Hereafter Referred to as the Author

It’s official! I’ve just signed the publication contract for my story The Fox and the Snake to appear in the Fantastic Schools Anthology: Volume 2, edited by Christopher G. Nuttall and L. Jagi Lamplighter.

SO EXCITED. Please pardon me while I squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!

Chris Nuttall is the well-known military sci-fi and fantasy author of the Schooled in Magic series. Jagi Lamplighter is a fantasy author perhaps best known for her Rachel Griffin series, about a girl who attends a school of magic (I used to shelve these books when I worked at Barnes and Noble, and now their author is publishing my story!! *^__^*).

This will be my first officially published work. Please purchase the Fantastic Schools Anthology, Volumes 1 and 2 when they’re available! Publication is scheduled for spring 2020.

The Fox and the Snake

Ulrykah Fletcher never quite fit in at regular school, but when she started at Pender Academy, a well-respected college of magic, she expected that would change.  But after managing to befriend only two classmates (and one magical creature) her first year, it turns out it’s not about magic – she’s just terrible at making friends.  And now that she’s a sophomore prefect, she’s even less likely to receive invitations to forbidden parties where she could totally-not-flirt with that cute guy she’s been secretly crushing on since last year.  No, she’ll be too busy dealing with bratty dorm-mates, investigating the creepy dungeon, and spying on a certain mysterious character – all while studying hard to keep her scholarship.  At least the monster that was loose on campus is probably gone…

All the Ugly in the World

I’ve been reading that people are looking for silver linings in the midst of the pandemic. I don’t think it’s disrespectful to the dead or mourning or unemployed for people to hope for some good to come out of something awful. It’s been nice after all to go for walks and be waved and smiled at, said “hi” to… to hear “thank you” after I walked into the grass so a biker could stay on the path and keep his 6-foot air bubble. For as many people are letting their fear make them mean (looking at you, b**** who glared at me after I coughed quietly into my elbow while wearing a mask), there are even more, in my experience, who are remembering their manners and kindly acknowledging that other humans exist. (Is it sad it took a pandemic for this to happen in my neck of the woods? YES, but… whatever.)

Anything we can be grateful for can provide emotional healing, so today I’d like to say that I’m grateful that we’re under a shelter in place order because that means that spring 2020 fashion is basically canceled.

Disco collar, check. Too-busy print, check. Clashing embroidery, check. Too-short pants, check. Shiny plastic boots, check. Alien visor sunglasses? CHECK.
What more could a girl ask for?

This makes my soul cry.

As a female human who buys clothing, I wonder what damn planet these designers are living on. Every time a fashion magazine calls this crap stylish, somewhere under a volcano, a shadowy figure presses his fingertips together and mutters “Excellent… yesssss, excellent…”

Or maybe there’s no evil intent and designers simply got bored of creating clothes that look nice on people. Shirts that aren’t two sizes larger than the tag says? So 2000s. Prints that don’t make anyone want to vomit? But why?

The Problem

It’s become nearly impossible to find a fitted top (that isn’t a crop top… ugh) over the past few years, and now pants are going the same way. Are we supposed to wear these things together?

No. No! I won’t do it! You can’t make me!

Why? Why would anyone present this as a desirable option? Particularly when you can go outside (yes, even now) and see women in what they choose to wear when the only requirement is personal preference, which for the most part, are form-fitting LEGGINGS?

The answer, of course, is money. In a 2018 article on the changing trends in women’s pants, fashion reporter Marc Bain wrote

“The high-rise, relaxed shape is a match on all of these points. If it is finally—finally!—replacing the skinny jean, it’s good news for fashion retailers like Hayne [CEO of Urban Outfitters], who had lamented the endurance of the skinny jean in the past: The industry relies on people wanting new styles to drive sales, and a woman with a closet full of skinnies isn’t likely to go out and buy more.

“But when the look changes, she has to go shopping if she wants to avoid looking outdated. Moments like these, Hayne said on a recent call, is when demand is at its highest. That’s what he’s excited about.

There’s the answer to why designers are pushing ugly – because it’s DIFFERENT. As Arby’s used to tell us, “different is good.” Well, sometimes it’s good. Sometimes it’s just different. And sometimes it’s complete shit.

Fortunately for those of us who don’t want to wear potato sacks for clothing, stores do have to make sales to survive. If you look around, you’ll find those few slightly more fitted tops, and a plethora of narrow-fit pants. From the same QZ article:

For years now, the skinny jean has been that standard—a few too many years for some, prompting industry onlookers to start predicting a new proportion overtaking the skinny bottom. So far, they’ve been wrong: Skinny jeans are still on store shelves and piling up in women’s closets. Brands, of course, are always adjusting to what customers want, and they’ve been updating their jeans in the face of ongoing pressure from leggings and athleisure, adding stretch and making them in softer fabrics to keep shoppers interested.

They may convince high school girls that “mom jeans” don’t objectively make them look deformed, but most of us aren’t falling for it.

What Not to Wear

Okay, but what if you are tired of skinny jeans? What if you’re truly ready for something other?

Just remember the rule of poof: Your top can poof or your bottom can poof. Pick one. We should be able to tell there’s a person under there, so none of this wearing a tent nonsense.

I guess there’s less to carry when camping?

There’s also the rule of width: The wider the leg, the longer the leg. Otherwise, you end up with an unfunny joke like this:

There is nothing flattering about these pants.

Unless you want to look like Steve Urkel. I mean, it’s up to you. But why? Why give in to the push to buy buy buy just because someone decided something is “trendy”? They don’t care if you look stupid – they just want your money. I mean, I want money – who doesn’t want money? But I’m not trading mine for crap.

These wide-leg pants are an appropriate length for the width. They look sleek, not like you’re a post-growth-spurt kid who dressed herself today!

The truth is, everything old is new again, and most of the new old stuff is from the 90s (see crop tops and tied T-shirts). It’s not like 1995 was the peak of flattering fashion, but it is what it is. What this means is two types of tops will be pushed on us: boxy baggy horribleness, or tiny and tight tops (in some cases, bras masquerading as tops). At least the latter will balance out the inevitable gaucho pants (Remember when we all knew they looked awful? Drew Barrymore remembers).

When our governors finally let us out to enjoy the remainder of the flattened curve, it’s going to be a challenging season. Likely, most of us won’t have enough disposable income to spend on new trends, so perhaps stores will play it safe and stick to the tried and true – or maybe they’ll push harder to convince us we need a thneed, whichever they think will keep them out of bankruptcy. It’s a tough spot, and I don’t envy retailers one bit.

I’ll leave you with links to a few happy mediums:

olive green tie-waist crops

black and white gingham crops

high-rise tapered pants

loose cropped yoga pants

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: Episode 1 Reactions

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, a reboot of the 1985 series She-Ra: Princess of Power, debuted on Netflix November 13, 2018. The following is a detailed summary of episode one, “The Sword: Part 1,” with reactions from someone who might sort of remember watching the original when she was about three years old, but really has no idea what’s going on here.

My first thought is that She-Ra is, unsurprisingly, a “girl” show – not to stereotype, but there’s a lot of pink and pretty shininess in the opening logo alone, (if it were Japanese, we’d file it in the “magical girl” drawer in the shoujo cabinet and that’d be that). We’re treated to a few quick shots of a pretty floral planet, before we zoom in to a creepy dirty industrial area that brings Sonic the Hedgehog’s dystopian Robotropolis to mind, only much greener (in the radioactive ooze way, not the happy trees and shrubs way).

Robotropolis, from Sonic SatAM

The Fright Zone, She-Ra and the Etc.

We zoom further in to young teen Adora in a unitard with sensors strapped to her torso and limbs, bouncy 80s-style background music playing as she practices her strikes while brushing her teeth – a terrible idea, by the way. (Are we supposed to assume she prefers to live dangerously or just isn’t much for forethought?) Pasted to one of her punching bags is a poster of a demonic dark pink figure that Adora calls “princess,” which looks unmistakably like a mashup of Queen Beryl and her shadowy master, Queen Metalia, from Sailor Moon. Shout out!


A voiceover summons all squadrons for evaluation and Adora is pumped! She joins a couple other teen humanoids and a bipedal lizard, all in similar uniforms, for the exam. While standing at attention, she whispers “Where’s Catra?” to a fellow cadet who shrugs. “Not Again,” Adora mutters, establishing Catra as the friend with a habit of not showing up. The exam, in an X-Men Danger-Room-style gym, simulates a possible battle against the evil princesses of the rebellion, headquartered in Bright Moon. (By contrast, this is all taking place in the Fright Zone, so guess which side is really evil.) These opening scenes are meant to set up Adora’s ultimate defection to the side of sparkles and flowers, but the predictability doesn’t make it unenjoyable. This is a tropey show, full of references to animated adventures from the 80s and beyond – that’s part of the fun, but thankfully not all of it.

When questioned by the examiner, Adora sticks up for Catra despite her absence, then leads her team through the simulated laser-tag forest, destroying spiderlike robots that, through the team’s VR visors, look like the Beryl/Metalia from the propaganda poster. They advance toward their target, which they are meant to “liberate” for Lord Hordak, while being unknowingly pursued by a catlike female figure with one blue eye and one yellow eye.

Teammate Kyle is taken down by a robot laser; his vest sensor blinks an “X,” to the annoyance of his team, who have to leave him behind. They face the Big Bad, a larger robot, which Adora vaults on top of and destroys, only to fall into a trap while catching her breath and be left dangling by her vaulting pole while the heterochromatic Catra, having finally emerged from the shadows, taunts her.


It turns out the taunting is friendly teasing, and Catra helps Adora out of the hole, but it’s clear these two are going to come into conflict (Catra’s the “bad girl” with those rips in her delightfully retro stirrup leggings and her fluffy spiky hair-band hair, and particularly her tendency to avoid responsibility and attempt to coast to victory on her friend’s talent and effort). Adora gets her back with a mouse joke, because CAT, showing she can take it and dish it out (without venom), after which

and lovingly congratulations Adora on her exam result, while chiding Catra for being unmotivated and snarky.

Shadow Weaver is an obvious dark-magic-wielding villain: her gravity-defying locks of space-void black alone tell us that, but there’s also the eery floating, the tentacular blood-red robes, the mask obscuring her face that reveals only a little colorless skin, her imperious tone to top it off… Yes, we get it: she’s evil.

Scary Lady

Yet Adora seems to respect her deeply, even as Adora supports Catra against Shadow Weaver’s criticisms. The heretofore confident Catra slumps her shoulders meekly; Shadow Weaver tires of Catra as both a conversational subject and verbal punching bag, and summons Adora to “walk with her,” leaving Catra behind. SW tells Adora that Lord Hordak is very impressed with her – Adora the high-achiever is thrilled, even moreso when SW promotes her to Force Captain on the spot.

Adora’s about to jump out of her boots with excitement at the thought of being put on active duty, and leading a squadron in the upcoming attack on the rebel base at Thaymore… until she is told that she cannot bring her team, not even Catra. Adora again stands up for Catra, showing confidence in her abilities, but Shadow Weaver insists that Catra has not proven herself, and that this is Adora’s chance – this is what Shadow Weaver raised her to be. Thus we learn that SW rescued and raised an orphaned baby Adora. Adora’s kindness, guilelessness and spunkiness must come from somewhere other than her immediate surroundings, although her goal of becoming Force Captain was clearly influenced by SW, who manipulated Adora’s desire to please her mother-figure:

“Isn’t this what you’ve wanted since you were old enough to want anything?”
-Shadow Weaver

We jump to the shiny palace of moonbeams and rainbows. Glimmer, of the bubblegum pink Molly Ringwald hair and split purple tunic that makes her look like an adorable bug, has been called before someone very important (you can tell by the offstage someone’s British accent).

Oh, um, hey

She enters the gleaming gold and lavender throne room, where she is promptly taken to task by the queen for leading the rebellion into a dangerous battle after she was ordered not to. Glimmer – Commander Glimmer – shows no remorse, and soon she and the queen are going at it over strategy and

What is going on here? Who talks to their queen this way? And who makes a whiny barely-teen a COMMANDER? Is the rebellion that desperate for heroes?

Queen Angella

And then the queen grounds Glimmer and it all makes sense.

“MOOOOM! You never let me do ANYTHING!”
-Commander Glimmer

Glimmer is sent to her room, and we’re taken back to the Fright Zone, where Adora is gazing happily at her Force Captain badge while leaning on a railing overlooking the charming ooze-green maze of pipes and things that I guess make other things. She’s promptly pounced on by Catra, who’s excited to hear what Shadow Weaver told Adora, and even more excited when she thinks Adora’s promotion means that she’ll get to leave the Fright Zone and see action, too. After Adora reluctantly bursts her bubble, and tries to get Catra to see that her disrespectful attitude is holding back her advancement, Catra reveals her resentment of both SW, who Catra doesn’t think has earned her respect, and Adora, who she calls a “people pleaser.” She then bounds off with Adora’s Force Captain badge.

Adora knows exactly where to find her, and climbs up to a high vantage point atop some machine-like structure, and sure enough, she finds Catra perched on a pipe, sulkily gazing off into the distance. She apologizes – note that she has nothing to apologize for, but she genuinely feels bad that Catra’s feelings are hurt – and says she never knew Catra wanted to be a Force Captain. Catra says she didn’t, but did she? Or did she simply know Adora was Shadow Weaver’s favored student and that her best shot at success would be to stick close to Adora? She tosses Adora her badge like it means nothing to her, and we wait for this simmering stew of resentment to boil over.

But a watched pout never boils (#sorrynotsorry), and Adora and Catra seem to work it out. Adora reiterates that being a Force Captain is her life’s goal (lookin’ at you, future-unwilling-hero!) and asks Catra if she could be happy for her. Catra pulls the “whatever I don’t even care” routine and says she just wants to get out of the Fright Zone before she dies of boredom. “I wonder what’s even outside the Fright Zone,” Catra says.

Adora dangles a key and mischievously suggests they go find out.

Adora may be willing to follow the military academy’s rules and meet and/or exceed expectations consistently, but she’s not above stealing a land speeder (“skiff”) for a joyride to cheer up her bestie. They ride out into the darkening desert against a backdrop from Spaceman Spiff (note the floating boulders) until they arrive at the edge of the Everfree Forest Whispering Woods, where the beautiful flora conceals nightmarish monsters and the trees move when you’re not looking. Basically, it eats Horde squadrons for breakfast.

Naturally, they plunge right in, mostly because Catra is reckless and decided it was her turn to drive.

Adora and Catra struggle for control of the skiff, and almost hit a tree until Adora pulls the skiff into a steep climb – and is promptly clotheslined by a vine and tumbles down into a shrub.

The spirit of an ancient Night Elf who has become one with the forest floats by.

It must be a soft shrub, because she’s only out for a moment, and not particularly hurt, but there’s no time to marvel at that because


Good thing she didn’t land on that shiny golden pommel, which is just too shiny to resist touching…

As soon as her finger touches the sword the glow intensifies, signifying MAGIC. Adora gasps, and images fill her mind: a marble-like planet, the woods with the sword’s glow from above, a shiny purple egg thing, the sword, an vine-strangled ruin.

A female voice states that balance must be restored (but what’s new?), and that Etheria (that’s the planet with the “You are HERE” sticker) must seek a hero. I’m guessing Etheria’s found her.

An image of She-Ra appears with a baby’s cry voiceover, then a tall purple woman – is it her voice calling out to Adora?

It may be, but Catra is also calling her name. Adora blearily opens her eyes – she’s a little out of it, but not too out of it to believe Catra when she says that it was Adora who nearly drove the skiff into a tree – and looks for the sword, which has disappeared, as magical swords do from time to time. Catra thinks Adora is brain damaged, and, while she’s not above trying to pin the blame for their situation on her apparently compromised friend, she is truly concerned – particularly that her “mom” is gonna kill her for nearly killing her sister. Ah, siblings.

As Adora and Catra speed back to the Fright Zone, the audience is transported to the castle at Bright Moon, which is absolutely stunning (I love the Blood Elf-esque wings and jewels atop the tallest spire, not to mention the, what are those, upside down flying buttresses?), and WAIT isn’t that the purple egg? Only it’s turquoise now, but it’s definitely that egg thingy floating above a flower-looking thingy, I dunno, we only see it for a second. It’s clearly important, so I’m sure we’ll come back to it.

Then we’re watching a shadowy male figure leap through the Woods toward the castle, where he watches Glimmer compose an angry letter to her mom/journal.

“I feel like you don’t respect me!”
-Commander… Glimmer

The shadowy figure nocks an arrow and aims at Glimmer’s Art Nouveau Moon Kingdom window. He lets it fly straight into the wall above her head, cracks radiating out from the point of impact. Glimmer gasps as a compartment in the arrow shaft opens and unfurls a cute message covered in hearts telling her to look outside, where presumably she will not find a handyman armed with spackling tools.

Only mildly annoyed at this wanton destruction, Glimmer stage-whispers at the archer, “Watch it! You almost hit me!”

The archer reveals himself in the moonlight to be a young man in shiny mid-rif-baring Cupid armor and normal-looking blue pants. Not sure who put this ensemble together, and it doesn’t make any more sense than his tri-tone hair (black eyebrows, light brown shaved roots, and purplish… poof on top). And yet somehow, it works (the boots with gigantic hearts tie it all together).

Also, he’s a total cutie. So what’s up with these two? Are they just friends or…


Through their brief exchange, in which Glimmer tries to get him to stop yelling “WHAT?” every time she whispers that she’s grounded, we learn that

1. His name is Bow (appropriate, if a bit on the nose),
2. They’re definitely at least really good friends, and
3. Glimmer can teleport! 😀 Not only herself, but other people.

She pops out of her room, grabs Bow and pops back into her room where she rehashes the whole “I wanna help people through violence and especially prove that I’m a real person to my mom, but she’s a stick in the mud and like doesn’t want me to get murdered or something” drama. Bow does his friendly duty of listening to her complain while… picking up her clothes from the floor, folding them, and putting them away? Hey, none of my friends ever does that! Where did this guy come from??

We also learn through her self-pitying whine-fest that the Bright Moon rebellion is continually losing territory to the Horde, so maybe Glimmer has a point about fighting back? We shall see.

I love what happens next. Let me ‘splain. No, there is too much – let me sum up:

Glimmer: My mom doesn’t take me seriously because I’m just a princess!

Bow: That makes no sense, literally everyone here but me is a princess, which I feel slightly bummed about… And I’m totally forgetting that the non-princess staff even exist. Help me help you clean your room – where does this go?

Glimmer: [can teleport, but stays in her bed and points… like a PRINCESS]

Bow: You should listen to your mom because you did almost die. This is a good time to mention the limit on your magical ability, which is basically that it’s unreliable.

Glimmer: Only tell me things I want to hear!

Bow: I’m just saying, if you want to prove yourself as an adult, you should probably not behave like your frontal lobe is underdeveloped. But I have a solution! Let me show you on my tablet thingy to establish myself as the techie friend! Here’s a world-building reference to our planet’s mysterious lore, and a quest item in one! Let’s go into the woods to find it and bring it back to your mom to impress her!

Glimmer: But I’m grounded…

Glimmer’s Queen Mum: *pounds on door*

Glimmer: *teleportationally removes Bow from her room and tries to play it cool*

Glimmer and Queen Mum: *yell through the door at each other like absolute ninnies*

Glimmer: *slams her door shut and teleports herself outside to where Bow is waiting, playing a game on his tablet because all the hip stories now have magic AND technology*

Glimmer: I’m mad at my mom so I’m going to defy her to prove I’m mature!

Bow: Sweet.

And we’re back at the Fright Zone military academy dorm, where our cadets are snug in their bunks, including new Force Captain Adora, who doesn’t get a private room with her new rank. That wouldn’t work for Catra, who’s curled up at her feet, because CAT. What’s odd is that Catra’s wearing her red head-piece thing in her sleep – what is that thing? Is it part of her face? Why does she have extra eyebrows on it??

Rogelio also sleeps adorably. 🙂

Adora’s dreaming of the sword, and the voice of the tall purply woman in her head wakes her up. Catra catches her sneaking out, but Adora won’t let her come along to the Woods this time to keep her from getting in trouble, and instead asks Catra to cover for her. Catra is displeased and confused, but stays behind.

Well, things are really moving now. Adora’s on her way to the Whispering Woods, where Bow and Glimmer are looking for some magi-technological artifact from the “First Ones.” We know the three are fated to meet, but knowing what will happen doesn’t lessen he enjoyment of watching.

An apparent glitch in Bow’s tablet and a convenient magical glow get the duo on the right track. Meanwhile, Adora is pushing her way through thick foliage, doubting that she has actually had a mystical experience and considering going home like a rational person would, when she sees the GLOW of the sword.

Then she sees Glimmer and Bow, who see her in a Horde soldier uniform, prompting a race for the sword and a fun action sequence in which we get to see Adora use her combat training, Bow his creative archery, and Glimmer her sparkliness – which isn’t limited to teleportation but includes bright flashes of purple light that I guess inflict damage (don’t ask me how much, I’m not the DM). Adora gives them the chance to surrender so she doesn’t have to hurt them (which is really nice to say, after having just flipped Glimmer flat on her back), but they decline and everyone wrestles around until Adora manages to touch the sword, which is great because we’re all ready for a little more backstory here.

Adora is seemingly transported to a dark yet shiny place of giant crystal microchip-lookin’ things. The purple lady, who looks like an alien elf made of motherboard parts, introduces herself as Light Hope. She’s a slightly glitchy hologram, but it’s a safe bet she’s one of the good guys.

In this scene, Adora learns:

1. The sword is the key to Adora and Light Hope’s connection, which is why Adora never knew any of the following.
2. The sword is meant for Adora.
3. Because she’s being called on to fight for Etheria and the Honor of Grayskull.
4. Light Hope is not great at answering direct questions, such as “What are you talking about?” and “What is Grayskull?, but she is pretty good at disappearing to keep us all hanging on for more information.

After promising Adora and the audience that we will understand all of this, Light Hope peaces out, and Adora wakes to find herself bound at the wrists and about to be interrogated by Glimmer, who thinks she needs to yell to sound intimidating (guess what, sparkly bug: it doesn’t work that way).

Glimmer accuses Adora of being a spy and of trying to steal their sword; Adora denies being a spy and points out that she found the sword first. Glimmer argues that because the sword is in the Whispering Woods, and the Woods are under the protection of the Rebellion, the sword belongs to the Rebellion.

Anyone who’s been paying attention will note that Glimmer’s claim that Bright Moon protects the Woods is not completely true; if anything, it’s the other way around (remember Adora’s statement that the Horde soldiers that enter never return?). Either the rebellion, with its barely-teenage commander is so mighty that it can take out 100% of all Horde forces that enter, or there’s somethin’ in them thar woods what’s a-doin’ it.

After pausing to count her chickens before they’re hatched [“My mom’s gonna be so impressed!!”], Glimmer leads the party back to Bright Moon by way of every dang tree in the forest.

“I know what I’m doing!”
-Commander Glimmer, trying to read the map on Bow’s obviously-malfunctioning tablet

Even Bow, who grew up in the Woods, is starting to worry. Glimmer takes it personally and teleports herself about twenty feet ahead to, I don’t know, try to get better reception or something. Bow apologizes to Adora, who thinks it’s weird that he’s trying to make conversation with her, but he is basically the nicest guy in all of Etheria so far.  Adora questions his loyalty to a princess, the embodiment of evil, a “threat to everyone on Etheria… violent instigators who don’t even know how to control their own powers.”

Meanwhile, Rage Glimmer is totally losing her cool at not being able to find her way home.

-Commander Glimmer with the timing

Bow and Adora swap conflicting “common knowledge” until they hear Glimmer whimpering up ahead. Bow has a hold of his prisoner, but Adora seems concerned, and he doesn’t have to drag her along as they run to check on Glimmer.

Glimmer stands slumped over in the middle of a ruined settlement, examining a piece of broken pottery that depicts two satyr-like figures. Adora asks what happened, and finally, Glimmer’s attitude seems justified as she shows Adora a broken horde robot – the very same kind used to train the Horde’s military cadets to fight the Bright Moon princesses.

Adora’s having her whole world turned upside down, and denies that the Horde would do such a thing because, as Lord Hordak says, the Horde is trying to do what’s best for Etheria, to make it better, more orderly. Glimmer gives her a reality check by telling her that the Horde is literally destroying their cities. Bow points out that the Horde army is known as “the Evil Horde.” Adora is unwilling to accept this, and tells Bow that the Horde is her family – they took her in as an orphan and raised her.

There’s no time for arguing though, as Glimmer has just stumbled upon something else: A GIANT BUG WITH GLOWING EYES AND SPINES, AND LEGS LIKE SKEWERS that makes our little Glimmer-bug look like, well, a bug in comparison.

Cue the next action scene. The bug monster bursts out of the ground and tries to squish the humans. Bow uses his trick arrows to save Adora, whose foot is caught in a crack in the earth, and Glimmer uses her shiny purple light magic, but it’s not enough. Glimmer has dropped the sword, and, with no one minding her, Adora takes it back.

The bug is closing in on Glimmer and Bow; Adora considers taking the sword and running, but her conscience won’t allow it. The sword sizzles with magic, giving Adora an idea. She calls the to the bug, who leaves Glimmer and Bow for her. As the bug charges her, we’re treated to some any-time-now-magic-device suspense as Adora begs the sword for another one of those blinding flashes of light. The bug takes aim with its knife-like foreleg; Adora blocks with the sword. The bug’s claw touches the sword, and ah, there’s our blinding flash of light, accompanied again by visions:

-Etheria and her moons
-Bright Moon castle, with its gigantic egg-orb atop a tower
-Utah with floating boulders and a flaming asteroid crashing
-a sparkling crystal structure
-Light Hope, who’s been calling Adora’s name throughout the slideshow
-a spinning electric purple void in a field, surrounded by crystal obelisks, and the sound of a baby crying
-bright shining golden light and a flowing… dark thing, maybe the shadow of She-Ra’s cape? I can’t actually tell what this is.

“Will you fight for the honor of Grayskull?”
-Light Hope, who I guess forgot she never told Adora what Grayskull is

And we’re back with Adora, who thankfully didn’t pass out this time, but is struggling against the weight of the bug’s giant claw.

With nothing else left to try, Adora calls out, “For the honor of Grayskull!”

When the next blinding flash of light fades, we see that Adora has transformed into She-Ra, and carries both the sword and a shield. The bug’s spines lay down flat and it basks in She-Ra’s glow, blinking contentedly as her hair, cape and not-quite-a-skirt ruffle thing float majestically. Adora/She-Ra seems fairly chill herself – and the credits roll.

Shiny She-Ra

But we’re living in the future and this is Netflix, so we can jump straight to part two!

Castles Put Me in the Mood

to write. And no, not vampire ghost time-travel romances; that’s a little too weird, even for me, and if I’m being honest, I don’t think I could write romance of any sort because it feels too implausible for my brain to handle.

Elves mucking through a swamp killing undead, THAT I can suspend disbelief for, but the elf and human prince being driven together by circumstance and, despite not getting along initially, falling madly in love with each other? SPOILER ALERT: No. That’s not going to happen.

But being forced by circumstances (inconvenient animated corpses) to spend some time in the human prince’s BEAUTIFUL ancient castle, built in the foothills of a dramatic mountain range and overlooking the empire’s windswept mesas? Why yes, let’s!

I should have titled this post “Looking at Pictures of Castles…” because I haven’t actually been in many castles.

I’ve been in large (and sometimes weird) houses, like Fonthill Castle in Doylestown, PA, a 44-room mansion made entirely of concrete.

Fonthill Castle

Have you ever had a dream that you were in an inexplicably odd structure, with staircases of various sizes, nooks in unexpected places, and mismatched tile and windows, disorienting wall angles, and columns placed irregularly (yes, in front of the fireplace), and you woke up from this dream and told someone, “Hey, I had this crazy dream that I was in this weird house!”? Except then you remembered, no, that was that museum in Bucks County… That’s Fonthill Castle. Trippy and inspiring.

Fonthill Castle – check out that column in the middle of the room

This part’s a bit much.

I’ve also been in large (and not so weird) houses, like Thomas Edison’s Glenmont, which hasn’t made its way into any of my writings, but has influenced how I picture large older homes (that entryway!)

Glenmont with awnings

That light fixture that look like opalescent bug eggs, though…

What are those even??

I went to the Prado in Madrid*, which is probably the most castle-like building I’ve ever been in, but that was about 11 years ago, and there was so much art to study, that I was a bit overwhelmed.

Museo del Prado

I remember a sparse white hallway of windows, which was definitely in Spain and may have been in the Prado… I’d like to go back, let my brain refresh my memories, but if I ever make it back to Europe, I think I’ll head for Scotland or France (there are plenty of castles there!)

And I do so want to go on my dream castle tour of Germany. Someday, maybe.

Meanwhile, I’ve got a vague image of a castle in my mind, something like Olite Castle in Spain (at least the newer wing of my imaginary castle, which has been expanded over the centuries, because I can never just make this easy on myself).

Olite Castle

What would be GREAT would be if someone published easy-to-read floor plans of beautiful old castles so I could figure out how long, realistically, it would take for my characters to walk from their rooms to the hidden passage, down into the old dungeon, and back. That would be tremendously helpful.

I suppose I’ll just have to add Spain to my castle tour. Which I will go on. When I have money, hahahahahahahahaha.

For now, I’ll let Google inspire me. 😉

*Remember that scene in She’s All That, when the mean artsy girl says to Laney, “Sav and I, we toured the Prado over break,” and other mean artsy girl Savannah so helpfully interjects, “That’s in Spain,” because plebe Laney wouldn’t know, would she? And then the mean, rich art girls suggest she kill herself for artistic immortality? That was dark.

Not all mean girls wear pink.

Worldbuilding – Language

Someday, after I meet my life goal of becoming tri-lingual (haha), I’m going to create a full language for a fantasy world of my own creation.

That day is not today.

But I’m writing a novel about a woman who walks through a portal (oops) into a fantasy world where the people don’t conveniently speak English, and while I usually only reference the fantasy language speech without writing it as dialogue, sometimes I need a word or a phrase here and there. The story is told in first person, so naturally, my main character would start to pick up on a word or two, or at least hear and be able to make out the sounds, and I want my readers to experience that with her.

Which means I have to make up fantasy language vocabulary, at the least, and maybe a few phrases. I’m about five chapters in, and so far, I’ve only created words for “tree” and “mountain”; “sorry” is still in brackets. I have to find the right apologetic sounds (although “apologize” is one of the least apologetic-sounding words in English!). And I’ll definitely need “hello,” “goodbye,” “yes” and “no.”

The funny thing is, I actually did this once, in my purple-people-who-live-in-trees story, which I love, but isn’t quite working for me right now. I’d like to return to it in ten or twenty years, look it over and realize, “I know exactly how to do this now!” That means I shouldn’t accidentally self-plagiarize and use any of the same words.

The good news is that the MC will learn to communicate with the people there – assisted by magic, but also through study of the language. And, she’s an ESL teacher (hey, they said “write what you know,” so I’m writing what I know), so you know she’s gotta geek out about this new language and thus narrate all about it. I can see it now – I’m gonna have to hold her back (you know how those verbose characters can be – they wanna talk about what they wanna talk about, and you just have to reel ’em in sometimes and tell them that that is not where the story’s going, so can it).

There are, of course, different ways of including fantasy languages in writing, some of which are detailed here. Even if I don’t go the full-language route (probably won’t), this language-creation kit looks like a handy way to brush up on my morphology and syntax (all that stuff I knew way back in college, lol).

Ultimately, my main will speak their language more-or-less fluently (thank you, magic), so I can write most interactions in English with the understanding that they’re actually speaking this other language. But as long as she’s learning, I’ll need words and phrases that don’t sound completely stupid. Or, maybe they can – some words do sound funny! Like “cow.” Usually, when you say “cow,” you just say it, and think of a large black-and-white or brown quadruped and/or hamburgers But when you say it over and over, you brain kinda disassociates the sound and the meaning. Go on. Say it: cow cow cow cow cow cow cow cow cow cow cow cow cow…

Weird, right? You’re suddenly so aware of the movement of the muscles involved in making all these sounds. [This is why learning to pronounce a new language can be hard – you have to train your mouth and lip muscles to move in ways they’re not accustomed to. It’s like learning to dance, or doing Tai Chi.]

Speaking of sounds, I need to make some decisions about the sounds and sound combinations in this language (I’ve only made one so far, which makes it difficult for the fantasy people to pronounce the MC’s name – June. It’s one syllable – it shouldn’t be that hard! But in their language, the consonant + oo sound + n sound never ends a word – there’s always another syllable, even just a vowel (kind of the opposite of Japanese in that way). So, it’s not that they can’t pronounce her name, it’s just feels and sounds weird to them. They have to retrain their mouths and not second-guess themselves, like their brains are telling them to do (Are you sure that’s right? That can’t be right). People do this ALL THE TIME, which is why you hear “Chipol-tay” instead of “Chipot-lay”. Sound it out, folks. It’s on the commercial.

Anyway, she gets renamed (don’t do this to people if you can avoid it, which means don’t do this to people), which I think is relevant to the story, anyway. Whatever, it happens, and she likes the name, and it becomes (to her) her warrior name. See, it coincidentally happens after a fight in which she’s able to save herself from bandits (thanks to luck and pepper-spray), so it coincides with the start of her transformation into a total bad-ass.

And I’m the writer, so I can do what I want. But don’t rename people. Just embrace the awkwardness and keep trying to make those sounds and put them in the right order. You can do it! Believe in yourself!

Okay, now that that’s been said, I have to go do the things that pay for my stuff. Maybe by next time, I’ll have a few more words figured out – maybe even a phrase if I’m a good little writer-bee!


So I was whining to my former roommate on Facebook about something or the other (challenges of writing a novel, probably) and she, blessed being that she is, decided to make my life infinitely better and recommended I read Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series.

I’m only 23% of the way through the first book, and it turns out there are six books in this series, which means my free time (ha) is spoken for for the next several months, especially since I just happened to get sucked in as the TV version is being filmed.

Frankly, I wasn’t entirely sure I would like this story based on one particular detail: a married woman from 1945 marries another guy in 1743 (after disappearing from 1945). It sounded like a sad kind of wish-fulfillment: a woman wants the vampire and the werewolf, but she can’t have both in real life, so she writes a novel with a premise that excuses her indecision.

Outlander does not seem to be that at all. Granted, I haven’t gotten to the second marriage in the book yet, but it was handled very well with believable conflict by the superb Caitriona Balfe (the actress who plays Claire, the sort-of-accidental bigamist) and the screenwriters, who should probably write the scripts for all books-turned-TV-shows for the rest of forever. Watching the 8 TV episodes released so far and then returning to the book for the author’s original conception of the story and more details has been so fun, and neither book nor TV adaptation has disappointed.

Grossed me out occasionally, but not disappointed. When Starz says TV-MA, they mean it. It isn’t all entrails all the time, but, well, let me just say that I am impressed with the make-up/prosthetics artists and magic-TV-people, because that really did look like a ripped-up muscle, and ew, let’s not talk about it further.

I could not have been an army nurse like the protagonist, Claire B. Randall. Phew, no sir.

I cannot fathom the amount of research it must have taken to write a novel set largely in the 18th century told from the perspective of a war field-hospital nurse. I research when I feel like it, and when I don’t, I make stuff up (in fantastical worlds, I can kind of do what I want). I honestly feel like I’m learning when I read Outlander (I hope it’s more than a feeling), which may be why I don’t feel too silly reading a love triangle tale featuring a Highlander hottie (here I’m reminded of the spoof novel-cover painting from The Guild featuring Wil “Shut Up, Wesley” Wheaton and Felicia Day). You would never see that on any edition of Outlander because although there is some romance (quite a bit to come, if the TV show is any indication), there’s an actual story in a world that doesn’t merely exist to allow a woman to have an affair. In a way, Outlander reminds me of The Historian (with fewer historical documents and quotes-within-quotes, which are perfectly fine, of course) because there is so much (but never too much) going on.

So, we’ll see if I become one of those people who finally saves up enough money for the dream Scotland vacation, not because her ancestors lived there, but because she just HAS to see the castle where this amazing story was set – if I do become that annoyingly fan-girly, please smack me.

We’ll also see if I later come back and edit the previous sentence.

A World of Warcraft Poem

As a Blood Elf, I am saddened that so few Azerothians seem to appreciate the stunning gaudiness of my people’s capital. So, I wrote a poem – a lament, if you will.

Nobody goes to Silvermoon
That place is such a mess!
The Scar with rubble remains bestrewn
Undead obstruct egress

Nobody goes to Silvermoon
The shops and inns are deserted
Save owners who mockingly laugh in tune
Eviction is somehow averted

Nobody goes to Silvermoon
The Prince of the Sun has died
Leaving behind a government triune
That brainwashes when defied

Nobody goes to Silvermoon
Which is really a terrible shame
Because nobody sees its sparkling festoons
Or the Spire with sunlight aflame

Everyone goes to Orgrimmar
And it’s obvious why, to be frank
The entire city’s a bustling bazaar
With nude chicks catching rays at the bank

I wrote this between 1 and 3 in the morning a couple nights ago, so, as with everything I post, I consider it a rough draft. I’ll probably add a few more verses when the mood strikes and I feel like praising the sparkliness or telling Orgrimmar it’s not as tough as it looks. “OHLOOK we slapped some IRON on our not-structurally-sound huts so now it’s SCARYYYYYYGROWLLLLL! ZUG!!!” W/e, guys.

Aaaaaaaaah, it’s a snaaaaaaaaake!

I did go play* outside** the other day [*play = sanding baseboard heater pieces; **outside = in the garage with the doors up].

While happily sanding (before the electric sander went kaput), my mum tapped the work table to get my attention.

“I found a snake,” she said. In the pile of cardboard and wood scraps next to the house that we let sit there (it was kind of hard to remove from under two feet of snow… and then it was wet… and then we were busy…), a little gray striped snake had made a home/found a mouse hunting ground. It was only about a foot long, but as I stared at it, and it stared back, its head raised, tongue flicking, I realized it did not think it was too small to feel indignant at having been disturbed.

I thought I was brave enough to pick it up with a pair of long tongs, but the tongs weren’t as long as I remembered. The hoe was longer, but not angled conveniently for snake-scooping. I managed to chase the snake out of the pile; it undulated itself against the foundation toward the gate – until it noticed the giant, fanged, clawed barking creature on the other side and folded back over itself toward the cover of the scrap pile. I chased it around a bit more, trying to get it to go out to the woods (it wasn’t poisonous, so I figured there was no reason to kill it), until Mom got fed up with my lack of snake-catching abilities and had me hand over the hoe.

“Don’t kill it!” I whined.

“Why not?” she asked.

I turned away.

But then, a group of six or seven high school boys walked by. Mom called out to them:

“Do you boys know anything about snakes?”

Only one was an avid Nat Geo watcher, but they all decided they’d better come take a look. One of them picked it up while I hid behind the dog, I mean, while I kept the beast calm.

“You can have it,” I said. One boy laughed,

“She said, ‘You can have it!'” Yes, I did. What were we going to do with it? Mom made our intrepid hero promise not the scare any girls or his mother with it, and then off they went, down the street, with a snake.

I don’t know the end of the story. I can’t ask the snake; they don’t have ears.

Kristen Britain’s Blackveil

If you’ve read Blackveil, you probably already know where this is going.

How many years will it be, Kristen? Can you give us a ball park? Think you can tie up a certain plot line before the solar flares in 2012 knock out the Int3rw3b5? (Well, whatever. Just in case.)



A’ight. So, recap:

Karigan G’ladheon, whose name’s apostrophe actually seems reasonable, is a Green Rider, one of King Zachary’s elite and moderately magical mail couriers.

She, however, is not the king’s mistress, although he did once suggest to her that the position was open.

But wait, I’m making this sound ridiculous. It’s not, really. Nor is my aggravation at certain developments designed by the Evil Overlord (Britain) to keep the two apart.

Wait, I’m sorry, Ms. Britain! You aren’t the Evil Overlord, not at all! You’re super awesome! (Aren’t you? I don’t actually know.) Well, your books are. So write some more of them, now!

Ahh. Now that that’s out of my system, here are my predictions:

At the end of the book, Karigan is in the castle’s catacombs (But WHEN is she, hmm? Not conveniently in the time she was in when she busted the mask and went to space or whatever that was). She won’t die from suffocating in the sarcophagus (the big stone box she’s trapped in). How do I know she won’t die? 1) The publisher wouldn’t allow it; and 2) She was just in the arms of Westrion, The Birdman, the God of Death. Why the hell would he take her OUT of the void-with-a-gravitation-like-force and put her BACK in the world of the living, just so she can die five minutes later? That would be silly, and Westrion is anything but silly (unless feathery = silly).

Or maybe Karigan is actually on the Weapons’ super secret island (read this prediction at I think SOMEONE is going to go there. Who, I don’t know. It just sounds too badass not to write about.

That marriage thing? A’int gonna last. I don’t know if Karigan will mess with any threads (possible timelines) that will cause the marriage not to have been moved up, or if it will end for another reason (Zachy fully regrowing the pair he apparently lost in the attack, perhaps).

Zachary will receive Karigan’s just-in-case-I-die-in-the-forest-of-doom letter. If they actually get to spend more than 1/6 of a minute together in the next book (I’m not putting anything past you, lady), he just might do something about it.

It’ll turn out that though Spane is the douchiest of all douches, he does know his gossip: Estora will be revealed as the daughter of the unnamed minstrel *cough* Aaron Fiori *cough cough* I could be wrong, but assuming he passed his musical ability to Estora, she’ll have something more to do than date r4p3 the king (yeah, I said it). Send her pretty little @55 to the wall while Estral is (TEMPORARILY, dammit!) voiceless.

Oh, and Lala can f*cking die. Or be redeemed and taught not to be a l’il creepster. Hey, most kids take something that isn’t theirs at some point. Plenty of them grow up to understand that stealing is wrong. And somebody’s gotta be able to work at crimes scenes and in morgues without barfing. Of course, most of these people DON’T PRACTICE DARK MAGIC SO DARN WELL. So she can die, but only after sacrificing Grandmother (out of context, this sounds really bad, doesn’t it?). But that wasn’t a prediction. Lala won’t die in the next book. She’s the scariest damn person in the whole series, except maybe Mornhavon (for NOW!). Yeah, she’s gonna be a bad ass. Poor kid. In our world, she’d be getting an individualized education plan that doesn’t involve using her blood in mean magical spells. In Karigan’s world, she’s powerful, not terribly relate-able, and somewhat unpredictable (despite this, my prediction that she will become a force with which to be reckoned stands).

Where was I… oh yeah, Estral is going to get her voice back. If it can be magically taken, it can be magically returned.

Grandmother isn’t going to last much longer. She’s not necessary to the plot, and lately, all she’s done is groan and creak and follow the voices in the fire. Lala can do plenty of evil without the groaning or creaking. However, I do HOPE we will find out if it’s Mornhavon she’s been taking orders from this whole time. She certainly did take orders from him towards the end of Blackveil, but was it always him? I think we’re supposed to assume it was; I’d just like it to be made clear (remember, after taking a corporeal form, Mornhavon was like, who’re you?).

And Mornhavon. Ohh, Mornhavon. You just don’t know how to move on. How many books will it take before he’s done? We’ll need to know more about what that mask did to him. Maybe it sent him through time again. I dunno. It’ll probably be cool, whatever happens.

Oh, and our man of many masks (sexy thief, sexy pirate, sexy slave of a witch or something), what’s his name. Amberhill. Seeing as how he’s tagged Estora with his pirate booty, and considering she’s totally got the hots for him, they will see something of each other. Amberhill’s plot will be revealed to be relevant to the proceedings of slaying evil sh*t. No idea how he’s gonna escape Yolandhe. In my ideal world, Estora would have to fight her for Amberhill. Although, I really don’t know how she’d win (Newfound music magic? *shrug* That would probably be more effective than wrestling). Actually, Yolandhe and perhaps various other sea beings could help in the destroying of Mornhavon’s obnoxiously eternal soulless soul-thing.

Will the wall be mended? Or will it fall and all hell will break loose? Can’t call that one. It would help to know how many sleepers remain. Remember, there may be other groves. Or not. But I think there are. Why? Because sleepers can get through the wall, and therefore pose a super scary threat (and, therefore, the wall doesn’t need to fall for all hell to break loose – oh, and all that hard work Estora better put in, ho hum!).

Oh, and can the Berry sisters come back, pretty please? That’s not a prediction because I don’t know what they would do other than be old and awesome. Same with L’il, except she’s dead and awesome. Wasn’t there a cliffhanger concerning her a book or so ago? Yo, KB! The f*ck? Get back to the Green Riders’ history. We’ve had our fun with the Eletians; now we could use some Rider magic.

That’s all I’ve got for now. The rest of my thoughts on Blackveil cannot be organized into this prediction format (too sleepy to remember enough specifics).

But this is not the last you will hear from me about this book. It was like over 500 pages! And, if past publication dates are any indication, it’ll be about 4 years before the next book in the series comes out. Gotta keep myself occupied.