstore of choice (I may or may not do a print version, I haven’t decided, but I can’t get that going until I have a PDF, and PDFs are unfortunately not quite ready–see below * section, sigh), you can go ahead and use the Paypal button to, well, pay for the book, and I will send you your copy in your preferred format as close to Immediately as I possibly can. (With KEEPING IT CLOSE I managed to be pretty damn close with the majority of requests; I think a couple of people may have had to wait a couple of hours, and in rare cases it was overnight–time zones, you know–but overall turnaround was pretty fast.)

I realize this isn’t ideal, but it’s the only way I can think of to make sure everyone can get it in their desired format, right away. And you are welcome to wait, of course. (Again, if you want PDF please give me another day or two!)

The price for the anthology is $3.49 (that’s US dollars; Paypal is apparently set to GBP, in which case it’s about £2.20. So if it won’t let you submit a dollar amount, go for that).





*Or, well, if you pre-ordered AND included what format you prefer. A few of you did not specify, and I’m in the process of emailing you to ask which you’d like. Also, a couple of you asked for PDF, which is unfortunately taking me just a tad longer to put together. I’m so sorry about that!

Want another excerpt? Here you go!

Instead a new man—an Inquisitor Third, obviously the guy in charge since the others were uniforms—arrived, spoke to one of the initial responders, and then approached her with a hesitant smile on his pleasant face. “Chess? Do you remember me?”

The second he said it, she realized she did. Of course she did. It wasn’t easy to forget the brother of an Elder Chief Inquisitor, especially when that brother had been only a year ahead of her in Church training. “Well, hey, Will, how have you been?”

“Not bad, not bad. It’s good to see you.” He tipped his head toward Ella’s corpse, now being photographed by the Body Removal Squad. “You know, if you wanted to catch up, you could have just left me a note or something.”

She fought back her smile. Will always had been fun to talk to, though they’d probably only spoken a handful of times. “Nah, that’s boring.”

“A lot safer, though. What happened?”

She gave him a quick run-down, and agreed to hang on while he talked to the other witnesses. Which gave her time to think, too, about what the hell could have happened to that poor waitress. How had she burned up so fast? How had that fire started? It was so hard not to start talking to the witnesses herself, not to dig in and start investigating. No, it wasn’t a Debunking case, but it wasn’t like she’d been given a decent Debunking case in the last few months. And really, she’d done enough non-Debunking shit for Bump that it hardly seemed to matter anymore.

But she couldn’t. She especially didn’t think she could go shoving herself into a case being handled by someone whose family name carried serious weight in the Church, and who was himself probably on a fast-track to further glory. The fact that he couldn’t have been more than twenty-six and was already an Inquisitor Third told her that.

All of which meant she was going to have to sit this one out, and hope she got an update when it was all over.

She’d just come back in from having a cigarette when Will motioned for her to join him near the back of the room, by the soda machines and kitchen entrance. The smell of hot oil and bacon drifted through the gaps around the flimsy two-way door as she sat in one of the chairs that had been placed on the grimy floor. Hopefully somebody had turned the fryer back there off, because another fire was the last thing they all needed.

Will sat in the chair opposite and scanned the written statements in his hand. “So you didn’t see the fire start?”

“No.” It was unnerving to be the subject of official questioning, rather than the questioner. It had only happened to her a few times in her cases—she never closed a case without solid, inarguable evidence, and the Church almost always got a confession anyway—but even when it had, she’d been backed up by the Church, testifying on their behalf. This was not the same.

Nothing in Will’s demeanor indicated he thought of her as a suspect. Why would he? Everyone else had seen that fire start, too, and they knew she hadn’t been touching Ella or standing next to her or whatever. But she still had to fight the instinct to clam up, to tell half-truths or deny everything. Old habits died hard, she guessed, especially when there were other kinds of habits that had to be kept hidden.

“You just felt the heat and turned to see her on fire.”

Chess nodded. “I’d only just looked at her when the flames started to die, and then the other waitress threw water on her. That’s when she broke apart. The cook came out with the fire extinguisher but I managed to stop him from spraying everything.”

“Thanks.” Will had a nice smile; he was a decent-looking guy, actually, with short sandy hair and blue eyes. Way too preppie for her tastes even if she’d been remotely interested in any man but Terrible, which she wasn’t, but still not bad-looking. “Or, I guess Kevin should really be the one to thank you, since he’s the one who’d have to scoop up all that foam and go digging through it.”

“Kevin’s the fire investigator?”

“Yep.” Will hesitated. Like he was about to ask an uncomfortable question, or one more important than he wanted it to seem. Hmm. “Did you feel anything before the fire started, or notice anything strange?”

“She was really hot,” she said slowly. Why had he hesitated before that question? What was he looking for? “She came to drop off our drinks, a couple of minutes before it happened, and I noticed she looked really overheated. But she seemed fine, she was smiling and energetic.”

“Nothing else?”

“No” was just about to jump off the tip of her tongue, when she remembered it wasn’t entirely true. “There was, actually. When she gave us our drinks…”

Shit shit shit, this was so fucking embarrassing. “I felt sick when she got close. But it didn’t feel like how magic usually feels, and my friend and I—I just thought it was the heat outside catching up with me, or something.”

Amazing. Lex could fuck things up for her by just being mentioned in a conversation.

“Do you think maybe you were picking up something from her? Her energy, I mean. Maybe something was wrong with her?” Will was looking at her very oddly. Very closely. What the—shit. Fuck, he could ask her to take a blood test, couldn’t he? He could search her bag.

Okay, now she was being ridiculous. Calm down. Yes, he could, but he probably wouldn’t. Why would he? Unless she started acting like she was nervous and high, of course.

“I don’t know,” she said, knowing it sounded cagey but really not sure how to change that. “I don’t know what happened.”

What Stace had to say on Thursday, September 11th, 2014
A little bit, and more

Well, what a month it’s been. My oldest daughter had a birthday, I had a birthday. The children spent a week with their grandmother, and I–who was convinced this would be the greatest week I’d had in years–actually spent a large chunk of that time moping and wishing they were home. How pitiful is that? I was ashamed of myself. Almost as ashamed as I was when, the night Mr. Hubs delivered them to his mother, I actually was afraid to go to bed by myself, although in fairness I have to say that this is a big, old house, which makes lots of bizarre creaks and pings and noises in the night. Almost as ashamed as I was when I realized, at about nine o’clock that night, that with no husband or kids in the house I could watch whatever I wanted on TV and there I was watching Goodfellas on DVD for the millionth time. Not that there’s anything wrong with Goodfellas, of course–it’s one of my favorite movies, as evinced by my having seen it like a million times–but I can watch Goodfellas anytime I want when the kids are in bed or at school or whatever, whereas bad TV about plastic surgery disasters or documentaries about murders or whatever else only air at specific times and I usually never even find out they’re on.

Also, I was sick last weekend. Stomach bug or something, I don’t know, but it was awful.

What else? Hubs and I have been watching Twin Peaks and this Venezuelan soap opera called Eva Luna, which is dubbed in English. The dubbing is…interesting, I’ll just put it that way. But it’s fun. I wish my Spanish was better, because the telenovelas always look like the coolest things ever.

Anyway. Enough about dull things like me. I meant to post this last Friday (but again, sick, bleh) so here it is today: a little sneak peek from the newest short which will be part of the collection I’m hoping like hell to have out this month. (As usual, this isn’t copyedited so may change slightly when published.)

The Perfect Plate was a sort of overdressed greasy spoon, squeezed in between a dry cleaner and a dollar store in a bland-looking strip mall a few blocks away from Church headquarters. The food there pretty much sucked, but that didn’t matter. It wasn’t like Chess was going to eat anyway.

What mattered was that the place wasn’t in Downside, which made it a place she could meet Beulah for lunch without people noticing them together. Word that Bump’s Churchwitch was hanging out with the sister of his rival, Lex, would travel pretty fast; word that Terrible’s girlfriend was hanging out with Lex’s sister would travel even faster. Nobody would be happy about that.

It was a good thing she’d spent her entire life keeping secrets. Otherwise she might wonder if she was ever going to be able to just be honest with other people. Other people besides Terrible, at least.

Speaking of secrets…she dug her pillbox out of her bag, grabbed three Cepts from it, and choked them down dry before she got out of the car and made her way through the heavy, steamy heat toward the restaurant.

Ice-cold air blasted her the second she opened the door, instantly chilling the sweat on her skin. It took her eyes a second to adjust to the dim interior—well, dim compared to the sunlight outside, so bright it felt like an assault—to see Blue already there, lounging at one of the little tables in that elegantly lazy way she shared with Lex. Her white sleeveless top exposed bare golden-skinned shoulders; her hair was up in a perfect messy twist, and her black cigarette pants probably cost more than Chess’s base monthly salary.

She smiled when Chess sat down. “You’re late.”

“It’s only five past.”

“Five minutes late is still late.”

“Well, you’re still a bitch,” Chess said, “so I guess we’re even.”

“True.” Blue straightened in her chair and picked up the menu. “Are you eating? Am I actually going to see you consume food?”

Chess shook her head, just as the waitress arrived and they went through the whole dull just-a-Coke-no-really-just-a-Coke routine and Blue ordered one of those rich-girl salads that were mostly green Styrofoam and cost fifteen dollars.

“Busy at work?” Blue asked, when the waitress finally wandered off.

“No.” Damn, that came out kind of flat and cold, didn’t it? “It’s just, August is a really slow month. It’s been a really slow summer.”

Blue’s slightly raised eyebrows showed that she’d caught the lame repetitions of ‘really,’ and knew what they were hiding. “And I guess it doesn’t help that you’re not the most popular girl in the place these days.”

“I guess it doesn’t.” That was an understatement. Ever since Elder Griffin found out about the psychopomp hawk she’d killed and the illegal sigil she’d carved on Terrible’s chest to save his life, he’d been, well, less than enthusiastic about her.

To be fair, at least she was still alive. Both of those crimes were executable offenses, and if Elder Griffin had turned her in for them she wouldn’t have been sitting there whining to Blue. She wouldn’t even have been in the City of Eternity, the enormous cavern beneath the earth where the spirits of the dead wandered in endless silence. She’d be in the spirit prisons, her soul forced into solidity by electric current and tortured by fire and light and iron and whatever else the Church could think of to torture it with—and they were awfully inventive.

It was worth losing some income to stay alive and out of the City. It was worth losing every penny she had to keep Terrible alive; hell, if she had been busted and sent to spirit prison, that would have been worth it, too.

But it wasn’t the loss of income that depressed her. It was the loss of Elder Griffin himself. He’d been…he’d been her friend. More than her friend. He’d cared about her, helped her. Stood behind her. That had mattered more than she’d ever realized until the day it was gone, and it still made her chest feel hollow when she let herself think about it.

Which she didn’t want to do, any more than she wanted to talk about it for even one more second. “No big deal. How’s your thing, did you look at that place yesterday?”

A totally-not-fooled expression played over Blue’s face, but thankfully she let it drop before Chess could finish bracing herself. “I think it’s going to work, yeah. There’s enough space for all the girls to practice, and it’s not far from the school.” She hesitated. “The owner’s son asked me out.”

“Oh? What’s wrong with him?”

“I’m sure I’ll find out. Or, you know, Lex will, and he’ll tell me.”

The waitress arrived with their drinks. Good. Not only was Chess thirsty, but hearing Lex’s name, so casually, made her feel sick. It was as if a greenish lens of nausea had suddenly slid over everything. Not unusual, for thinking about him to make her feel…well, bad, but it was unusual for her to feel it so strongly.

The waitress—her name, according to the plastic tag on her white short-sleeved button-down, was Emma—didn’t look too hot, either. Or rather, she looked exactly too hot, as if she’d taken their orders and then zipped into a rubber suit and gone for a jog. Her dark hair was damp, her face flushed.

But she smiled to acknowledge their thanks, and seemed sprightly enough as she trotted off back toward the kitchen. Maybe she’d just been making out with the cook or something. Not Chess’s business, certainly, but at least it got her mind off Lex for a second and eased some of the queasy feeling. The Coke helped, too.

What really helped was the fact that her pills started to kick in, sending enough warm peace through her body that she didn’t blink when Blue asked, “Are you ever going to talk to him?”

Unfortunately, not blinking didn’t mean she didn’t still feel the hit, or that she had any idea what to say. “I don’t know.”

“It was just business. And he did warn you. He asked for your help and you said no, what was he supposed to do?”

Like what Lex had done to Terrible—trying to hire him, and then when Terrible refused, trying to have him killed—was the only reason she was pissed. It was the main reason, yes, but not the only reason at all. But then, Blue probably didn’t know about the rest of it, about Lex’s little “Too bad it ain’t in you to make that mean shit,” speech or how he’d almost destroyed everything for her just to prove he could. Somehow she doubted he’d told Blue about that, and she certainly wasn’t going to.

“Not what he did,” she said. “Kind of anything other than what he did, actually.”

Blue ignored that. “Look, I was pissed at him, too. I don’t blame you. But I know he feels bad about it.”

“I’m sure he spends hours crying from shame. Is this why you wanted to hang out today?”

“No. We just haven’t talked about it and I thought I’d—”

A blast of heat on Chess’s right side so hot it lifted her hair from her shoulder; screams erupted in the room, and Chess started moving. Fuck, what was that, had someone set off a bomb or—what the hell?

The waitress was on fire.

No, that wasn’t accurate. The waitress wasn’t on fire. The waitress was fire, a column of fire about a foot and a half in diameter that reached from the floor to the ceiling. Her unmoving black shape was barely visible through a wall of blue-orange, one arm extended like she’d been reaching for something.

It’ll be out as soon as I can get it out! It is coming along, so like I said I’m *very* hopeful for a release before the month ends. I’m hoping for the next Terrible novella to be out by the end of October, and a bunch of other stuff in the months to follow, too (including some all-new non-Downside stuff I’ve been working on), so I hope you’re as excited as I am.

What Stace had to say on Tuesday, August 5th, 2014
Judged by Netflix

Goodness, it’s been a while again, hasn’t it? I’m sorry! I’ve been working very hard, and now the girls are off school for the summer so we first had a bunch of school activities and now me trying to keep them amused. And by “me trying to keep them amused,” I mean me taking two or three times as long to do any household task because they’re “helping” me, and me teaching them how to play Solitaire in the desperate (and failed, sadly) hope that it would give them something to do other than hanging out and “helping” me with the aforementioned activities.

At the end of next week they’re going to visit their grandmother (my MIL) for about five days. I’m kind of freaking out about that–I’ve never been away from them for so long, and while I’m glad they’re going to go and hope they have fun, and I’m looking forward to the uninterrupted work time…ack, they won’t be home with me!

Aaanyway. One of the things I do when I’m alone in the kitchen is watch Netflix on my phone. Watching it on my phone means I’m limited to UK Netflix, which is frankly rather shitty, so I watch things I may not otherwise watch just because at least it’s available.

But here’s the problem with UK Netflix–it seems to be a slight issue with US Netflix, too, but to a lesser extent, because on US Netflix you can click on a category and see everything available, whereas here you only see what in that category UK Netflix thinks you might be interested in based on what you’ve watched before. Which means UK Netflix is constantly making these weird suggestions to me based on the fact that, for example, I watched ten minutes of the first episode of Sons of Anarchy before I switched to something else. (Sons of Anarchy actually seemed like a pretty good show, but one I’d have to pay real attention to, which isn’t easy when I’m watching in the kitchen because, you know, I’m cooking or doing dishes or sweeping or whatever.) I am still getting recommendations from them based on Sons of Anarchy, and that was four months ago that I watched those few minutes.

And their recommendations are, well, they don’t make much sense, because of the categories they put things in. I watched Memoirs of a Geisha one afternoon in May. I am still getting recommendations based on it, and those recommendations are all romantic comedies/chick flicks. I watched Memoirs because I read and liked the book and have seen the movie before, and because I was in the mood for something sort of historical and about Japan. So recommending Confessions of a Shopaholic to me based on the fact that I wanted to watch something historical and Japanese makes about as much sense as recommending Fatal Attraction to me because I watched a movie about bunnies (it would not surprise me to learn this actually happened).

Now, I sound like I’m whining, and that’s not my intent–I love Netflix, I really do, and hubs and I have been absolutely spellbound by House of Cards over the last few weeks. My intent is simply to use the above to illustrate why I am also afraid of Netflix.

See, I have a lot of interests, some of which are rather odd. Some of which aren’t odd at all but are rather odd for me. For example, in the last few years I’ve developed this weird but semi-passionate interest in mountain climbing. I have never climbed a mountain and I have no plans to–my idea of exercise is baking bread (you would be amazed how much upper-body strength that can require, if you’ve never done it yourself) or having to walk the girls to school instead of driving. I am not an outdoorsy girl at all; I don’t even like picnics or eating outside (I loathe insects). So while there’s nothing particularly odd about being interested in mountain climbing, it is rather odd for me to be interested in it.

But I am. So I’ve watched a lot of mountain-climbing documentaries and read quite a few books/listened to a few audiobooks. I’ve spent more time than I should online reading articles and stories (especially haunting Outside magazine’s excellent website. I even caved and bought a copy of Jon Krakauer’s INTO THIN AIR, even though I have some issues with Krakauer (I find it really annoying and borderline irresponsible the way he keeps insisting Christopher McCandless died of accidental poisoning instead of admitting the truth, which is that the kid starved to death; I found this same “I admire this person therefore they cannot have possibly made a mistake” attitude evident in INTO THIN AIR but still enjoyed the book). Documentaries on Everest? Of course. Ghosts of K2? Bring it, baby. The amazing Eiger: Wall of Death? Hells yeah. And pretty much any other doc I can find.

But here’s the thing. I find mountain climbing and, really, stories about mountains fascinating. But that doesn’t mean all of my interests necessarily follow, which is why I am afraid of Netflix judging me.

See, there’s some documentary on Netflix that looks like it could be rather fun, in a weird and ridiculous kind of way. I can’t remember the name offhand, but it’s basically a documentary that claims the Bush family was responsible for the death of John Kennedy Jr., presumably because of politics/GWB running for President in 2000–I’m not entirely sure. And I really do not mean to get into politics here (you all know this is not a political place) but I find the idea of this so, well, silly, that I would actually like to watch this documentary, because it seems like such a far-out idea that I’d enjoy seeing what evidence they’ve managed to come up with for this theory.

But when we first got Netflix, I made the mistake of watching David Brashears’ Everest documentary (the one filmed in IMAX; it loses quite a bit on a regular TV, I think, but it was still pretty good). Netflix decided that my interest in Everest must also translate to an interest in all things outdoorsy and, well, neo-hippie-like, which means that I am *still* trying to clear my suggestions of various documentaries about the evils of corporations and Enron and militant environmentalism and whatever else. It’s not that I don’t think any of those issues are important; it’s just that I don’t care about them enough to want them recommended to me instead of things I might actually want to watch. And it seems like no matter what other things I watch, no matter how frivolous they are, no matter how many times I click “Not Interested” or try to “refine” my interests, Netflix insists on suggesting documentaries about soccer and environmental terrorism to me.

So you can imagine my fear of actually watching that JFK Jr. documentary on Netflix. What would Netflix think of me then? What in the world would they start recommending to me based on that? There is no box to tick that says, “I’m watching this ironically,” or “I just think this might be amusing but it’s not a topic I care much about.” That box does not exist. Netflix insists on seeing me as, I dunno, some sort of chick-flick loving environmental activist from a motorcycle gang who likes to snowboard. I cannot imagine what they would add to that if I watched some JFK Jr. conspiracy movie. It’s at the point now where I quite literally skip watching things that might interest me because I’m worried about what dark paths of the soul it might lead Netflix down as far as recommendations.

I know this is paranoid…but I bet I’m not the only one, either. (I hope not, anyway.) Anyone else find their Netflix recommendations rather silly or impossible to change?

I will have some news-updates next week.