[sticky entry] Sticky: Welcome!

Sep. 9th, 2013 08:05 pm
calissa: (Default)
Hi there!

This post is for those people I've just met and/or those who want to get to know me. I enjoy making friends and getting to know people, so I encourage you to introduce yourself if you haven't already.

Family )


Interests and organisations )

I do have some health troubles, mostly to do with my upper body, arms and hands. Sometimes managing the pain can be a challenge and can limit the amount of time I can write and spend on the computer.

I also like to get to know people. So if you have any questions, feel free to ask. :D

Last updated on 15 August 2016.
calissa: (Calissa)

Aurealis Awards, Clariel, Garth Nix, tea and books

The shortlists for the Aurealis Awards were announced yesterday. Congratulations to all of the nominees! It was a delight to witness the celebrations on social media, particularly among the first-timers.

I found the experience surprisingly hard as a judge. I just want to shake everyone and rave about these wonderful stories, but will need to keep a lid on it until the winners are announced. It’s the most difficult sort of secret for me to keep.

However,there was still a surprise in store for me: I’ve been nominated for the Convenors’ Award for Excellence for my work here at Earl Grey Editing. The award serves as a kind of catch-all for everything that doesn’t fit into Aurealis’ categories, including fan writing, criticism and podcasts.As the title suggests, it will be judged by the convenors of the other panels.

It is a great honour to be recognised by the community, so thank you to whoever nominated me (I have my suspicions).

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Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Among Galactic Ruins, Anna Hackett, Earl Grey Editing, books and tea, tea and books, sci-fi romance

Published: Self-published in August 2015
Format reviewed: E-book (mobi)
Series: The Phoenix Adventures #0.5
Genres: Romance, sci-fi, adventure
Source: Amazon
Reading Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017, Read My Valentine
Available:Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Book Depository ~ Booktopia ~Kobo ~ Smashwords

When astro-archeologist and museum curator Dr. Lexa Carter discovers a secret map to a lost old Earth treasure–a priceless Faberg egg–she’s excited at the prospect of a treasure hunt to the dangerous desert planet of Zerzura. What she’s not so happy about is being saddled with a bodyguard–the museum’s mysterious new head of security, Damon Malik.

After many dangerous years as a galactic spy, Damon Malik just wanted a quiet job where no one tried to kill him. Instead of easy work in a museum full of artifacts, he finds himself on a backwater planet babysitting the most infuriating woman he’s ever met.

She thinks he’s arrogant. He thinks she’s a trouble-magnet. But among the desert sands and ruins, adventure led by a young, brash treasure hunter named Dathan Phoenix, takes a deadly turn. As it becomes clear that someone doesn’t want them to find the treasure, Lexa and Damon will have to trust each other just to survive.

Among Galactic Ruins is a novella that blends romance, science fiction and action. Think Star Wars meets Indiana Jones: the main characters search for a lost temple on a desert planet in the hopes of finding treasure. It is fast-paced fluffy fun.

Dr. Lexa Carter defied her wealthy family to become an astro-archeologist. They conspired to keep her out of trouble by pushing her into curatorship. That suited Lexa… until she discovered a map that could lead her to lost treasure. One of the things I loved most about Lexa is even though she’s lived a sheltered life, she’s still quite capable of holding her own. She can defend herself physically, if necessary, and has a tendency to run towards trouble–particularly when that trouble is threatening Damon. Her privileged upbringing hasn’t left her without a spine.

Damon Malik is a former spy-cum-assassin who retired for the quiet life. He’s now the head of security at Lexa’s museum and drives her up the wall with his stringent precautions. He’s less than pleased about being dragged out to the middle of nowhere on a wild goose chase. However, Lexa’s passion for her field of interest captivates him to the point where he starts hoping she’ll look at him the same way she looks at those ruined temples. And no matter what’s being thrown at them–sinkholes, desert wolves–Damon never treats Lexa as if she’s incapable.

There were a few elements that didn’t work for me. The style was a little clunky in places, tending towards telling rather than showing. This was particularly the case with world-building. The dirty talk also didn’t work for me, coming across as cliched and a bit awkward.

I also found the ending a little less than satisfying, feeling that the resolution came too easily.

However, I enjoyed the fast pace and the adventure of it. There were some excellent action sequences and the sexual tension between Lexa and Damon really drew me in and had me holding my breath. And as a Jacqueline Carey fan, I got a giggle out of the Kushiel’s Dart reference.

Overall, I found Among Galactic Ruins to be a great deal of fun. It was a lovely way to ease out of Aurealis judging and interesting enough that I’ll be following up the rest of the series.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: (Default)
Most of you have probably seen these via my other social media. But for those who haven't, my recent interest in Jamberry manicures continues.

Autumn Romance )

Afternoon Tea paired with Lagoon )

Hearts A Glow paired with Sorbet )
calissa: (Calissa)

GUFF interviews, kangaroo, Earl Grey Editing, Elizabeth Fitzgerald

The Get Up-and-over Fan Fund is designed to promote connections between fandoms in Australasia and Europe. This year GUFF will send one delegate from Australiasia to Worldcon in Helsinki in August. Voting is open to all interested fans, regardless of nationality. It closes 1 April.

Deciding how to rank the candidates can be a pretty daunting prospect, so over the next few weeks Earl Grey Editing will be featuring an interview with each candidate. The first interview was with Belle McQuattie. Joining me today is Donna Maree Hanson.

First and most vital: What’s your favourite beverage?

Besides tea? Because you know my brain floats in brown liquid constantly. On the alcoholic side it is either cider, bubbly, Sauvignon Blanc, Gin and Tonic or a Lychee Martini.

Our mutual addiction to tea has led to many lovely afternoons. But I must admit a Lychee Martini sounds very tasty!

You’ve been involved in Australian SFF fandom for over a decade. How did you get started?

Long story! Way back in my early days of starting to write, I joined the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild and it was Maxine McArthur, science fiction author, who encouraged me to attend a convention and even to help out on one. So back in 2001 I helped out on a local convention in Canberra. It was great. I met people and authors and stuff. Then I went to Convergence in Melbourne. Had my mind absolutely blown. It was great. Then what do you know I end up running the 2003 Natcon in Canberra (Conflux). I ran another convention after that and introduced a lot of people to fandom. I went to worldcons in Glasgow, Denver, Montreal, and London. I helped out with the Aussiecon bid and helped out for a little while in communications for Aussiecon 4 until my mum got sick and it got too hard. I ran another natcon with Nicole Murphy (Conflux 9) in 2013. It has been a great experience. I’ve learned so much, learned about new writers, met people from all over the world, met authors and been to some fabulous parties.

You’re currently working on a PhD focused on feminism in romance. How have you found this has impacted on your SFF writing?

The PhD studies so far have benefited my writing. Part of the study involves reading widely–French philosophers, feminist theory, queer theory–and I find that all mind-expanding. I’m not free to write as much as I’d like but I find with a bit of discipline (say an hour a day, at least) I can do both the PhD and write. I take a writing day once a week too. I don’t think you can study romance without touching on feminism and gender, and that is interesting to say the least. As I’m undertaking a creative writing PhD, l will be writing a novel. That novel is going to be an SF novel, post-human, focussing on gender equality and romance too. To write that novel I have to read SF dealing with that topic as well as straight romance, which is part of my research. Lots of reading. I read Left Hand of Darkness aloud to myself so I could experience it at a deeper level. So it’s a journey that I can bend to include both sides of my interests in genre.

What Australian SFF have you recently loved?

This is a hard question. I have a big to read list, featuring Australian authors. I think the standout for me though was The Grief Hole by Kaaron Warren. This book is something else, a perfect blend of dark with hints of light and with Warren’s exclusive ingenuity and creativity that takes the everyday and makes it more. The Grief Hole explores grief and guilt and the darker side to humanity. I loved it. Not scary. Just dusting the cobwebs of the human dark side.

What’s coming up next for you?

Pretty much writing and the PhD studies for the foreseeable future. I have been working on a few books that are coming out this year.

What are you most looking forward to about Worldcon 75?

I really like the idea that the Worldcon is in Helsinki, Finland. It’s such a different place from here, from the US, from anywhere else. I hosted Jukka Halme, the Worldcon chair, when he visited Canberra, a lucky quirk of fate. He was funny, and interesting and a really good bloke. I’d love to see what he and his team have put together. I think worldcons celebrate community and being outside the USA, a worldcon gives smaller communities some airtime. I’d really like to experience the European SF community because I haven’t had the chance to do that before. If I had the time and the money I’d go to all the worldcons.

Donna Maree Hanson is a Canberra-based writer of fantasy, science fiction, horror, and under the pseudonym (Dani Kristoff) paranormal romance. Her dark fantasy series (which some reviewers have called grim dark), Dragon Wine, is published by Momentum Books (Pan Macmillan digital imprint). Book 1: Shatterwing and Book 2: Skywatcher are out now in digital and print on demand.

In April 2015, she was awarded the A. Bertram Chandler Award for Outstanding Achievement in Australian Science Fiction for her work in running science fiction conventions, publishing and broader SF community contribution.

Donna also writes young adult science fiction, with Rayessa and the Space Pirates and Rae and Essa’s Space Adventures out with Escape Publishing. (the Love and Space Pirates series). Opi Battles the Space Pirates is the third book in this series.

In 2016, Donna commenced her PhD candidature researching Feminism in Popular Romance. Her first Indie published book, Argenterra, was publishing in late April 2016. Argenterra is the first in an epic fantasy series (the Silverlands) suitable for adult and young adult readers. Oathbound and The Ungiven Land book two and three of the Silverlands are due out in 2017.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Wanted, A Gentleman, KJ Charles, historical romance, Earl Grey Editing, tea and books, books and tea.

Published: January 2017 by Riptide Publishing
Format reviewed: E-book (mobi)
Genres: Historical romance, LGBTQIA
Source: NetGalley
Reading Challenges: Read My Valentine
Available: Publisher (print and electronic) ~ Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Book Depository ~ Booktopia ~ Kobo

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

By the good offices of Riptide Publishing
KJ Charles’s new Entertainment

WANTED, A GENTLEMAN
Or, Virtue Over-Rated

the grand romance of

Mr. Martin St. Vincent . . . a Merchant with a Mission, also a Problem
Mr. Theodore Swann . . . a humble Scribbler and Advertiser for Love

Act the First:

the offices of the Matrimonial Advertiser, London
where Lonely Hearts may seek one another for the cost of a shilling

Act the Second:

a Pursuit to Gretna Green (or thereabouts)

featuring

a speedy Carriage
sundry rustic Inns
a private Bed-chamber

***

In the course of which are presented

Romance, Revenge, and Redemption
Deceptions, Discoveries, and Desires

the particulars of which are too numerous to impart

KJ Charles excels at gay historical romance. Wanted, A Gentleman is a standalone novella that is short and entertaining. However, as is often the case when I read novellas, I found it a little too short to be truly satisfying.

Both main characters are flawed but likeable. Theo comes across as opportunistic and disreputable, though it’s clear he has a good heart underneath. He’s also observant and intelligent, able to see the world in ways Martin can’t. These qualities are especially valuable for his trade as a writer of romance novels. This aspect of his character was something I enjoyed and never felt it crossed the line into self-indulgence.

Similarly, I appreciated Martin’s unabashed enjoyment in reading romance novels. He’s not afraid of having this hobby discovered and is happy to share his criticisms of what he’s read. It added a little extra dimension to a character who is keenly aware of honour and obligation, and generally quite straight-laced.

Historical romance is often a whitewashed genre, so it was a delight to see a PoC take centre stage. Martin was a slave who was taken from his home at a young age and given as a gift to his British masters, who eventually freed him. In the mind of the Conroy family, Martin is a close friend, yet they treat him in ways they would never treat a friend and give no thought to Martin’s experiences. It was nice to see the intersection of racism and good intentions be explored.

While I felt the attraction between Martin and Theo was well handled, the resolution of this attraction was a little sudden for me. Nevertheless, it fits in with Theo’s character (who isn’t one to beat around the bush) and ties in with the characters getting swept up in something bigger than themselves.

Likewise, there was a twist around two-thirds of the way through that came as a bit of a shock. While it was an excellent way of exploring some backstory, a little more foreshadowing would have been useful.

Wanted, A Gentleman is never going to be my favourite of KJ Charles’ work. However, it manages a lot of action and depth for such a short work and is still well worth reading.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

And done

Feb. 11th, 2017 08:52 am
calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)
20161206_125126

This morning I finished my last book for Aurealis judging. It has been an amazing experience and there have been some great books. But I admit I'm looking forward to moving on to new things.
calissa: A black and white photo of a large, dark teapot and a small Chinese teacup with a fish painted on the side (Tea)

Loose-leaf Links, Earl Grey Editing. Salamanca Blend, The Art of Tea, loose-leaf tea

Loose-leaf Links is a feature where I gather together the interesting bits and pieces on sci-fi and fantasy I’ve come across and share them with you over tea. Today’s tea is the Salamanca Blend from The Art of Tea. A mix of green and black, it’s a light tea with a strong combination of fruity and floral scents.

I’m a little light on links for this edition. My energy has been going to finishing off the last of the reading for the Aurealis Awards, leaving me without much left for my usual news sources. However, since I have just one book to go (!!), I should be back up to speed for my next edition.

Follow Up ) Community and Conventions )
calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Hold Me, Courtney Milan, Cyclone, Earl Grey Editing

Published: Self-published in October 2016
Format reviewed: E-book (mobi)
Series: Cyclone #2
Genres: Contemporary romance
Source: Amazon
Reading Challenges: Read My Valentine
Available: Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Book Depository ~ Booktopia ~Kobo ~ Smashwords

Jay na Thalang is a demanding, driven genius. He doesn’t know how to stop or even slow down. The instant he lays eyes on Maria Lopez, he knows that she is a sexy distraction he can’t afford. He’s done his best to keep her at arm’s length, and he’s succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.

Maria has always been cautious. Now that her once-tiny, apocalypse-centered blog is hitting the mainstream, she’s even more careful about preserving her online anonymity. She hasn’t sent so much as a picture to the commenter she’s interacted with for eighteen months, not even after emails, hour-long chats, and a friendship that is slowly turning into more. Maybe one day, they’ll meet and see what happens.

But unbeknownst to them both, Jay is Maria’s commenter. They’ve already met. They already hate each other. And two determined enemies are about to discover that they’ve been secretly falling in love

I’m not usually big on contemporary romances. However, I am a huge fan of Courtney Milan and the previous book in this series was amazing. I went into Hold Me with high expectations and they were met at every turn.

As the blurb suggests, it’s an enemies-to-lovers story. The book is told in first person present tense, alternating between the perspectives of Maria and Jay. Jay is a genius professor and a friend of Maria’s brother. He works hard and doesn’t have time for distractions. He also considers himself a feminist. However, when Maria shows up at his lab door looking for her brother, he quickly dismisses her–no one who looks as girly as she does could possibly have brains as well. Maria is a trans woman who has worked damn hard on the skills necessary to make herself look feminine and gorgeous. She’s proud of her skills and they don’t preclude the intelligence she needs to research and run disaster scenarios for her blog. A blog that Jay is a huge fan of and comments on frequently.

Not to say that Maria is the good guy and Jay the bad. The story has more nuance than that. Jay learns from his mistakes and puts genuine effort into doing better. And when he figures out that Maria and Em–the owner of the blog who he messages all the time and is half in love with–are the same person, he confesses immediately, rather than dragging it out in one of those painfully embarrassing scenarios. Maria also has her blind spots. She tends to conflate Asian heritage, despite having a number of friends of different Asian backgrounds. And although she does a good job of calling Jay on his inconsistent boundaries, her fear of intimacy makes her own boundaries pretty inconsistent at times.

As someone who struggles with work/life balance, I appreciated the portrayal of Jay’s workaholism. It felt authentic to me. The resolution of this theme wasn’t quite as solid as I would have liked, but I appreciated the subtle approach, rather than bashing the reader over the head with the way things worked out.

The author also took a more subtle approach to the characters’ marginalised identities. Being a trans woman is shown as important to Maria’s identity but is never the most important thing about her. Rather, her passions and intelligence are centred instead. Jay’s bisexuality felt a little weak in comparison, without the same sort of significance to his character. Nevertheless, I appreciated that their sexualities didn’t define who they were.

There is some terrifically snappy banter between the two as they flirt and exchange insults in the languages of maths and science. There was one insult regarding lasers and masturbation that had tears of laughter streaming down my face.

All in all, I found Hold Me a fantastic romance with all the feels. It cemented Courtney Milan as an author I will follow to the ends of the earth.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

2017 got off to an epic start. With the deadline for Aurealis judging breathing down my neck, I’ve been tearing through the books faster than I’ve been acquiring them. At the rate I’m going, I should have no trouble making it to 100 books by the end of the year. In fact, I’m thinking of revising the goal upward, since I’m already a third of the way there and it’s only February.

My personal reading goals also included one trip to the library a month. I went and picked up Pocket Apocalypse by Seanan McGuire, but haven’t yet had a chance to read it. I’ve still got a couple of weeks before it’s due back, though.

Mt TBR Status

Mt TBR @ 1 January 2016: 327
Mt TBR @ 31 January 2016: 307

Books Read ) Books Acquired ) Online Reading )

What have you read this month?

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: (Calissa)

GUFF interviews, kangaroo, Earl Grey Editing, Elizabeth Fitzgerald

The Get Up-and-over Fan Fund is designed to promote connections between fandoms in Australasia and Europe. This year GUFF will send one delegate from Australiasia to Worldcon in Helsinki in August. Voting is open to all interested fans, regardless of nationality. It closes 1 April.

Deciding how to rank the candidates can be a pretty daunting prospect, so over the next few weeks Earl Grey Editing will be featuring an interview with each candidate. Joining me today is Belle McQuattie.

Thanks for stopping in, Belle. Before we get started, I have one vital question: What’s your favourite beverage?

Tea! In all forms. Since moving to Melbourne I’ve fallen a bit in love with places like Chatime and Gong Cha, I love their range of iced teas, especially at this time of year!

Ooo… iced tea. We are clearly going to get along.

Now that we’ve got the important stuff done, how did you come to be involved in Australian SFF fandom?

Way back when I was a young pup, I started reading people like Fiona McIntosh, Jennifer Fallon and Trudi Canavan, and it was a short hop from there to the Voyager Purple Zone, where I met a huge amount of wonderful people and loved my time there.

Life happened, and I wandered out of fandom for a bit, but came back a couple of years ago when I decided to start blogging. I was very delighted to find that people are still as awesome, and now I’ve reconnected with some old friends and made many more new ones.

Like me, you’re a judge for the Aurealis Awards this year. Could you share a little about your experiences? What has been the highlight?

Yeah! This is my second year judging, and it has been such a fun experience. A giant towering pile of doom at various points, especially judging the Sara Douglass Award last year, but very fun. Hightlight would have to be discovering all the books/authors that I have never encountered before, we have such a wonderful pool of authors here.

Anyone who survived judging the Sara Douglass Award has my respect. That would have been a massive amount of reading!

Aside from the Aurealis nominees, what Australian SFF have you recently loved?

Ooh this is tricky because 99% of the Australian SFF I’ve read has been nominated (spoiler: the shortlist is going to be AWESOME). Last year I read Waer by Meg Caddy though, and I really enjoyed that. I also loved At The Sign of the Crow and Moon by Mitchell Hogan, which would be a great place for someone wanting to check out the Sorcery Ascendant Sequence.

What are you most looking forward to about Worldcon 75?

Is it cheating to say everything? I’m really looking forward to talking to fans and learning more about other areas of SFF that I don’t get exposure to normally, especially because I don’t know much about European SFF. I’m really excited to explore Finland and see another part of the world. I’m also a super huge fan of moose, and I’m hoping to see some … from a very safe distance.

Belle McQuattie

Voracious reader, online reviewer and Aurealis judge, Belle McQuattie has been devouring fantasy for almost as long as she’s been reading. She will forever be thankful for high school English teachers that think Isobelle Carmody and Terry Pratchett are appropriate study texts, spending many years living a couple of blocks away from the library, and the shenanigans found in the HarperVoyager Purple Zone. She can be found on twitter @theresaninkspot

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Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

The Dragon with the Chocolate Heart, Stephanie Burgis, Earl Grey Editing

Published:February 2017 by Bloomsbury Publishing
Format reviewed: E-book (mobi)
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade
Source: NetGalley
Available: Publisher (print) ~Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Book Depository ~ Booktopia ~ Dymocks ~ Kobo

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Aventurine is the fiercest, bravest dragon there is. And she’s ready to prove it to her family by leaving the safety of their mountain cave and capturing the most dangerous prey of all: a human. But when the human she finds tricks her into drinking enchanted hot chocolate, Aventurine is transformed into a puny human girl with tiny blunt teeth, no fire, and not one single claw.

But she’s still the fiercest creature in the mountains — and now she’s found her true passion: chocolate! All she has to do is get herself an apprenticeship (whatever that is) in a chocolate house (which sounds delicious), and she’ll be conquering new territory in no time…won’t she?

Judging a book by its cover–or its title–has led to many disappointments. But how could I resist a book called The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart? Fortunately, it proved to be utterly charming.

Aventurine is the youngest dragon in her family. She’s an engaging character who is fierce, headstrong and passionate. She just wants to explore the world! However, her mother won’t let her out of the family’s mountain until her scales have had at least 30 years to harden. Of course, Aventurine has never been good at following rules.

The book is intended for a Middle Grade audience and strikes a good balance with the detail it uses. One of the details I especially appreciated was the names of the dragons. Not only are all of them named after gemstones, but Aventurine and her siblings are all named after types of quartz.

This deft use of detail also applies to the depiction of making chocolate. While the story doesn’t go through every step in the process, it gives enough of them to feel authentic and doesn’t shy away from using specific terminology.

The world-building likewise gives enough detail to feel Regency-influenced while not getting too bogged down in the specifics. The city of Drachenburg comes with as many restrictions as Aventurine’s mountain home. It is hard enough adjusting to the physical reality of being a human. However, Aventurine also has to contend with issues of class and rules of propriety that mean nothing to her.

Historical settings, or settings with strong historical influences, can often feature a whitewashed cast. I was pleased to see that wasn’t the case here. Aventurine’s friends come in a wide variety of skin-tones.

Speaking of Aventurine’s friends, friendship is not something that comes naturally to Aventurine. While not solitary, dragons stick to their family groups. That becomes impossible for Aventurine, once she’s transformed into an untrustworthy human. Instead, she has to overcome the lessons her family has taught her in order to find friendship. This is no mean feat, because even as a girl Aventurine is constantly assessing those around her for a threat, identifying which humans are formidable predators intent on taking advantage of her.

Overall, I found The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart a delightful read and I’d be keen to see more of Aventurine’s adventures with her new friends. However, be warned! This book will leave you craving chocolate.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A black and white photo of a large, dark teapot and a small Chinese teacup with a fish painted on the side (Tea)

White Peach tea, Adore Tea, Earl Grey Editing, Looseleaf Links, looseleaf tea

Loose-leaf Links is a feature where I gather together the interesting bits and pieces on sci-fi and fantasy I’ve come across and share them with you over tea. Today’s tea is White Peach from Adore Tea. It’s a mixture of Chinese white and black teas and is perfect for cold brewing in summer.

Follow Up ) Awards News ) Community and Conventions ) For Writers ) For Readers )

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A blue and purple d20 sits on some lined paper. (Gaming)
20170125_152015

This second edition of Apocalypse World landed in our mailbox today and Sahaquiel is pretty excited. It's an RPG based on Mad Max and similar media. Originally released in 2010, it won a heap of awards and its streamlined system became the basis for numerous other games, such as Dungeon World and Monsterhearts.

I'm told that the second edition of Apocalypse World came about as a result of one of the original creators seeing Fury Road.

While I'm generally a fan of Powered by the Apocalypse RPGs (as games that use the same system are called), I didn't have a great experience the one time I played Apocalypse World. I'm not much a fan of player vs player, and the campaign devolved into that a bit. It culminated in a dick move by a player set on being an asshole and I lost my shit. It's not often I completely cut people out of my life, but I did that day (and don't regret it).

I've not played Apocalypse World since then and I admit to being a little apprehensive about coming back to it.




In other tales of media consumption, on Monday night some friends talked me into watching Netflix's animated series of Voltron: Legendary Defender. I'm told it has some of the same creative team as Legend of Korra and I could really tell--there are definitely some common elements.

I was a little less than thrilled by the male dominated cast, though I suspect most of that is held over from the original series from the 80s because it is being undermined in a few small ways that make it interesting.

Do I recall hearing there was some good fanfic? I'm going to have to poke around Ao3 once I get some reading time.
calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Octavia E Butler, Gerry Canavan, Earl Grey Editing, books and tea, tea and books

Published: November 2016 by University of Illinois Press
Format reviewed: E-book (mobi)
Genres: Non-fiction
Source: NetGalley
Available: Publisher (print and electronic) ~ Abbey’s ~ Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Book Depository ~ Booktopia ~ Dymocks ~ Kobo

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I began writing about power because I had so little, Octavia E. Butler once said. Butler’s life as an African American woman–an alien in American society and among science fiction writers–informed the powerful works that earned her an ardent readership and acclaim both inside and outside science fiction. Gerry Canavan offers a critical and holistic consideration of Butler’s career. Drawing on Butler’s personal papers, Canavan tracks the false starts, abandoned drafts, tireless rewrites, and real-life obstacles that fed Butler’s frustrations and launched her triumphs. Canavan departs from other studies to approach Butler first and foremost as a science fiction writer working within, responding to, and reacting against the genre’s particular canon. The result is an illuminating study of how an essential SF figure shaped themes, unconventional ideas, and an unflagging creative urge into brilliant works of fiction.

As with Letters to Tiptree, I went into this without having read any of Octavia Butler’s work (don’t worry, it’s on my list) and without even knowing a whole lot about her. I feel that approach didn’t work for me quite as well this time around.

I’d been expecting a biography. And Octavia E. Butler is a biography to some extent. However, it is equally concerned with analysing her work. Throughout the book, the author puts forward a theory unifying her work, looking in depth at her significant published and unpublished works and examining how they fit together. This necessarily reflects on her as a person–and in particular her views on humanity–but may not be satisfying for people looking for more details of her daily life. As someone who hasn’t read the stories being examined, I found it reasonably accessible, though I have no doubt it will hold much more meaning for those who have.

Despite the heavy focus on her stories, I still learned a lot about the person. I found the examination of her writing process particularly interesting. Learning about the way she would almost compulsively write many different variations of the same story was intriguing. Her preoccupation with the business side of writing  was also something I think many writers will be able to related to, even if it was amplified by her poverty. This drive to make sales is also shown as being in conflict with what she felt was her artistic integrity; she needed to sell her stories but resented making changes in order to make them more palatable to publishers or the public. Unsurprisingly, she is portrayed as a deeply unhappy person, never satisfied.

The tone tends towards academic and may be considered dry by some. Indeed, the book started to drag a little after a while.

Nevertheless, I found it an interesting read. This will probably appeal to fans already familiar with Butler’s work.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: (Default)
Sahaquiel and I recently acquired Season 4 of Person of Interest. I demanded we rewatch the series before we start on S4. It had been a while since we'd last seen the show and there was a big twist in S3 that I wanted to put in context.

Spoilers ahoy )

I'm not sure what else I want to say about that. I guess I'm curious to hear from other fans about their reactions to this development. But please keep in mind I haven't seen seasons 4 or 5 and am adverse to spoilers.

And before I finish, I must say that while I love all the characters in this show, Shaw may just have to be my favourite.
calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Earl Grey Editing, Who's Afraid Too? Maria Lewis, books and tea, tea and books

Published: January 2017 by Piatkus
Format reviewed: Trade Paperback, 352 pages
Series: Tommi Grayson #2
Genres: Urban fantasy
Source: Publisher
Reading Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017
Available: Publisher (print) ~ Abbey’s ~ Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Book Depository ~ Booktopia ~ Dymocks ~ Kobo

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This review contains spoilers for previous books.

Tommi Grayson: all bark, all bite . . . and now she’s BACK!

After the worst family reunion in history, Tommi needed some space. She’s spent the last few weeks trying to understand her heritage – the one that comes with a side order of fur – as well as learning about her Maori ancestry and how she can connect to it. But she can only escape for so long.

When an unspeakable evil returns, Tommi will need every piece of knowledge and all the skills she has. With the help of allies old and new, frenemies both helpful and super-annoying, she’s going to take the fight to the enemy.

Although I had some reservations, I enjoyed the first book in this series. Who’s Afraid Too? makes an excellent follow-up, retaining what I liked about the series. Tommi remains sassy but practical. She’s a very grounded person, who knows how to have fun but is always willing to do the hard work where necessary. Nor does the story put her on a pedestal, but shows her flaws, allowing her to be hypocritical at times.

However, this is not a story for deep character studies. Most of the other characters gave the impression of being more style than substance: likeable, but I never really got to see what was beyond the surface. Admittedly, that’s a hard ask, considering the number of new friends Tommi acquires. And the importance of style was something I really enjoyed about the book. Each of the characters has their own distinct sense of fashion and there are plenty of references to music and pop culture. These are not characters that live in a bubble. Art and beauty is something that remains important to Tommi and brings a sense of balance to the narrative–she’s not reduced to being solely a werewolf but retains her interests outside of the weird world she’s joined.

Tommi’s relationship with Lorcan was also particularly interesting. I enjoyed the way the story highlighted the problem with their relationship as one of trust and not necessarily that they are mentor and student. Tommi often calls Lorcan on his mysterious bullshit; keeping things from her is not a way of keeping her safe but is actively detrimental. But there is also nuance, and Tommi is reminded that compromise is sometimes necessary.

The plot is a bit predictable in places, with the villain easy to spot. However, it is nicely paced. The sex scenes didn’t really work for me and read a little awkwardly, but the action sequences were dynamic.

All in all, I found Who’s Afraid Too? a fun read. There were a significant number of loose ends to be tied up, so I look forward to seeing a sequel.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A blue and purple d20 sits on some lined paper. (Gaming)
20160903_134001

My tabletop RPG group met last weekend for the first time this year, which reminded me that I've been meaning to post about our Mouse Guard campaign for a while now. The RPG is based off comics by David Petersen. Tiny anthropomorphic mice live in a world without humans. Their nation is made up of isolated, largely autonomous cities. It's the Mouse Guard's duty to make sure the ways between these cities are safe. The nation is protected from large predators by a border of scent designed to repel them, but occasionally they slip through. The only other animals that have higher intelligence and civilisation are the ferrets--natural enemies of the mice. They're portrayed with a Saracen influence that I find a bit distasteful, especially combined with their supposedly violent and cruel nature. The campaign is set some years after a war with the ferrets.

The system uses a variant of Burning Wheel. I've never played Burning Wheel, though we do own a copy. I've been told it is quite a complicated system and I believe it. It has been streamlined for Mouse Guard, but even so, it has taken me a while to wrap my head around it.

Our patrol consists of three mice: one patrol leader and two tenderpaws or trainee Guards. The Mouse Guard are designated by the cloaks they wear. The colour of the cloak has significance, with the colour picked out specifically for the guardmouse by their mentor on their formal acceptance into the Guard.

The patrol leader is Kole, a black-fur who carries a big axe. He's a gruff, grumpy mouse with a soft side he tries not to show. He grew up working-class in a port village and carries a bit of a chip on his shoulder when it comes to the upper-class and the educated. His mentor endeavoured to remind him to check his prejudices by giving him a cloak of royal purple.

Dorian Winterwhiskers is the first of the tenderpaws. Their fur is dark grey tipped in white. Dorian's parents own a prominent company that forge cooking utensils and so Dorian's attitude tends to one of a spoiled, rich brat. However, this doesn't bring them into conflict with Kole as much as you might think, as they are still eager to impress and fiercely loyal.

And the last of the tenderpaws is my character, Delilah Periwinkle. She's an intensely curious mouse with white fur and a passion for Science. Born to cartographers, she spent some of her childhood wandering the Mouse Territories and joined the guard so she could see more of the world (and also help keep it safe for people like her parents). She's constantly asking questions, to the despair of her patrol leader. Despite being both practical and blunt, she still has a sweet side and can be a little naive at times.

The campaign structure is tied into the year, with each season containing a limited number of missions. For example, spring is approximately 3 missions, while summer is 4 and autumn is 2. It culminates in a winter session, when the Mouse Guard take shelter from the snow in their fortress. This session is used to improve skills and share favourite memories of the campaign.

Our next session will be the winter session. This means we're faced with the choice of pressing on for another "year" or to wrap up for the time being and play something else. We have a player rejoining us after missing the campaign so far, so I half expect we'll move on to something else.
calissa: (Calissa)

Illustration by Cécile Matthey

For today’s post, I’ve invited Rivqa Rafael to discuss her forthcoming anthology Problem Daughters.

Problem Daughters will amplify the voices of women who are sometimes excluded from mainstream feminism. It will be an anthology of beautiful, thoughtful, unconventional speculative fiction and poetry around the theme of intersectional feminism, with a specific focus on the lives and experiences of women of colour, QUILTBAG women, disabled women, sex workers, and all intersection of these. Edited by Nicolette Barischoff, Rivqa Rafael and Djibril al-Ayad, the anthology will be published by Futurefire.net Publishing and is currently being crowdfunded.

Discussion of any one of these variations from the dominant paradigm could fill books and university syllabi, let alone essays of their own, but this post will focus on race, and specifically how Problem Daughters will manage different views on, and expressions of, racial identities.

My co-editors and I are spread across time zones: Djibril lives in the United Kingdom, Nicolette in the United States, and I’m in Australia. In each of these countries, and others, racial identities are constructed in different ways. That can be a good thing – diversity is colourful and great and wonderful! But there’s a negative side too – racism exists everywhere, it just manifests differently in different places (it’s also not uniform within countries, regions or even cities).
Exactly how these differences are expressed in Problem Daughters will depend on the submissions we receive, but there’s so much that could be explored. The colonial and immigration histories of Australia and the US have many similarities, but also differences that are difficult to summarise in a blog post; the UK, as a coloniser of both, is different again.

“Stop the boats,” “build a wall” and Brexit are all different manifestations of the same sentiments; “Asian” is an over-generalised term that refers to different ethnic groups in different countries (South Asian in the UK; East and South-East Asian in the US and Australia); slavery played (and continues to play) out in different ways across the world. Can we apply a blanket rule of “racism can’t exist against white people” when racists in the UK discriminate against Polish immigrants? What’s the “correct” terminology to refer to x ethnic group? These and other dilemmas merit research, consideration; they’re stories that could unfold in myriad ways.

To go into just one example, I’d like to talk about a film (even though this is a book blog, sorry!) that I loved, but that wasn’t without problematic elements – Mad Max: Fury Road. Early in the film, Max has a delusion (or hallucination or vision?) of a traditionally dressed Aboriginal man; apart from that, on my first viewing, the film struck me as being overwhelmingly white. My specific thoughts, as an Australian viewer, were: where are the Aboriginal Australians? Where are the Asian people? But something I didn’t do was assume that every single character who was present was white. Why? Because, to be blunt, who am I to know if someone is a person of colour or just a bit tanned?

So when I hit social media after I got home from the cinema and started seeing calls of whitewashing, it wasn’t surprising to see Australians follow these up with, “well yes, but… Zoe Kravitz, Courtney Eaton, Megan Gale, iOTA? No?”. For some North Americans, the answer was no, not good enough, except maybe Kravitz. These actors weren’t parsed as people of colour (itself a less common term in Australia) by those viewers because of a lack of familiarity with Australian demographics and Māori people, and because the film didn’t specifically name identities (Furiosa is never called disabled, either). And there’s plenty to critique there, sure, but a paper bag test just isn’t good enough in this instance.

Another hugely important critique in the Australian context is Stephanie Lai’s unpacking of how the film appropriated Indigenous Australian narratives … without including identifiably Indigenous Australian characters. (Yes, some of the extras could, in theory, have been light-skinned First Australians, but even that would be a weak connection in this context.) In the same way as I sometimes miss a blatant US-centric racist stereotype until it’s pointed out to me by an American friend, the tragedy of the Stolen Generation isn’t usually foremost on American minds.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. No one can know or experience everything, or focus on every injustice in the world at once. So, our starting point in selecting stories for Problem Daughters will be to acknowledge that, as we’re hoping to attract writers from around the world, their experiences will vary, and that will manifest in their stories.

We’ll be more familiar with some of these experiences than others, but we hope that with an inclusionary approach, we can showcase a range of experiences around race. In short, we’re making a space for difference, including difficult differences – that’s literally the point of the anthology. We can’t wait to see what people come up with, and what conversations might start because of these stories.

Rivqa Rafael

Rivqa Rafael is a queer Jewish writer and editor based in Sydney. She started writing speculative fiction well before earning degrees in science and writing, although they have probably helped. Her previous gig as subeditor and reviews editor for Cosmos magazine likewise fueled her imagination. Her short stories have appeared in Hear Me Roar (Ticonderoga Publications), The Never Never Land (CSFG Publishing), and Defying Doomsday (Twelfth Planet Press). In 2016, she won the Ditmar Award for Best New Talent. When she’s not working, she’s most likely child-wrangling, playing video games, or practising her Brazilian Jiujitsu moves. She can be found at rivqa.net and on Twitter as @enoughsnark.

If you’re interested in helping crowdfund Problem Daughters, be sure to check out their Indiegogo campaign. Writers looking to contribute can find details at The Future Fire, but please note the anthology is not yet open for submissions.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: A low angle photo of a book with a pair of glasses sitting on top. (Mt TBR)

Bitten, Amanda Pillar, Graced, Earl Grey Editing, tea and books, books and tea

Published: Self-published in January 2017
Format reviewed: E-book (mobi)
Series: Graced #2
Genres: Urban fantasy, paranormal romance
Source: Publisher
Reading Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017
Available: Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble  ~ Kobo

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The city of Pinton has never been safe…and now a serial killer is on the loose.

Doctor Alice Reive is the city’s coroner, and she’s determined to help find the murderer. Enlisting the assistance of the Honorable Dante Kipling and city guard Elle Brown, they race to track down the killer, before another victim dies.

Hannah Romanov – Dante’s missing twin sister – has spent hundreds of years living on an isolated mountain. But her quiet life is thrown into chaos after she discovers a baby left in the wilds to die. Hannah will do anything to ensure the infant’s survival, even if it means travelling to the worst place in the world for her – Pinton.

Bitten is a new novel in Amanda Pillar’s Graced universe. It features some returning characters, but the focus is mostly on new characters or incidental characters from the previous novel. As such, it stands alone reasonably well and should be accessible to new readers.

There were so many potential ships in this novel. The blurb had me half expecting a f/f romance. However, it soon became clear this was unlikely. Like Graced, this was a novel that kept me on my toes; readers going into it expecting a pure paranormal romance are likely to be disappointed. The pairings happen quite a way into the story, with one getting started almost at the end. Instead, romance is balanced out with a hefty dose of crime and fantasy road trip.

The development of non-romantic relationships make it equally satisfying. I enjoyed seeing the strong friendship between two of the main male characters and to learn a bit more of how that came to be. There were also some great family dynamics, especially within Hannah’s family. And I appreciated that we got to spend some time with characters from Graced and to see how their adopted family dynamic is developing.

The story does make use of the fated mate trope, which is one I really don’t get along with. However, I was really impressed with how the trope was handled. It makes it clear the attraction the characters feel is instinctual lust and that it’s just one step along the path, with the next being getting to know each other better.

Diversity was a key part of Graced and remains strong in Bitten. The characters have a wide variety of skin tones. Hannah has something akin to a touch phobia and Alice has some mild OCD tendencies. I wasn’t wholly sold on the latter, but I have no experience with it, so your mileage may vary.

I found the ending of the crime plot a little weak but it’s difficult to say more on this without spoilers.

However, I can say that the characters and world-building make it well worth the read. The novel also finishes with a revelation that will have some very interesting implications for the world and I’m really looking forward to finding out what happens next.

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

calissa: (Default)
20161206_120714

The railing behind the sculpture overlooks the platypus pond at Tidbinbilla's wetland sanctuary.

The hot weather continues unabated. The aircon has been getting a work out and I've been tearing through the ice. I really need to get organised and make myself a proper batch of iced tea. But despite my complaining, I'm managing fairly well. I've had a few aches today which may suggest a storm might arrive tomorrow. A quick look at the weather bureau seems to confirm this theory. The rain will make it muggy, but the garden will welcome the water. The vegetable patch is looking a little wilted.





Work continues. After complaining how difficult I'd found writing my first review of the year, I was a little amused to discover it took me half the time to write my second review of the year. This was despite them being of comparable length. I really should learn to cut myself some slack.

Today I actually managed to wrangle a little spare time to deal with some non-urgent admin-type stuff. And promptly found that I was making more work for myself. One of my tasks was to voted in the GUFF race. GUFF is a fan fund that will be sending an Australian fan to Helsinki for WorldCon later this year. There are four nominees. I was talking with one of them on Twitter around the same time I was voting. It was about another matter entirely, but I found myself thinking about the time I ran for NAFF (which is basically the same thing, but to AussieCon rather than WorldCon). I'd offered the other nominees a chance to guest post on my blog. I figured the same thing might be useful for GUFF. So, I contacted all the nominees about being interviewed and they agreed.

On one hand I wonder why I do this to myself. It's not like I don't have enough on my plate. On the other hand, I think this is something that will be of interest to the community.

The drawback to all this work is that I've been skimping on time for my own writing again.

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