Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Fifth Quarter by Tanya Huff

Once more into the way back machine, Sherman!!  And yes, I'm still offering a free copy of Rebirth for whoever can tell me what I'm referencing.

Fifth Quarter by Tanya Huff

Summary:  I was going to write down the book blurb but it is stupid so you get my version instead.  The first thing you should know is that this is the second in a series.  The end is definitely a set up for No Quarter, but the first book need not be read in order to read this one.  I thought about starting with Sing the Four Quarters, which was a good enough book on the caliber of take it on vacation and read it when the day is rainy.  A good enough book so that I thought, eh.  I'll get the sequel.  The sequel blew the first book out of the water.  Besides the fact that having just read a series religiously, and I don't feel like doing that again, I am focusing on Fifth Quarter and perhaps No Quarter  because especially Fifth Quarter is what makes Tanya Huff so very Tanya Huff.  More importantly, Fifth Quarter is a beautiful fusion fantasy book of fantasy and horror with Huff's trademark complications in romance and attraction.  However, even though I believe you can skip the first book, I'll give a few pointers you learn in the first book.

In Shkoder, Bards hold powerful positions, either stationed or wandering.  They sing the kigh--approximately the souls or the spirits--of the four quarters, or elements.  When doing so they can ask the kigh to perform certain ways--rising up or settling down.  While they live by a strict code, they may also sing to perform tasks like becoming invisible or compelling truth.  Magic, yes.  Good at math, no, as when they discover that humans have kigh--a soul or spirit--that they may be able to learn to sing to--they call this the "fifth quarter."  In Sing the Four Quarters, the fifth quarter is theory, and not much discussed.

Now, Fifth Quarter, as the title suggests, is all about the fifth quarter.  Vree, 21, and Bannon, 20, are sister and brother born and raised in the Havalkeen Imperial Army.  Vree has always cared for Bannon.  When their soldier mother died when she was seven, it was her job to tell Bannon.  As orphans, they had the chance to become assassins--the best of the best.  They become the best of the best assassins, trained as a team.  Two bodies, one single purpose, they work in a complicated couples choreography for each kill.  Once back in the army camp, Vree's life still revolves around Bannon in every possible way.  Including eroticism.  Bannon, however, a charismatic golden boy, lives his life surrounded by people and revolving around himsef.

On a mission only they could pull off, Vree catches up to Bannon to discover someone has stolen Bannon's body, and the only way to save his life is to take his kigh into her body.  Not just a body swapping book, but a body double.  Desperate to get Bannon's body back, they desert--a death sentence for an assassin.  What they find is Gyhard in Bannon, a man whose kigh has been around the block plenty of times in plenty of bodies.  They strike a deal.  Vree, with her assassin abilities, will help Gyhard into an Imperial Prince the assassins have sworn to protect.  Only the siblings plan on forcing Gyhard out before they have to turn to treason and Gyhard plans on having them killed once he can make it so.

Before the trio/duo make it to the prince, the real villain of the piece shows and steals the prince.  Khars is rather sweet, and kind, ancient.  If only in his insanity didn't choose his friends by raising the dead--Singing the Fifth to force a dead body's kigh back inside.  He cares for his rotting, impaired children with gentleness and sorrow.  Then he sees the prince.  By those deep lashed, dark eyes, Khars knows he has finally found what he has been looking for--his heart.  Now Gyhard knew Khars a few bodies back, and is torn up to find him alive and still torturing souls back into bodies.  Gyhard needs to stop Khars.  Vree and Bannon both follow Bannon's body and need to save the prince.

The characters are well drawn.  Bannon and Vree, at the beginning of the book, only have each other--especially Vree.  A study of their relationship if rife with nuance even before he ends up in her head and the distinction between the two begins to shred and blend.  I'm wracking my brain, but I can't remember anyone take on incestuous feelings and reliances between equal siblings in Huff's honest way.  Being Tanya Huff, yeah.  That's sticky sweet hot with a twist up against a wall.

 Gyhard and Vree's growing warmth relies on the fact neither one of them has had someone to be truly open with their entire lives(ssss).  Meeting in raw honesty produces a heady attraction.  I've said that I hate I-hate-you-so-I-love-you-so-I-hate-you relationships, but that isn't the way Vree and Gyhard are relating.  Both of them want something.  The something will cause the other's death.  They are both business people on the concept of death.  As they travel together, get to talk to each other like they haven't to anyone, and slowly merge to a goal, their affection, though awkward, feels natural.

One thing I absolutely love about Huff and it is in this series more than any other:  her honest and absent use of same sex relationships.  There is no stigma attached, and many appear to move back and forth between the sexes based on the individual relationship.  The fact that it is such a NON issue makes it a) not feel like she's cramming an issue down our throats while b) being able to cram an issue down our throats.  And I applaud her on this one.

Her army is also lovely in it's non sexist status.  If she writes "the corporal", don't assume any gender until she writes the pronoun to go with it because that corporal is just as likely to be female as male.

The book could be honestly called a nonlinear.  And we do know how much I love a nonlinear.  She moves into sections of her characters' pasts not in past perfect or swimmy flashbacks and italics, but by ending a scene, and starting the next scene (she has really short scenes) in the past.  The following scene will most likely be in someone's present, but not always.

A book in which two people in one body think to each other, especially as they slowly become more aware of each other's thoughts and dreams and emotions, able to take over movement of the body from each other till their selves shred--it is not an easy thing to do.  She uses *thought* for when they are purposefully thinking to each other.  Italics when Vree is just thinking to herself.  It is quite clean and easy to follow, even as they descend into being each other.

I will complain that I felt her third omniscient view on top of all the thought dancing got awkward.  I'm never a fan of jumping pov mid scene, and she jumped it all over the place.  As much as I was engrossed in the material, I found this distracting and it sometimes pulled me out of the story.  Especially in a story where within one character the pov may be switching, I felt as if I really didn't need any more switching around per scene.

I also accuse her of having a desperate "seems" problem.  She uses the damn dumb word in what feels like every sentence.  I will note I am nitpicking here, however, as I have read other books with as big seems problems and never mentioned it because I had way bigger things to talk about.

I did like the army.  And I never say that.  Armies bore me.  I've never met an assassin that felt remotely realistic.  Until now.  I liked the highlights of how Vree and Bannon worked.  I loved the detail they immediately knew.  I liked the images of the army as a family to Vree and Bannon--all they had ever known.  A great creature that their tiny selves made up a part of.

Now for the horror:  Khars.  He was meant to be a bard.  He was tortured.  His slim hold on reality slipped at some point and now death is his best friend.  His zombies didn't lurch around with their arms out.  Their brains appear intact.  They knew they were dead.  They could speak until their mouths or tongues rotted.  I had to appreciate that.  Not just the walking dead, but the way they slowly rotted around him--the woman holding her desiccated baby.  The leg that snaps when the foot has worn away.  Finally the guts rupture.  This stuff is grotesque but made creepy because Khars truly loves his little family, and he descends the prince to near madness.

The horror and the fantasy blend seamlessly.  They are both born out of the same basic concept which drives the entire book:  the fifth quarter.  The book has an apt name and a guiding concept which both allows her characters to be directed exactly where they need to go without breaking character, and gives the book a cohesive drive.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Book Trailers

How do we feel about book trailers?

Sure, movies have been borrowing from books almost since movies began.  Books borrowing from movies?  Not unless it is a lame novelization.  More specifically:  trailers?  The book world has long relied on good cover art (though publishers have weird ideas on "good" sometimes) and the back of the book blurb.  Maybe some quotes by cool authors who endorse the book.  We relied on the bookstore.  You wandered through the isles.  Maybe pick up a book based on cover or name familiarity here or there.  You read the back blurb.  If it holds any appeal, you flip open to a few random pages not only to get a real sense of this authors' style and whether you mesh with the story, but also:  the smell.  You smell the wood pulpy, acidized and ink smell.

But here's the problem.  You can't smell a book found on an internet site.  Kindles don't smell either.  Bookstores are dying.  Even the really amazing hole in the wall used bookstores where you find things not even in print anymore.  And the whole world smells of dust and books.

So a new industry is born:  book trailers.  The problem is we are still media people.  We aren't book trailer people.  My friend Reeb (yes, he was named that at birth) cuts trailers in L.A.  He went to film school and was always at least a head and probably a whole body above his peers.  But it took him a while to get used to trailers.

Trailers are their own beasts.  Still shots and voice overs don't cut it.  Maybe you are using motion, actors, a film camera and lighting.  That still doesn't mean you know how to make a trailer.  Trailers are dada post modern nuggets.  Watch movie trailers.  It's quick, flashy cuts and random lines that are oh-so-quotable.  Does it really tell you what the movie is about?  No.  It just has to get your interest.  It may be even employing scenes that hit the cutting room floor long before--that you will never see.  Trailer editors watch one movie, over and over and over till they have the damn thing permanently ingrained in their brains.  They look for that one moment they can use to get your attention.  That split second cut you won't even notice go by.  The name of the game is to get your attention, because they have a minute or so on a commercial break to do it if they are lucky.

The book world needs to study this art intensively.  Watch successful trailers from the movie world over and over.  Read the book over and over and over looking for those exact spots and lines to use.  Or deviate completely and have something not happening in the book happen.  It's a joyous, boundless, near nonsensical art and we need to study it to know how to adapt it.  Books force a certain linear sense.  Even the nonlinear novel generally is read by paging forward.  A trailer isn't looking for a linear, nugget of a story.  You are not reinventing your query letter on film.

If we are going to learn this art--because at the moment I think we are mostly sucking--we have to learn movie trailers, and then we have to learn what we can take from them and what we need to adapt.  We definitely need to have some more fun with the damn things.

The one I'm working on will probably be a little longer than a standard movie trailer.  I feel I have the room as I will be working off the net and not being crammed between things on TV or before a movie.  Still, I'm keeping it short.  My next book out is Shining in Darkness--the first high fantasy I'm putting out, though of course people are still sarcastic and petty.  Sprites, the size of humans, each focus one particular facet of the One--everything.  Firelight, the main character, for instance, is a white hot burning fire sprite and is made of flames.  A Prophecy is involved.  Half Gods fight.  Rollicking fun.

However, I have chosen to do the movie trailer with stop motion animation of My Little Pony gore.

There is a reason for the My Little Ponies.  Mysterious to all but a few who know me well.  Someday I may reveal it.  Or maybe you can guess.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Alleluia Files by Sharon Shinn

That's right, Sherman, once more into the way back machine.  Though not so way back, as this is the final published book in Shinn's original angel trilogy.

This book is where I began.  Not with Archangel, where I should have and is an archived review.  Not with Jovah's Angel, which I never had read until I decided to study this series.  Reading Alleluia Files, I fell in love with Samaria, angels who can be petty and cruel as much as holy and godly, where Jacobites were a cult that believed the god Jovah was a spaceship, and there was no God.

I don't feel bad about that, because in my writer's heart and mind, this is where I believe Shinn began as well.  Books are funny things.  They don't come to writers whole.  For me, a character usually forms in my head, and I wander around with this person in my head as slowly the world coalesces around him or her.  Some writers start with a world or a plot.  Only Shinn could tell you where she began.  Maybe she began with Tamar, a fierce, defiant rebel with a price on her head--willing to die for her cause, but belately noticing the quiet help she has been given all along her journey.  Maybe once Tamar formed, Shinn found Samaria, where angels ruled--ultimately the archangel and the religious guidance of their God, ultimately a very sophisticated spaceship that Tamar and her fellow Jacobites wanted to uncover for the truth.  Was it then that Jared, the lazy, drifting angel came into Tamar's life as her staunch supporter--of her, for her love, not for her mission?  Or did he come before the world--the plot?  It could have been that Lucinda, a naive and sheltered angel, usually underestimated.  Tamar's diametrically opposed twin, down to the fact Lucinda had wings?  Did Lucinda or Tamar open the door to the land of Ysral, where the Edori and engineers had retreated to and the Jacobites sought shelter?  Was Bael, the murderous Archangel in there before all of this, or only when Shinn finally added her villain to this tale? Maybe the stark and brilliant climax bringing her cast together was the first moment in her mind.

We're 100 years away from Alleluia and Jovah's Angel.  We're 250 years away from Gabriel being Archangel.  They are still with us as references to history, bloodlines and of course, Alleluia's famous files that the Jacobites believe will shed the final light on the mechanical nature of God.  Whereas technology was only seen as Godly or the first settlers bequeaths in Archangel, and a slow process of advances and mistakes in Jovah's Angel, Caleb, that engineer above all with a little not so holy help created a school to jump technology into fast forward since we've last seen, though Bael now suppresses it.  The story consists of an delicately interwoven plot of Tamar, Jared, and Lucinda's overlapping voices telling us overlapping events.

Of course Tamar and Jared's Kisses, technological or God created implants, riot with color when they are near, as all true lovers (or genetically matched people) should.  Interestingly, Lucinda and Tamar's worlds also begin to overlap--in dream and in music and sensation when Tamar has her Kiss implanted.  Tamar has lead a bleak and bloody life, held together by absolute belief, and I loved her for it.  I loved her for finally realizing her life hasn't been as independent as she thinks.  Oddly, she does make a good match for the aimless Jared.  His ability to allow a more kind, gentle world, and more--his frustrating and inscrutable to Tamar's angel negative world to a) want to know the truth as well and mostly b) his relentless quest to keep her safe whether she likes it or not--give Tamar a chance to open up all those sides of her life she has never let herself have.  She ridicules him once for having not having a cause he is willing to die for, but she gives him one--her.

At this point I have to stop and say in some ways I believe Jared more than Tamar, though given her life her world view is completely understandable.  I believe an alive proponent, though slightly quieter, is way more useful than a martyr.  To me, even Ghandi and Jesus did their best work when they were alive.  However, I stand by Jared's answer.  There are a number of people in my life I wouldn't think twice about dying for.

Also, I notice Shinn plays a bit of a fast one with traditional female literature by conking Tamar hard on the head so that Jared nursing her through a concussion can help her come around to him.  In feminist lit crit., it has been noted that early female writers had and still have sometimes, a tendency to wound their male lead to put the female character on equal footing.  Think of poor Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre.  Shinn has reversed this.  The only way she could think of for Tamar to learn to quit fighting was to take the ability away from her for a while.  It's a fascinating inverse, and though I want to be snide for her use of this old method, I have to say the Tamar she created may have needed to be conked on the head, however much I wish she and Jared could have opened up to each other some other way.

I haven't spoken yet much about Lucinda, spirited away to an island in the middle of the ocean by her aunt to protect her from Bael.  Her mix of innocence and strong headed intelligence is great fun, and it isn't hard to see how she will fit into the plot--especially when she takes an Edori lover--but for most of the book I became frustrated with her for all I loved her as she interrupted my Tamar and Jared story.  She also, even as she was lovingly crafted, stood out a bit as a plot device.  From the moment she entered, you pretty much knew where she was going.

Again, I love the overlapping style of voices.  That takes a lot of skill and craft to create without it becoming jarring or annoying.  It also gives a chance to see into each characters head and helps us understand why and where and whatfor of their lives.  Occasionally I felt she spent a little too much time overlapping, especially on Tamar and Jared's meetings and odd series of near misses.  She tended to repeat a little too much information at times that we'd already gotten from another pov.  It meant we ended up discovering the same facts and having the same conversations multiple times.  It could get a little trying.  But better too much than too little in this situation.

This book did contain more politics than the other two, and the other two contained politics, so this is just the more so.  Some people love political intrigues and sparring.  It bores me sick.  But that's just me.  I'd rather get back to Lucinda learning her history or Jared and Tamar's evolving bond.

The climax of the book was spectacular.  Tight gut and fingers gripping the book so hard it could have ripped, only to come to a brilliant, cohesive, stunning end.

Unfortunately the book did not end there.  I admit, an epilogue was due.  She needed a celebratory dinner where a few things were explained, the what-do-we-do-nexts somewhat sketched in as she could not resolve all of them.  One final place for some of the characters to come to a reckoning on their relationships, but that all could have taken one, maybe two scenes.  She spent a lot longer on nailing down little logistics when some planning over a bottle of wine and a well-we-have-to-wait-and-see would have worked.

Now on to looking at the arc of the three books.  As I said, I read this one first, and was so thrilled I went back to Archangel.  Not so thrilled.  Nothing wrong with the book per se.  It just left me feeling like, really?  Are we really going to do this each time?  Flawed angel learns valuable life lessons from scrappy, oppressed girl--whose Kisses, by the way, flare like crazy?  The answer is pretty much yes.  Caleb in Jovah's Angel was male, but had his own bitterness about God.  And still taught Alleluia valuable life lessons.  Despite the fact the writing was great and I liked the characters (except in Archangel), I felt a little Hallmark.  Is this all Jovah does?  Find some flawed angel and stick the perfect solution to them?  I thought he worked on genes.

  Which brings me to my other doubt.  That crazy Jovah, apparently on genes alone, can tell a hell of a lot about a person.  Many things which I don't believe it can.  My psych degree leaned my heavily to a nature and nurture combination.  Ones environment can literally rewire the way your brain works.  Genes may supposedly tell far more than we can currently extract from them, but they can not tell how this person's life will unfold.  I'm willing to believe magic or a holy touch can stay apprised of these things, as they are completely uncharted territory that you get to make up in fantasy.  But I don't believe genes map out everything in your life.  I know.  Even the little we know of genes, I have seen people with supposed genetic codes overcome or succumb to them.

I know I've complained about it before but I'll do it again.  I'll buy the angels, being a different kind of being and generally the same sort of growing up have certain similarities, but these other races are driving me nuts.  Luminaux is always beautiful and good, as are the people there.  The whole world changes, remembers itself, forgets itself--Luminaux won't budge.  It's a city but I've never heard of a slum.

My main gripe--what is up with those Jansai and Edori?  The Jansai go from slavers, to owners of disgusting factories that utilize children, back to marauding, murdering mercenaries.  They are also described as the gypsies, so I keep picturing them Middle Eastern or East European.  Anyway, can these people do anything right?  I'll put up with it that they might be bad for a century or so, or that they were unrelentingly bad at the same thing.  But whatever sucks lands on the Jansai heads.  Give me one, just one Jansai who lowers his sword and walks away from killing a Jacobite.  Just one that left the Jansai murdering business because he wanted to play the flute in Lumanazi.

The Edori are just as bad.  The darkest race, the race with different religious beliefs (slightly), the constantly persecuted race--finally you do see a few get angry, but they keep on getting described as the most happy, complacent, laid back big families in the world.  Why don't you stick a watermelon in their mouths and have them tap dance with Shirley Temple and just call the thing done?  Except they were put on reservations, too.  So I suppose small pox blankets are in order.

Plus, I really can't figure it out.  Obviously there are generations between, and generations of Archangels that we do hear about that this isn't true of, but is the mate of the Archangel EVER not Edori?  By this time Edori angels must be wandering around.  Are these angelicas and angelico absolutely so ineffective that they could not get any laws passed to improve the state of their people?  Gabriel and Delilah are lauded as visionary Archangels.  Yes, Gabriel got rid of slavery, but he was going to do that anyway.  He couldn't be strong armed by Rachel to do more?

The world building that I so lauded as fantastic gets a little messy as the series goes on.

At the end of every book, as we get closer to the truth, someone always talks about how they believe in some god, even if they don't know what.  I admire it in that it sets forth a faith that goes beyond everything they have been taught.  In fact, learning lessons in different types of faith of one kind or another really form the theme of the books.  This I greatly admire.  A solid arc of theme.  That is a rare and beautiful thing these days in a book, much less a trilogy.  I do feel as if she didn't quite trust us to get it.  It is hammered home each time when all we needed was a slight push.

Alleluia Files remains my favorite, though I have grown quite fond of Jovah's Angel.  Archangel still leaves me a bit cold, but that is my own private annoyance with the main characters.  Some of Shinn's repeating motifs in the dynamics of relationships I cannot help but feel is carefully crafted.  I admire the symmetry between the novels, even if I occasionally get annoyed by her echos.  She successfully completes not only an arc in each novel, but an arc across the trilogy.

Shinn's work truly belongs in it's own class.  While a steady revelation of science fiction elements occurs, the book is built on a strong foundation of fantasy archetypes and tropes.  She is a fantasy fusion artist.

By the way, anyone who can tell me what Sherman and the way back machine reference, I'll give you a copy of Rebirth, my second book.

Monday, November 7, 2011

"seems" is not all it seems

"She seemed to begin to see as she started to blink."

Okay.  Overkill, but let's once again talk about no-nothing words.  "Seems" may look like a great word on the surface, but basically it can get in the way of that strong, punchy verb you want to highlight in your sentence.  That strong sentence is there.  You are just allowing it to be muffled by phrases like "seems" "begin to" and "start to".

Let's look at "seems" first.  And this goes for all you academics, too.  Any time you touch a finger to a keyboard, you should consider what it seems to be.  Or better, what it is or isn't or shades into gray.

First of all, you are always writing in someone's point of view.  That means that you are working with their impressions.  Whether or not there is a dragon down the street, your character will think, "Ack!  Dragon!"  That is your character's perception.  If your character isn't sure, you can still keep your strong language:  Ack!  Dragon!  She squinted.  Maybe that lumbering shape was just a wagon, and her last encounter had left her paranoid.  You keep your strong sentences, and you learn more about the character, and you still don't know if that's really a freaking dragon down the street.  "Seems" weakens your character's perceptions, and limits, in general, what you do with them.  It also tends to pull the reader out of your character's head.  Your character will have specific reactions.  "Seems" can sound as if the author is being coy--oh is or is not my character perceiving this?  Of course, that wasn't the intent, but it could be the effect, and you never want the author in there.  It's all about the character.  Even in academic writing, you are presenting a certain face to your audience and you want them to stay hooked in to that voice and that knowledge.

Let's go back to that first sentence.  "She blinked crusty eyes.  The waves of gray that had been with her all her life broke into a clean, golden vein of light.  Then tears came to her eyes to blind her even as the gray finally slipped away."  This is assuming blind chick is the pov.  Of the blind chick wasn't the pov:  "The blind beggar winced from my touch.  But then she scrubbed her eyes. Tears coursing down her cheeks, she reached up to the light."

Obviously, I took up more space.  But in writing, God is in the details, not the devil.

So going back to our original statement "She seemed to begin to see as she started to blink." let's talk about "begin to" or "started to".  My main question is, well did the person do it, or not?  "He started to shout"  Well, if he is shouting, then obviously he started at some point.  So why clutter your sentence and bury your active verb "shout".  The writing is strong, but you've unnecessarily cluttered it.

But, you stay, he just started to start when James whacked him on the head with a cudgel, so he didn't really get to shout.  Why let your reader's know this ahead of time.  It's battle!  He's shouting!  Don't give them a preview of the fact he doesn't get to finish.  That just lets your readers grow complacent that you will give them a heads up before Ronald gets hurt.  It may even bore them.  And it slows down that tight, vivid style you have--in battle or out.

Instead, let the reader be as shocked as Ronald is to get cudgeled.  He shouted, but before the rumble could reach his lips, a crack of pain drove him to the earth.  Or, if we are in Jame's point of view.  A sharp shout emerged from Ronald's lips, but with one swift blow, James silenced him.  Same effect.  Ronald barely gets to shout.  But you get that immediacy that he is doing, not trying or starting, or beginning.  The sound hits his lips, and he, and James, and the reader, and maybe even you don't know that the shout is only a beginning, and will be silenced until James brings down that cudgel.

I give one place where all these phrases can be used:  Dialogue.  Why?  In dialogue we really do hedge our bets like this.  Especially if your character either trusts nothing, or isn't very confident, or a number of other reasons you built into a character, your character may use these phrases.  But know why they use them.

Don't let little things like "began to" or "started to" or "tried to" or especially "seems" clutter your writing.  You are couching your writing with little words that make it safer.  You don't need that.  Your words are strong.  You are strong.  Trust your readers to get that powerful writing.  Trust yourself.    

Friday, November 4, 2011

Review of Rebirth

Rebirth has been reviewed.  I'm really happy with it.  The url is following.  Mine is actually the second review from the top at this point.  Comment, people.  Make me feel loved.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

I Am Nerd: Nerd Evolution

For anyone who was alive before the nineties, you know that dirtiest of all dirty words to be hurled on the playground, or later at lunch:  NERD!  Unlike the usual four letter words, this could kill your social life and status in a moment.  You were doomed to a world of broken glasses, no social skills, acne, and perhaps getting the shit beat out of you.

I stood at an odd status.  Over the years, the popular kids with their permed hair, blue eyeliner, and fake braces would edge up on me and my friends with singular purpose:  "You guys are such NERDS!"  But then, the killer:  "Not you Betsy."  So I stood on the precipice of acceptance.  All I had to do was turn my back on my shamed friends and join the heckling.  So I stood straight in my answer:  "No.  I'm a nerd, too."

I was.  I am.  I started playing Dungeons & Dragons when I was six.  I read fantasy.  I got good grades.  I had glasses.  I had my own sense of fashion and it screamed sixties, not eighties.

The thing is, I was myself.  I didn't give a damn.  I was scary enough that no one ever tried to beat me up (though I sort of wanted someone to try).  Most of all, I had eloquence on my side.  I was anything but awkward while speaking, because if my parents taught me anything, they taught me how to speak.  I could launch into a nasty word fight and cut anyone down to size if they messed with my nerd friends.

In short, I became nerd chic.

Nerd chic burst onto the scene in the nineties.  Part of it was the bizarre grunge sensibilities that suddenly claimed how I dressed was cool, and they could talk to me about the Beatles and Frank Zappa like they knew shit about it.  Part of it was the lunge in technology.  It became harder and harder to not admit computers, hackers, the internet, iPods, smart phones were making knowing about tech cool.

At this point I believe the geeks split from the nerds.  We used to interchange, but eventually it became obvious geeks knew how to supe up an IBM.  Nerds used Apples and had all the right comic books.

At this point, a frightening thing happened.  It became hard to tell who the real nerds and geeks were.  When the popular kids who went out for sports and used to spit on you suddenly think you are cool and want to talk about Sandman with you, you get a little leery.  Sure, you might want to bask in your new fame.

But more importantly, you bled to be a nerd.  You were ridiculed.  You had to verbally spar with every idiot at the bus stop.  I fought hard for who I was.  I dug out my father's records.  I wore my dead grandmother's jewelry.  I went to Ann Arbor to shop--where the sixties never die and the stores are all the size of an armpit and smell about the same.  I wore patchouli and sandalwood when kids actually thought I smelled of pot, they were so ignorant.

Now these Nirvana wannabes just wanted to horn in on my world?  Bullshit.  Grunge and all these faux nerds were still the sheep they used to be.

So I belonged nowhere.  In college I made the momentous decision to put away childish things.  All that was left of my nerd personality were my reading habits and the fantasy novel I was currently stuck on.  I became other things.  For a while I was a pothead.  But mostly I just faded away.  I went to grad school. Twice.  And got ridiculed for writing fantasy novels (mostly by those MFA elitists), though at that point I wrote memoir.

I cracked during my thesis.  I had chosen depressing life material, of course, and was struggling through reliving my own hells through each draft.  So I was putting off writing, meandering through my computer, when I clicked on my second novel.  About three in the morning, I stopped reading to go to bed.

But the fact sat there before me.  An expectant, big fat cat stared at me.  It may have grinned, but it certainly didn't go away.  That cat just stared at me, and grinned the whole time I worked on my thesis.  Because that cat knew what I knew, but wouldn't admit.

The day I turned in my thesis, I printed out that second novel, Sheep that Stray.  All the magic filled me again as I edited.

I love that magic.  I write fantasy.  I read fantasy.  I can quote Star Wars (the real ones) and The Princess Bride.  Hell, if I found a good group of people, I'd probably play role playing games.

But I still own a Mac.

So I'm a nerd, loud and proud.  However, I have fashion sense (not the sixties anymore.  Well.  Mostly), and social skills, and a sexy laugh rather than a guffaw

So I'm Nerd Chic:  Sexy, Sarcastic, Creative,  and able to spin a four sided die.

Plus, able to draw blood--verbal or literal--if you hurt my friends or act like you can be a nerd-come-lately.