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What Stace had to say on Tuesday, July 17th, 2012
I have more to say about online drama etc., but I’m not going to say it today. Instead I’m going to talk about cake. Okay?
Yesterday was Mr. Kane’s birthday. And not just any birthday. His fortieth birthday (*cough* I remind you he is older than me *cough*). So, you know, that’s a Big Deal Birthday. And I wanted to do some Big Deal Stuff for it. We got him a BluRay player (well, to be fair, it was kind of for all of us) and a few other things, too.
But I wanted to do something special for the cake. First, I wanted to make a cake; well, I pretty much had to, because cakes you buy here are invariably gross and covered in fondant icing or whatever other roll-out paste icing they sell, and it tastes like shit and eating it is like trying to gnaw on the skin that develops on top of custard. After it’s been sitting out overnight. Seriously. It’s pretty much all you can find. SO gross.
So I had to make a cake, which is fine; I like making cakes. And–since we’re in Special Birthday time–I wanted to do a Special Cake, instead of just a regular vanilla cake or chocolate cake or whatever. I was going to do a pina colada cake, but since Mr. K knows I hate both pineapple and coconut he said I should make something I would like, too. So I thought and I thought, and I thought and I thought. And I thought, we miss Florida a whole bunch. And Mr. K is a Florida boy, having been born there. And this is the anniversary of that Florida birth.
And so I thought, “What about key lime cake? What if I could make it taste like key lime pie, even?”
Well. Here’s the fucked-up thing. Go try Googling “key lime cake.” Here, I’ll do it for you. Now, just look at those results. Do you know what 99.9% of them are? Boxed lemon cake mix, mixed with a box of lime Jell-O. Lemon cake mix and lime Jell-O. I ask you. Do you want to serve that to someone for a Special Birthday? Even if I could get lime Jell-O here, I wouldn’t touch that. That’s like telling someone they should eat more fruit and handing them a bag of Fun Dip. There are occasional mentions of this being great-grandma’s superspecial key lime cake recipe or a special secret old family recipe, which, you know, that’s fine if you’re a Yankee, I guess. I also found a few that were just white cakes with lime curd or key lime frosting, which wasn’t what I wanted (one that was a sort of graham-cracker cake with key lime filling & frosting intrigued me, but again, no such thing as a graham cracker here. I do want to give that one a try one of these days, though).
Anyway. Not only did the lack of recipes hurt me, the two I did manage to find called for–of course–key lime zest and key lime juice. Well. I dare you to find a key lime anywhere in England. I dare you. You won’t. And contrary to what some people would have you believe, there IS a difference in flavor and you CAN taste it.
So here I am trying to make key lime cake that tastes like key lime pie, without key limes, in England. I spent a couple of days studying the two recipes I found, and recipes for other types of cakes, and websites about the science of cakes, etc. etc.
Another complication, but a minor one: I don’t like zest, because I am very sensitive to little bits of stuff in my food. I do have lime oil, though, which I bought at Selfridge’s last month (it came in a little gift pack with lemon oil and orange oil, and I used the lemon oil last week to make the most awesome lemon bundt cake ever).
Remember, I wanted the cake to taste not just like key lime, but like key lime PIE. I wanted that particular creaminess, that sort of soft-sharp flavor that you only get with key lime pie.
All I can say about the result is that after Mr. K took a bite, he said, “It’s key lime pie!”
So here’s what I did.
In a large bowl I sifted together:
3 Cups AP flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
a slightly rounded 1/2 tsp salt
and set it aside to wait.
In another bowl, my largest bowl, I creamed:
2 Cups granulated sugar
1 Cup unsalted butter
and then added 4 large eggs one at a time (I beat each egg slightly in a measuring cup before adding)
To that wet mix I added (and mixed):
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 tsp lime oil
1/8 Cup lemon juice (this is to add tartness to the lime to simulate the flavor of key limes. If you have access to real key limes and want to use them, use 1 1/2 Tbsp of zest and 1/4 cup of juice)
In a measuring cup I stirred together:
1 Cup buttermilk
1/8 cup sweetened condensed milk
And added the flour and the buttermilk mixtures to the sugar/butter/egg mixture alternately, starting and ending with the flour.
Now. Everyone knows that real key lime pies without coloring are a sort of pale yellow-green shade of ivory, barely a color at all. I wanted to duplicate that (all the recipes I saw added food coloring to make it really green), but my batter wasn’t quite right. So I had some green paste food coloring. I touched it with my fingertip and swiped said fingertip against the beater of my electric mixer, then, well, used the mixer. It added the very faintest greenish hue to the batter. Score!
This was enough batter to make four 8″ cakes. I only used three for the layers. You know the pan-prep drill, I assume: butter it, lay down some parchment. Or use a non-stick spray or whatever combination you like (no Pam here either). These ended up taking about 28 minutes to bake at 325F, but my oven is slow and rather wonky–it’s like thirty years old, and actually has open flames at the back–so you might want to experiment.
Now, the frosting. The batter was pretty key-lime-pie-y, but I knew the frosting needed to make up for some of the lost creaminess and tanginess and “coolness.” The recipes I found called for a regular cream cheese frosting, and I like cream cheese frosting, but I also had that can of sweetened condensed milk open, and I had whipping cream in the fridge…
This is sort of a cream cheese frosting. If you’ve ever made that, or buttercream, you know it’s not really an exact science; you sort of play with it until it’s the consistency etc. you want. Also, I had no idea how much I would need so ended up making a ton. But here’s basically what I did:
creamed about 2 Tbsp of unsalted butter with 2-3 Tbsp of cream cheese (full fat)
Added a cup or so of icing sugar (it’s what they have here; not quite the same texture as powdered/confectioner’s sugar, at least so it seems to me, but I could be wrong) in 1/3 cup batches, beating well
Did that again. Somewhere in the middle of that second cup I added a Tbsp or so of sweetened condensed milk
Yummy, but not enough. So I added more sugar. Then a splash of whipping cream. Then a dab more cream cheese when it seemed that flavor was being lost. Then more sugar and another Tbsp or so of sweetened condensed milk.
All told I used about 1/3 of a can of sweetened condensed milk, about 2 Tbsp of whipping cream (basically half-and-half), about 2 Tbsp of 2% milk, about 4 Tbsp of cream cheese, and probably 6-8 cups of sugar. But oh man, this is a yummy frosting, and it absolutely MADE the cake; it added the right creamy tanginess to make it definitely taste like key lime pie.
The cake was lovely. Not dry. Not heavy. I do think next time I’ll increase the lemon juice to 1/4 cup instead of 1/8. I’m also quite curious about what would happen if I cut down the sugar a bit and subbed sweetened condensed milk for some of the buttermilk; we’ll see. I’d originally thought of subbing cream cheese for some of the butter, but was worried about that giving the cake a too-thick pound-cake-type texture; I may try that at some point, though, too.
But all in all I was quite pleased, and Mr. K. loved it and that’s what matters.
The cake (keep in mind, I am not a professional cake decorator. At all. I fail at cake decorating):
So there you go. Isn’t it nice to just think about cake for a few minutes?
What Stace had to say on Wednesday, July 11th, 2012
Guys…what the fuck is going on?
Seriously. What the fuck is going on here?
I honestly don’t even know where to begin, or what to say. I find myself growing more and more disturbed by things I’m seeing lately, on an almost daily basis. Like, to the point where I’m beginning to wonder if perhaps writers and readers simply should not interact with each other at all. Like, to the point where I’m considering withdrawing from the online world more than I already have (which, I’m sure none of you have noticed because you have full and busy lives, but is a bit).
It seems like almost every day we have yet another bag-of-douche acting like a fucking…I don’t even know what a good analogy is. Like a fucking vindictive shithead, vomiting their poo all over the internet and delighting in making other people feel bad. They claim this is justified, that they are Taking A Stand.
Guys…at the risk of Godwinning, reviewers are not Hitler. They’re not Mussolini. They’re not Pol Pot. I’m not aware of a single reviewer who has actually, say, kidnapped an author and tortured them in the basement, no matter how offensive they may have found that particular author’s book. I’m not aware of a single reviewer who has committed mass human rights offenses, or has engaged in some sort of cover-up, or has stolen money from people, or whatever other actions that might constitute, you know, actual activities a serious and definite stand should be taken against. For that matter, I’m not aware of a single book that has bombed spectacularly because some people got upset about it on Goodreads. The books that (appear to have) started this whole mess? Hardly failures.
I’ve been hanging around the online reading/writing community for seven years now (“Lane, I’ve been going to this school for seven years now. I’m no dummy.”). In that time I’ve seen quite a few authors behaving abominably. I’m only aware of one whose behavior was execrable AND whose books were not successful, but in that case, actually, I think the lack of sales has more to do with the fact that her books were utter shit (and even then, there were several poor misguided souls out there who liked them. Which is their right. I just personally thought the books were garbage).
So let’s get this straight, and let’s say it in boldface so there is no mistaking it:
You are not Taking A Brave Stand when you “out” people on the internet, no matter how rude or nasty you may think that person has been. You are not Exposing Their Crimes At Great Risk To Yourself. You are not a Miraculous Crusader For The Rights Of Others. You are not Karen Silkwood. You’re not even Woodward & Bernstein. You’re just an asshole with no perspective, to be honest.
And you should be fucking ashamed of yourself.
I’m ashamed of you. I’m ashamed to share internet space with you. You make me sick to my stomach.
Ever hear the phrase “Two wrongs don’t make a right?” Why don’t you think for a minute about what that means? Even IF–for the sake of argument–even IF we take your thesis as a given: That there is a segment of people online who secretly hate certain authors and delight in ripping them to shreds, and who get off on the sense of power they get from insulting and hurting and misrepresenting authors who they know can’t fight back, and who honestly believe they have the power to hurt the careers of those authors…
Even if we take that at face value…
How exactly is outing those reviewers on the internet HELPING anyone? How are you making yourself look like anything but a miserable, bullying piece of shit? How are you doing anything but making the tension in reader-writer relations–a tension with which I admit to being increasingly uncomfortable with every new kerfuffle–WORSE?
And you’re a fucking hypocrite. Outing people from behind the veil of anonymity. Yelling at people for daring to express opinions while behaving as if every word you type is precious and golden. Deciding it’s your place to attack people you deem “bullies.” (By the way, I’m also not talking about the difference between bullying and what you seem to think is bullying, and how offensive that is, and how I’m tired of seeing people hide behind the buzzword-of-the-day to justify their own complete lack of human decency.)
Honestly, I’m not just angry and sick about this. I am both of those things, intensely. I’m furious. I’m horrified.
But I’m also disheartened. I’m so tired of it all, you guys. I’m just so fucking tired of it all.
You know what? I’ve been on the receiving end of internet rage. I’ve had things I said misrepresented. I’ve gotten hate email–more than once. I’ve found people saying the most vile and hurtful things about me, lying about me. It wasn’t nice. It wasn’t fun. It didn’t feel good. It still doesn’t. I’ve seen it happen to others, too. And I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.
I’m sick of the goddamn internet feeding frenzy. I’m sick of feeling like we’re all trapped on the island from LORD OF THE FLIES.
But you know what? If it’s anyone’s responsibility to put a stop to that shit, it’s MINE. I am the product creator. I am the merchant. I am the content originator. In other words, I am the one with the responsibility to guard my public image, to guard my art, to guard my integrity, and to watch how I represent myself. You could even say–and hell, for the sake of argument I will, even though it sounds egotistical and I really don’t think of it this way–that I have a responsibility to set an example.
I cannot control the behavior of others. I CAN control my own behavior.
Here’s the thing. Have I seen situations where I feel statements or actions of writers have been taken out of context, or overreacted over? You bet your ass I have. Has it upset me? Hell, yes, it has. Has it happened to me, where something said in one spirit was taken in a completely different one? Regular readers know it has (and I won’t even discuss in this post the sexism of that situation, or of this one, though I may do that soon. Suffice to say at the moment that I’m sick and tired of the attempts made to keep women and their opinions in line while no such offense is taken when men say the same things, or of women being yelled at for their “tone” and “attitude” whereas no one does the same at men. Ever visited a heavily male site like Aintitcool? Why don’t you go take a look at the vitriol there, and say something about it? Oh, I know. Because you’re too busy being an asshole about women who dared to step off the very narrow path of behavior you deem appropriate).
But here’s the other thing.
If writers never went crazy and unloaded on readers, if they never did things like try to out them or get their little friends to vote down their reviews or report them to try to get them deleted…if writers never sent nasty emails to reviewers or threatened to name AIDS-infected prostitutes after them (because that is so totally hilarious, yo) or tried to get them banned from websites…if writers never sent emails out to their cronies asking them to write positive reviews of their books or leave comments on less-than-positive reviews on retail sites or blogs…if writers never took to the internet to bitch and moan about those stupid readers who dared to not like their books and what morons they are and how they don’t deserve to live…in other words, if the idea of a writer cheating, gaming the system, and generally acting like an entitled little shit had never occurred to anyone? If all writers behaved with integrity? If no writer had ever behaved as though readers are nothing more than their personal publicity service with some kind of duty to help them promote their work? If no writer had ever behaved as if readers have no right to express an opinion?
Well, gee…if no writers had ever behaved like that, do you think readers would be so anxious? Do you think they would interpret any sort of comment by a writer on or about a review (and keep in mind I disapprove of writers commenting on reviews at all, this is just a general question) as an attack or attempt to intimidate? Do you think all this shit would have started in the first place?
Because I kind of don’t.
The fact is, the burden is on us. No, I didn’t start writing with the intent of being a Public Figure. Yes, I do find it upsetting that writers have to be so careful what we say, not just about reviews but about anything and everything else. But hey, that’s part of the job. And it’s easy to forget that it’s not just writers. It’s not an outgrowth of “celebrity.” It’s an outgrowth of having your thoughts and opinions exposed to a large group of people. Sooner or later somebody’s going to take offense. If you say something to enough people that will happen. That’s just the way it goes. I find it upsetting no matter who it happens to; I wish and wish that we could all remember those people on the other “side” of the computer screen are people, with thoughts and feelings. Maybe they’re having a bad day. Maybe they’re lonely or sad. Maybe they’re just not thinking about everything they say with the gravity Lincoln afforded the Gettysburg Address. People make mistakes. People mess up. People forget their audience, or fail to phrase something exactly, or whatever else. I hate that people are so eager to leap onto others like a pack of wild dogs. I hate that we seem to think the internet means it’s okay to say anything to anyone, about anyone, with no consequences. But you know what? People get carried away, too.
It’s easy to look at the current climate and talk about how ugly it is. And it is. Not all of it, but a segment of it. I know I’m not the only one growing increasingly disgusted by it, increasingly uncomfortable with it, increasingly angry and upset. I know I’m not the only one who’s been seriously reconsidering my participation online. I know I’m not the only one who finds the tendency toward outright glee when someone makes a mistake, the way everyone jumps in to laugh and point, to be highly disturbing.
But the answer is not to jump in and out-disgusting the people you feel are disgusting. The answer is not to forget your responsibilities to other people. The answer is not to create a website so full of vile slime and attacks, a website that deliberately tries to disrupt lives and could potentially incite violence–a website that outs mothers with children in their homes and encourages people to harass them (think about that again for a second: MOTHERS WITH CHILDREN IN THEIR HOMES)–that it turns the stomach and then pat yourself on your smug fucking back like you’ve just Scored One For The Good Guys.
YOU ARE NOT A GOOD GUY.
You are, in fact, the opposite of that.
I’m sorry this is so disjointed, and confused. I’m sorry it doesn’t make my point as clearly as I would like. I’m just too sick and sad and angry and upset and whatever else over this. It is horrifying. HORRIFYING.
I may well discuss this more later.
What Stace had to say on Tuesday, June 12th, 2012
Since I got so many entries, I decided to go ahead and pick two winners:
@thelisa (Twitter name)
Midnightblooms (Goodreads/Twitter name)
So, ladies, contact me asap with your mailing addresses so I can get those out to you! Thanks to everyone who entered!
What Stace had to say on Wednesday, May 30th, 2012
First…OMH, y’all, FINDING MAGIC is going to be on sale in like five days. Holy crap! And CHASING MAGIC in less than a month.
(BTW, for those curious…yes, that is basically Chess’s natural hair color; maybe not quite that blond, but definitely a lighter color. She’s naturally quite pale.)
Anyway. It just occurred to me this morning how close we are to release for that, so…eep!
But it’s not what I’m discussing. This is something I’ve thought about for a while, off and on, and I think will be interesting. It’s not meant to be advocating anything, At ALL. Especially not human or other mammalian sacrifice; for the record, let me state clearly that I DO NOT CONDONE OR ADVOCATE HUMAN SACRIFICE OR SACRIFICE OF OTHER LIVING BEINGS. PLEASE DO NOT SACRIFICE HUMANS OR OTHER LIVING BEINGS. EXCEPT MAYBE FLIES AND COCKROACHES. BUT EVEN THEN I DO NOT CONDONE OR ADVOCATE RITUAL SACRIFICE. I just thought it might be an interesting topic, and maybe an interesting discussion. Maybe something to think about as we write and/or as we read. It’s a “generic” topic, in that it’s not really inspired by any particular event (at least not in the writing world). It is, I admit, a *tad* inspired by someone I saw on a totally nothing-to-do-with-writing-or-books-at-all website. This person was claiming, with breathtaking…uh, well, ignorance…that “Ancient Wiccans” used to be PROUD when their child was chosen to be the “spring sacrifice,” killed, and its body stuffed into a tree trunk.
No, I am not joking.
But we’ll leave aside the idea of “Ancient Wiccans,” because frankly that’s not a subject I want to get into. We won’t even really get into the idea of babies stuffed in tree trunks, which is just immensely disturbing.
What we will talk about is sacrifice, because I’ve heard and seen far too many things about this, for years, where the idea of “sacrifice” is taken incorrectly. IMO. (But I’m right.) (And note that this doesn’t relate to the type of sacrifice that is literally just about death, as in several books I’ve written and many, many others other people have written. Those were not religious sacrifices.)
The thing is, a sacrifice is supposed to be–should be–a sacrifice. This is why although I love the original film THE WICKER MAN–and I do–the “sacrifice” depicted doesn’t count. It’s not a sacrifice. The residents of Summer Isle deserve to have their crops die, because they may be obeying the letter of the law but they are certainly not obeying the spirit.
Why, you say? Well, I’m glad you asked.
Because a sacrifice is supposed to be a sacrifice. It’s supposed to be giving up something of value to you, to your community. It’s supposed to be causing yourself pain and suffering to prove your loyalty or worthiness or love/adoration for your deity, to acknowledge their godhood. A sacrifice is supposed to be you giving something up.
The residents of Summer Island did NOT sacrifice anything. They gave nothing up. A sacrifice is supposed to be personal, not a good reason to grab a stranger, murder him, and walk away whistling without a second thought. A sacrifice is supposed to be one of your own, one of your community. When you sacrifice a human being (and again I am NOT advocating such in any way, shape, or form), you’re proving your love for your God is higher than any human love. You’re giving up not just a person you love but another hand in the fields, or another pair of eyes to watch the children. (You’re also confirming your belief that this life is less important than the next, and that the sacrificed soul will live in eternity with the God and all of that etc.)
If you believe such things, God didn’t ask Abraham to sacrifice some guy off the street. He asked Abraham to sacrifice his own son, Isaac, and he did that because a sacrifice is supposed to be a sacrifice. (That he stopped Abraham before the knife came down doesn’t change that proof, although I frankly wonder how comfortable family dinners could have been after that.) For that matter, if you believe such things, God sacrificed His son Jesus to prove His love for humanity. He didn’t do it because he thought it would be a hoot. He didn’t grab somebody at random or just strike Jesus with lightning while Jesus walked down the street minding his own business. He didn’t do that because that is not a sacrifice. He sacrificed his son, and he did it (or had it done) in a very big public way, because THAT is a sacrifice, and THAT proves/proved (again, if you believe such things) his love for/devotion to humanity. That sacrifice was a covenant.
And not only is a sacrifice supposed to be personal, a sacrifice is supposed to be hard. It’s supposed to hurt. If you stand around beaming while your baby is taken from your arms and stuffed into a tree, you haven’t just made a sacrifice (and you’re a really cold bitch, frankly. Like, so cold I shudder thinking of you). You’ve just handed over something that means nothing to you, is what you’ve done. Because if it meant something to you you wouldn’t be grinning with pride; if it was truly a sacrifice you wouldn’t be happy. Or even calm and resigned. You might be understanding. You might be dully accepting. You might, if you’re very devout, be sort of pleased, in a, I-still-feel-sick way, that you’ve had a chance to prove your devotion. But you’re not going to feel good and happy, brush off your hands, and say, “Awesome! That’s done. Let’s go have some pie.”
What devotion does it prove, to hand over something you didn’t give a damn about to begin with? What is the point of sacrifice if after it’s done you shrug and go about your business?
The idea that understanding why a sacrifice needs to be made means it’s okay or right or normal to feel nothing about the sacrifice is ridiculous. The idea that, for example, there’s any way a woman could sacrifice her baby and feel nothing but pride and/or satisfaction is ridiculous. Animals–even cats, who are often called “bad mothers”–don’t just hand over their defenseless babies to predators with nary a qualm.
Anyone remember ROSEMARY’S BABY? Wherein Rosemary was drugged and raped–and thus impregnated–by Satan, in order to birth the half-devil child who would bring about the apocalypse? Anybody remember how Rosemary discovered this plan, and went into the nursery with a knife to kill the abomination, but then she saw him, and biological instinct or whatever kicked in and she thought, “Well, he’s half me. Half human. Maybe I can raise him right, and teach him. Maybe he doesn’t have to be evil.”
Guys, that baby had a tail and horns, if memory serves. But his MOTHER couldn’t bring herself to kill him. His mother wanted to try to save him. I’m not going to say you’re a terrible mother if you do actually kill the horned, spike-tailed baby that you know for an indisputable fact is born directly of Satan, but I will say that if you can do it without even blinking an eye or feeling the slightest qualm, I wonder about you a whole, whole lot.
And if you can do it without blinking an eye or feeling the slightest qualm–even a purely selfish one, as in, “I wasted nine months being pregnant and I have nothing to show for it”–then you have not made a sacrifice.
It is a myth that people stood around grinning when it was their turn to be or make a sacrifice. No, they didn’t. If they did it wasn’t a sacrifice, it was just murder.
Sacrifice is supposed to hurt. It is supposed to elicit an emotional reaction. It is supposed to be painful. It is supposed to be…a sacrifice.
If you’re writing, your characters need to have actual feelings about things. If you’re reading, you should expect characters to have actual feelings about things. “Sacrifice” does not mean “easy.” It should at least be a complex decision.
What Stace had to say on Monday, March 26th, 2012
My goodness, it’s almost here! Can you believe it? Because I sure as fuck can’t.
So. I moved house this weekend, from Bedfordshire back to Devon (the hubs works there/here; he’s been commuting for a few months while we waited to see if the position would become permanent, and since it has, here we are). Really not the best weekend to be moving, but what can you do? And it’s actually awesome. In Beds we had a little two-bed flat, a teeny place. I liked it, but it was teeny. This “new” place–and I say “new” because the house is almost two hundred years old, it was built in the 1830s–has four bedrooms, a front room, a dining room, a huge kitchen, a laundry room, one full bathroom and two half-baths. And three fireplaces. It’s pretty incredible. And the best part is that it’s owned by a gentleman my husband works with, so we’re paying very little for it (which is how we’re able to afford it, frankly). Like, we pay £20 more per month for this than we did for that little two-bed flat. So, we–I–feel extremely lucky, which is nice because I could use every bit of luck I can find this week, quite literally. Please luck please.
So, the house is amazing–it even has a front staircase and a back “servants” staircase–but man, is it filthy. FILTHY. Like, filthy to the point that I don’t even know where to start. (I have started, in the kitchen, but you know what I mean.)
Anyway. This explains, basically, why I haven’t been around much this last weekend. (I also don’t have internet, really–the BT guy is here now–so am using a pay-as-you-go dongle from 3. Which I really have to recommend, if you’re in the UK; it’s lovely and fast.) (ETA: The BT guy decided he didn’t feel like actually connecting anything or doing anything, so while the phone was technically switched on, the only working jack is above the front door. No, I am not kidding. He told me I should call an electrician if I actually, you know, want the phone jack somewhere else. He didn’t have any wires/cords with him to even just allow us to plug in the phone somewhere else. Thanks, BT. And it especially sucks because he was kind of cute [not that I’m looking] and seemed so nice. Anyway.)
I do have some pictures of the house, if anyone wants to see them?
SO. Moving on. There are some new reviews, and TWO interviews up with me today! (A reminder, since it’s been a while: All links on my blog open in new windows/tabs.)
An interview at BadAss Book Reviews, where we discuss characters and character flaws, and have a bit of fun.
An interview at Red Hot Books, where we discuss the Chess/Terrible relationship and what’s in store a bit.
Both interviews were a lot of fun to do, and I hope you go read them and comment and ask more questions or whatever.
The lovely ladies at Stellar Four review SACRIFICIAL MAGIC:
Readers of Stacia Kane’s Downside Ghosts series, let me reassure you: The things you love about the series abound in Kane’s fourth novel, Sacrificial Magic. Terrifying ghosts. Malicious evil-doers. Magic, both pure and vile. That distinctive Downside cant. And — perhaps most importantly for many of us — the crackling, fraught passion between Chess and Terrible.
Cathy at Greyt Thoughts says:
So, to try and sum things up a little bit, Chess’s emotional story, both the romance and the drug addiction, as well as her strength and bravery when it comes to doing her work and defending the people she cares about, adds tremendously to the fact that these books are serious novels with a lot of layers to explore, not just light adventures. They’re still a lot of fun to read, don’t get me wrong. The mysteries are exciting and interesting. It’s not going to depress you, I’m super sensitive to that, I hate dark and depressing books. The balance it terrific, it’s fun, exciting, thoughtful and smart writing with layers that will leave you thinking for a long time to come. I really recommend this book and this series.
Under the Covers gives it five feathers:
Ms. Kane is one of the very few authors that can make me feel a myriad of emotions, all in one book. Sacrificial Magic is no different.
From the amazing writing, to the non stop story and characters that have stolen my heart. Sacrificial Magic will take you on such a ride, I really didn’t want it to end. THAT I CAN GUARANTEE!
Last but certainly not least, Red Hot Books says:
It’s like watching a star explode: It’s beautiful and destructive and you can’t take your eyes off of it. And before I convince you that it’s all heartwrenching sadness, remember that joy and elation I talked about earlier. It’s not all one way or another. This book took my emotions on a roller coaster. When it was over, my heart was in my throat; I felt satisfied and exhausted; and I’m already dying to get back on the ride. If you have never read this series or if you gave up on it early, you are truly missing out. 5 stars.
…I think that’s it for new reviews, and as always if you’ve written one and I haven’t mentioned it, let me know it’s out there!
And tomorrow is release day, and I am panicking.
What Stace had to say on Sunday, March 18th, 2012
Just a quick weekend note to say that the first chapter of SACRIFICIAL MAGIC is up on the book’s shiny new page (the site’s been updated, so you can see more foreign edition covers/links on the main Books page, too) and that, on that same page, you’ll find a free PDF download of the first three chapters!
I hope you all enjoy it!
What Stace had to say on Saturday, March 10th, 2012
I figured what the hell, I’ll post it now.
CHASING MAGIC was the overwhelming winner! And I’ve tried to pick something that gives some hint of Big Things happening but isn’t a spoiler–this is NOT a spoiler, this excerpt, so don’t worry. It is, as requested, a Chess/Terrible moment, and I get a kick out of it and I hope you guys do too.
For those who don’t want to see anything from CM until after SM comes out, I’ve hidden it under a cut. So, without further ado…
Read the rest of this entry »
What Stace had to say on Friday, March 9th, 2012
So thanks to all of you, Chess won the first round of the Suvudu Cage Match! Look at that, 68% of the votes! YAY!
And epp! Because this means she goes into Round 2, where she will be “fighting” Brandon Sanderson’s Kelsier. Who can manipulate iron, which as you all know is rather a large part of our Chessie’s magical arsenal. Which means, yeah, I’ve got some serious work to do here. I *do* have an ace up my sleeve, of course, but the question is do I want to play it now, or do I want to hold on to it in case she advances further?
I believe Round 2 will be posted on Monday.
I also believe–well, no, I know for a fact–that I promised to share a new excerpt for every round Chess wins. So you tell me, which book do you want an excerpt from for Round 1, SACRIFICIAL MAGIC or CHASING MAGIC? Let me know, and I’ll post it on Monday. (And again, if she wins Round 2 I’ll ask again and post another one.)
You guys are so awesome! I hope you’re having fun with this, too. Writing Chess battling the sorts of characters/creatures she’s not usually up against is a hoot, it really is, so I hope you enjoyed her battle against Babcock and will enjoy her battle against Kelsier. Which is gonna be HARD, yo.
Also either later today or over the weekend or Monday, I will post SACRIFICIAL MAGIC’s playlist!
I’d do a poll here but apparently don’t have that capability. So you’ll just have to “vote” in comments: SACRIFICIAL MAGIC or CHASING MAGIC for the excerpt?
What Stace had to say on Friday, March 2nd, 2012
This is something I’ve wondered about for a while–a long while, actually–and a discussion elsewhere has finally prompted me to go ahead and ask. (I want to emphasize that this is all just hypothetical/what ifs/conjecture; I’m not strictly endorsing any of these ideas, just thinking aloud and providing talking points.)
How do we all feel about heroes who masturbate? Especially when thinking of the heroine?
It’s not something we see often, is it? Which is kind of funny, actually; I think this is maybe one place where female sexuality is permitted more expression, because it’s not uncommon to see female MCs engage in a little solo play, but it is–to my knowledge–quite uncommon to see men do it, especially to see them do it to completion. I’ve read a couple of books where the hero perhaps starts to do it, but then realizes what he’s doing and stops himself, for various reasons (“What I’m doing is disrespectful to her/I’m too grown up to do this,” that sort of thing).
Are men just supposed to have more “control” over themselves/their desires, or are they simply supposed to want to only share sexual experiences with the heroine and if she’s not there it’s empty? Is having control over his sexual needs to the point of being able to sublimate them completely another way that the hero becomes the ubermensch: extra strong, extra smart, extra brave, extra controlled? Is he supposed to be so devoted to his heroine that he refuses to or just doesn’t want to have any kind of sexual feelings or release unless she’s involved?
Maybe we just don’t find the mental image of the hero having to wipe off his stomach or rinse the shower walls or whatever afterward to be all that sexy? I mean, even if we find the act arousing/interesting/understandable, thinking about him messing about with a handful of sticky tissues after just…maybe feels a little “teenage boy,” or just a little silly or embarrassing or whatever. Or perhaps it’s because of the porn money shot, which seems to appeal to men much more than women (I’m not saying it absolutely does, just that it seems to be aimed [no pun intended] at men; to my [admittedly sketchy] knowledge, many of the porn films put out by all-female or female-run production companies, or aimed specifically at the female audience, don’t tend to depict the money shot with such vigor and focus and don’t tend to focus so much on “Look! Semen!” as the ultimate sexy sexiness). I mean, again, female masturbation is depicted maybe not regularly, but certainly more often than male, and there’s generally little cleaning up to do after; most women don’t have to check the walls or furniture to make sure no stray fluids shot over there. (Yes, I know about Rainwoman, but she’s hardly the norm.)
Is there something just sort of inherently non-heroic–inherently sad, embarrassing, or pitiful, even–about thinking of the hero all by himself with a head full of fantasies and a bottle of lotion, or something?
Do we perhaps expect him to sate those desires by sleeping with some other woman, and isn’t that sort of worse, really–using some other chick’s body while in his head he’s banging the heroine? Does it change if he feels guilty about it, or doesn’t intend to use the other woman in that way but realizes midway through that he’s pretending she’s someone else?
It just seems to me that, while I would never say “all men masturbate*,” I’m sure a healthy proportion of them do at least occasionally. I find it hard to believe that NO hero in any novel which involves a sexual/romantic relationship ever finds himself trying to sleep one night with a body that absolutely refuses to let him, or finds himself practically unable to walk, especially in those early stages where he’s obsessed/consumed/whatever and is practically a walking hormone. And yet while it’s often considered sexy for the heroine to masturbate thinking of the hero, we almost never see the hero do it (again, from my reading; I freely admit I don’t read very much romance/erotic romance these days if any, so there may well have been a revolution in male masturbation in the last few years). Like I said, I did read it a few times, but the hero never went on to orgasm without the heroine’s actual involvement, i.e. she caught him at it and encouraged him to continue, perhaps lending him a helping hand, or, you know, a helping vagina. (Here, let me loan you this vagina. It’s the helpful sort. Hee.)
Does it feel objectifying, like he’s reducing her to mere jerk-off fodder in his head? Especially if their relationship isn’t yet sexual, does it seem almost like he’s mentally molesting her–taking what he wants without permission, mentally “having” her even if she hasn’t given him permission to do so yet in real life?
Is it maybe that in the world of novels aimed more toward women, with a female audience, men are the ones whose sexuality shouldn’t/doesn’t exist outside female involvement? We’ve all had the uncomfortable sensation of being undressed by a man’s eyes without our permission, so maybe it’s just not something we want to think of a man doing without our knowledge. Or are women simply more uncomfortable with the idea of masturbation in general? I’ve known more than a few women for whom the idea of their boyfriends/husbands watching porn or masturbating is very uncomfortable, even upsetting. So is the idea that the hero shouldn’t be masturbating related to that, or an extension of that, or even a perpetuation of that?
Do we simply not want to write male sexual fantasies? We live surrounded by them; male sexual fantasies are everywhere. Maybe we just don’t want them in our fiction; maybe we want books aimed at women to be about female sexual fantasies, if there are any fantasies being shown, and men can keep theirs to themselves (or, you know, out in popular culture where they are now.)
What do you think? Do you want to read that, or not? Why, if you’re comfortable sharing? Would you feel differently about a male character shown masturbating? What about the “starts to but then realizes he’s doing something wrong” idea/scene? Is the hero masturbating sexy and a sign of how badly he wants the heroine, or is it distasteful or a turn-off? Why? Do you agree or disagree with any of my conjecture?
*I personally dislike the broad assumption that all men or all women masturbate but just refuse to admit it, and that if someone denies it they’re automatically lying. Making such assumptions about the sexual expressions of other people strikes me as rather rude, and taking their denial as a sign that they’re liars just ashamed to admit it is especially rude. Sure, perhaps some people who say they don’t are lying, but I find it hard to believe that no one is being truthful when they say they don’t. There are indeed people who just don’t, for whatever reason, and that’s just as fine and valid as being someone who does.
ETA: Let’s assume for the sake of the discussion that there is a way for the masturbation scene to advance story, plot, and/or character, okay? Obviously we all know that sex-for-sex’s-sake is unnecessary, and I’ve written more than once about that subject here. I’m not so much interested in structure and whether or not the scene fits as in how people feel about those scenes and whether or not they’re sexy/unappealing/whatever, or whether people think another way should be found to advance story/plot/character that doesn’t involve masturbation.
What Stace had to say on Tuesday, February 14th, 2012
My little Downside romance short story, HOME, has been published on the HeroesandHeartbreakers.com website, free to registered members. Go here to read it and comment on it!
HOME is, as I said above, a romance story; this is the one I originally wrote for the MAMMOTH BOOK OF GHOST ROMANCE but pulled over the whole “gay stories aren’t romance” thing. So it’s definitely romance; it’s about love and relationships and all of that, and I think it’s rather a sweet little tale (though not too sweet; this is Chess we’re talking about here). SPOILERY (highlight to read): And for those of you who’ve wanted a chance to see Chess and Terrible just being happy together, here it is.
The story will be up free for one week, after which it’ll be pulled and released for sale in April (I believe). So please do go register now and read it, or you’ll have to wait a few more months!
A little excerpt:
“Love is not the most powerful magic. But it feels like it is.”
—Truth for Teens, a Guidebook for the Young Adult, by Elder Carroll
Most—no, all—of her cases started the same way: A homeowner or building resident called the Church to report a haunting. The Church assigned a Debunker to the case to investigate the haunting and hopefully disprove it, to make sure the person in question wasn’t just faking in order to get a nice fat settlement in exchange for the Church’s failure to protect them from the dead.
After all, just because the population was smaller thanks to Haunted Week twenty-four years before, when the ghosts had risen and killed every living person they could, and just because the Church of Real Truth was in charge now, didn’t mean people didn’t still need money. They did. Just like Chess. She needed money for food, for rent, for the electric bill and the cell phone bill and all of those other things. And of course for drugs: the things that made her life worthwhile.
So Chess worked, and she worked hard, and she’d handled a lot of cases and gotten a lot of bonuses for disproving a lot of hauntings. But she’d never had a case before where a neighbor called the Church to report the ghost and the homeowners insisted there wasn’t one.
I really hope you all enjoy it!