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Oct. 25th, 2016

10:00 am - LIES AND PROPHECY and CHAINS AND MEMORY now in print!

It’s been a bit of a stealth launch up ’til now, but: I am pleased to announce that you can buy both Lies and Prophecy and its sequel Chains and Memory in trade paperback, from the following retailers:

I owe this state of affairs to the hard work of Leah Cutter, without whom I would not have had the first clue how to go about creating a print edition, much less done this good a job with it. I highly recommend her to anyone in need of a POD formatter; she does fantastic work. She also runs workshops, if you want to learn how to do it yourself.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

This entry was also posted at http://swan-tower.dreamwidth.org/778951.html. Comment here or there.

Oct. 24th, 2016

10:30 am - Can anybody ID this statue?

This is something of a long shot, but let’s give it a try anyway.

unidentified bust in Oberammergau

The above picture is one my parents took in the Bavarian town of Oberammergau. My father uses it in a class he teaches, and I’m told that every time he does, somebody asks, “who’s that?” Who the statue depicts is irrelevant to the subject matter of the class, but people want to know anyway.

Problem is, my parents didn’t take a picture of the plaque below the statue (they didn’t expect it to be relevant), so they have no idea. Attempts to pop the shot into Google Image Search have helpfully informed them that it’s a picture of a statue; attempts to Google “bust in Oberammergau” and similar phrases have turned up nothing useful, even when attempted in German. So our last-ditch option is to post it here and see whether anybody can tell us who we’re looking at — possibly somebody equipped with more than Google Translate, who can conduct a more nuanced German-language search.

(No, they don’t remember where they were in Oberammergau when they took the picture, either. Otherwise I could attempt some magic with Google Street View.)

Any takers?

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

This entry was also posted at http://swan-tower.dreamwidth.org/778587.html. Comment here or there.

Oct. 21st, 2016

03:22 pm - Thrice the brindled cat hath mewed . . .

Back in high school, my sister and I decided to respond to a friend’s tendency to call us “witches” by circling him in a swimming pool while reciting the entire cauldron scene from Macbeth.

(Yes, we were very strange. Still are, in fact.)

Anyway, as somebody who still has that entire scene memorized, I found this to be utter and satisfying genius: “Nasty Women Have Much Work to Do.”

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

This entry was also posted at http://swan-tower.dreamwidth.org/778256.html. Comment here or there.

Oct. 17th, 2016

11:00 am - Two-week photo sale: get into the autumnal/Halloween mood!

In honor of the season, I’ve created two new limited-time galleries on my site: Autumn and Halloween.

Paired photos of a single autumn leaf and an angel on a cross

(There is a known glitch where sometimes the photos in a gallery will not display properly. If you see them stacked up on top of each other, reload and that should fix the problem.)

These galleries will only be available through the end of the month. If you would like to order a print of one or more of the photos, or to license them for commercial use, please contact me. I can make prints on paper, acrylic, metal, glass, canvas, or wood — pretty much any substance that doesn’t run away fast enough. 🙂 Sizes range from 4×6 up. For electronic use, I’m willing to do a small amount of image manipulation, e.g. cropping to a detail or darkening part of the shot so you can place text over it more readably.

A happy autumnal season to all! Except those of you in the southern hemisphere, to whom I wish a delightful spring.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

This entry was also posted at http://swan-tower.dreamwidth.org/777944.html. Comment here or there.

Oct. 13th, 2016

02:09 pm - The Tale of Tiana, the Neurotic Stalker Cat

In the time since we’ve moved into our new house, I’ve seen a little black-and-white cat around a few times. Being a very cat-friendly person, of course I immediately set out to make friends with her — which wasn’t too hard; she’s skittish in the “can’t sit still” sense, but didn’t seem to be very afraid of people. According to her collar, her name is Tiana.

So yesterday evening I go into the backyard and see her at the far end. She makes an immediate beeline for me, which I take as a gratifying sign that Operation Befriend Tiana has been a rousing success. I pet her for a while, go fetch the thing I intended to fetch, pet her some more, and go inside. This last is a bit of an enterprise, because Tiana seems exceedingly curious about what’s in my house, and I have to time my escape so she won’t follow me in (my husband is allergic). But okay, that’s fine.

That was at 6 o’clock.

A little bit later, I notice she’s still hanging out at my back door, peering in through the blinds. This is a little odd, so I shut the blinds . . . which doesn’t shut out the sound of her meowing plaintively to be let in.

When I leave for the dojo at 7:15, she’s still out there.

I come home, have dinner, go downstairs — and at 10:30 she’s still out there, now up on the roof, behaving as if she’s not sure how to get down. My sister and I go out with a stepladder and try to lift her down, in case she’s stuck; she’s having none of it, roving back and forth with the same nonstop restlessness she’s been showing this whole time. We finally get her to jump down to the fence and then, with much encouragement, to the ground; her body language strongly implied she was nervous about making that last jump. But okay, cat off roof, mission accomplished. I go inside (she tries to follow me again), blinds shut, and do my best to ignore the cat yowling outside my door and literally scratching at it to be let in.

At 1:30 in the morning, SHE’S STILL THERE.

I read once that cats meow at the same frequency as a crying baby, which is probably an adaptation to make us want to take care of them. After three hours of Tiana outside my door, I believe it, because each tragic sound makes me feel like a terrible person. She’s got a collar and is well-fed and well-groomed enough that I don’t think she’s a stray, but this isn’t like her previous behavior, which makes me wonder if she’s gotten lost or been abandoned or something. So finally — after much debate with myself — I let her in, scoop her up and close her into the bathroom, with everything she might trash safely removed and food, water, a towel to sleep on, and some makeshift kitty litter.

Now, in the light of day it turned out that there were phone numbers on her collar, engraved so small that I when I looked the previous night I didn’t even realize they were numbers. So I called them and discovered she belongs to our neighbors a few doors down, and to make a long story short (too late), she isn’t lost or abandoned; she’s just Tiana, the Neurotic Stalker Cat. Her owner told me she was a feral adoptee, and has on one previous occasion decided that a person is her NEW BEST FRIEND and tried to move in — so her behavior, while odd, is not unprecedented. By bringing her inside, I’ve probably just encouraged her. But I couldn’t listen to that for hours on end, wondering if something was wrong, and not at least try to make her more comfortable. In the future . . . well, the last person she latched onto apparently resorted to squirting her with a water bottle to make her stop begging. It remains to be seen whether I’ll do the same. I love cats and am delighted to make friends with them, but having a crying-baby imitator outside my door gets really hard on the nerves.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

This entry was also posted at http://swan-tower.dreamwidth.org/777476.html. Comment here or there.


Oct. 10th, 2016

12:22 pm - This Week in Dice Tales

This week’s Dice Tales post is Backseat GMing, aka the equivalent of trying to lead from the follow position in ballroom dance. Comment over there!

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

This entry was also posted at http://swan-tower.dreamwidth.org/777352.html. Comment here or there.

Oct. 3rd, 2016

04:25 pm - new photo galleries up

I’ve added three more galleries to the photography section of my website: one collating my East Coast shots, one for Oregon, and one of flowers. If you wish to order prints of any of these, contact me!

(And hopefully one of these days I’ll finish editing my pics from France and Switzerland back in May . . . it’s slow going.)

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

This entry was also posted at http://swan-tower.dreamwidth.org/777082.html. Comment here or there.

03:08 pm - This week in Dice Tales

There was no post last week, but this week you get “Open Doors and Brick Walls”, about those moments when the GM and the players see a challenge completely differently, and how to identify and resolve those mismatches when they happen.

Comment over there!

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

This entry was also posted at http://swan-tower.dreamwidth.org/776904.html. Comment here or there.

Sep. 30th, 2016

11:11 am - The Urban Tarot

A while back the artist Robin Scott, a friend of mine, released a project called The Urban Tarot.

Box cover for The Urban Tarot by Robin Scott

I want to talk about how awesome this deck is — and I especially want to address those of you for whom the “tarot” part isn’t much of an attraction, but the “urban” part might be. Let’s start by quoting from Robin’s introduction in the guidebook:

Too often we are told that magic and wisdom belong only to the forgotten forests, the places untouched by human hands, and to ages long lost to memory.

I reject this idea. I look around my world, and I see the beauty, the wonder, the magic in the metropolis, the power under the pavement.

“The metropolis” there isn’t generic. It’s New York City, where Robin lives — and that’s exactly what draws me to the Urban Tarot. I’ve been meaning to make a post about the way urban fantasy has the potential to inscribe the landscape around you with an additional layer of meaning: it’s something I tried to do in the Changeling game I ran, and it showed up in the Onyx Court books, too, which were inspired by that game. The urban fantasy novels I like often do this kind of thing, not just taking place in Generica City or the Hollywood version of San Francisco or wherever, but making use of place on a more detailed, meaningful level. It isn’t just an urban fantasy thing — it isn’t even a new thing; Keith Basso’s Wisdom Sits in Places talks about the link between Western Apache folklore and the landscape around their communities — but it works especially well there because the world the story describes is ours, or at least closely adjacent enough to ours that we can feel the resonance.

The Urban Tarot does this beautifully. It ties the cards in with the landscape and the people and events of New York City — the public library, Coney Island, the Brooklyn Bridge during Hurricane Sandy — and it pushes back against the idea that cities aren’t magic, that the kind of meaning we read into the world around us back when that world was rural can’t be retained in the modern day. It rethinks the old archetypes of the tarot into a context you and I can recognize: the Empress is feeding a baby in a high chair, the Eight of Wands shows a cyclist delivering a pizza, the Prince of Swords is a hacker. Even if you don’t have any interest in the tarot as such, you could do worse than to feed your urban fantasy brain with these cards and their associated writeups.

Card image of The Princess of Swords, by Robin Scott

And the artwork is, in my opinion, gorgeous. Each card is built out of a kind of textural collage, abstracting the image without losing its recognizable form. I have the Princess of Swords (aka The Activist) on my wall. I liked the art enough that when I backed the Kickstarter, I chose to go for the level where I could model for one of the cards — no, I’m not telling you which; you’ll have to find out for yourself. 😉 Robin and I struck a deal wherein I wrote a piece of flash fiction for the guidebook, riffing off a location in the city she wasn’t able to work into the deck; that’s how much I wanted to support this project.

You can buy the Urban Tarot itself, or prints of any of the cards. I strongly encourage you all to at least go take a look, and appreciate what Robin has put together.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

This entry was also posted at http://swan-tower.dreamwidth.org/776658.html. Comment here or there.

Sep. 29th, 2016

10:31 am - How much do I love SUPERGIRL? Let me count the ways.

You know how there are those shows that are kind of structurally or ideologically broken, but you sort of don’t care because the banter is so good?

Supergirl is kind of the opposite of that. On a script level, it’s pretty mediocre; the dialogue often clunks and the characterization can be inconsistent and the plots rarely have clever solutions. But I find myself just not caring, because it’s doing so many other things to make me happy. It is the candy-colored cheerful superhero show that I wanted The Flash to be for me, without all the problems that made me bounce out of that one.

Case in point: the first season of The Flash basically had two female characters, Iris and Caitlin. Neither of them was particularly interesting; Caitlin’s plot revolved around her dead boyfriend and Iris was a pawn, lied to for no good reason by her best friend, infantilized by her father, rarely if ever given a chance to affect the story in a meaningful way. Supergirl, by contrast, is so stuffed with women they’re coming out at the seams. This is not one of those shows with a central female character and then a bunch of dudes. You have Alex Danvers, Supergirl’s adopted sister (and if you love rock-solid sister relationships, dear god this is the show for you); Cat Grant, her prickly and influential boss; Astra, her aunt and antagonist; Allura, her mother, appearing in both flashback and computer simulation; Lucy Lane, Lois’ younger sister and Jimmy Olson’s ex, who the show is smart enough to give a role to beyond “Jimmy Olson’s ex”; the villains Livewire and Indigo and Silver Banshee, who all play a role in more than one episode; Eliza, Alex’s mother and Kara’s foster-mother, a biologist who nerds out when she meets another alien; Miranda Crane, a senator with anti-alien views; they even have the (offstage) president be a woman (and if the show’s writers weren’t thinking about Hillary Clinton, I’ll eat my laptop). These women talk to each other. They talk to each other so much that they get to have nearly every kind of relationship; they’re family and friends and rivals and co-workers and mentors and allies and enemies. (Not lovers, though — I can’t recall any lesbian relationships, at least not in the first season.)

The show is overtly feminist, too. I wouldn’t call it a triumph of complexity in that regard — see above comments about the writing being not all that good — but from time to time it goes straight at the familiar issues, the way that women’s achievements get downplayed relative to men’s, the way that women are held to standards men don’t have to meet. Clark Kent is an offstage presence, only appearing briefly a couple of times (and then always in silhouette), or conversing with Kara in text messages. In this canon, Kara was supposed to be the protector for her younger cousin, but circumstances caused her to arrive on Earth years later and younger than him; the growth of Kara from feeling like she’ll never live up to Kal-El’s reputation and achievements to someone who wins his praise and respect is really satisfying.

AND LET’S TALK ABOUT THE ETHICS. As in, this show has some. You may recall that ethical failings are a big part of why I wound up noping out of The Flash; I just about punched the air when this show made a point of addressing those issues. You literally get one of the characters telling Kara that due process and human rights matter, and that running a “secret Guantanamo” (actual phrase from the dialogue) is 100% not okay. And Kara acknowledges this! And then they do something about it! I called Astra an antagonist; I chose that word instead of “villain” because her situation isn’t black-and-white, and the show is capable of acknowledging that she’s pursuing good ends via bad means. There’s another antagonist in a similar position, too. I love that kind of thing, and seeing it here makes me really happy.

It still has shortcomings on a higher-than-script level, mind you. The racial diversity is just barely better than token, and queer representation is basically absent. And while the show nods in the direction of the problems posed by having superpowered people around, it doesn’t really delve into them. But I can watch it and have fun without constantly being frustrated, which is exactly what I was hoping for. And every so often it rises above itself with some really good dialogue or a great plot development — which leaves me hopeful that season two will improve on the first.

Behind the cut there be spoilers!

Read the rest of this entry »Collapse )

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

This entry was also posted at http://swan-tower.dreamwidth.org/776236.html. Comment here or there.


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