Valentine’s Day Gift Hop: An Ode to Thorns

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ValentinesDayGiftHopWelcome to my stop on the Valentine’s Day Gift Hop! Keep reading for instructions on how to win a $5 Amazon gift card and the other grand prizes.

Valentine’s Day is fast upon us. A time for red roses wrapped in tissue paper and sticky chocolates. For those of you who need a break from Cupid’s saccharine smile, I provide this bit of bitter as a counter note to the sweet, and give the rose back its thorns when I consider some less savory facts about this famous flower.

Heliogabalus smothered his guests in them

In an attempt to one up the famous sensualist and politician Cleopatra, Heliogabalus showered his guests in roses. Only, there was such a profusion of flowers, his guests suffocated under the heady blooms. Please note: this little factoid comes to us from the ancient equivalent of the National Enquirer.

The Cherokee rose is anything but

It’s from China. Yup, that’s right, you heard me. From China. Not native at all. Just like those goddamn stinkbugs.

Red roses are for love

Yellow roses are for infidelity. What? A Japan rose is for someone who’s just a pretty face. Okay… A dried white rose for “death is preferable to loss of innocence.” And thank you, Lucy Hooper. Not sure when I would need that one.

Dr. Livingston presumes…

To complain to London’s Horticultural Society about William Kerr’s pittance of a salary.

Who’s William Kerr? Only a young Scottish man who sent 238 new species of plants (including his namesake, the Kerria japonica) back from China during his eight and half years there. Shipping plants overseas in 1803 was quite difficult. It took Kerr five months to travel from England to China, and the plants that he brought with him mostly perished. Three at least made it to China, though what happened afterwards can only be guessed (cough cough dead cough).

So, of the 238,000 plants young Kerr packed up and shipped back to England—I’m going off of Livingstone’s math here—238 made it, including the white Banksian rose, a flower still much admired and grown today.

TheLoveOfVioletta-AntoinetteM-1333x2000So, what’s sad about this story? I’ll quote Jennifer Potter’s The Rose here: “So Kerr was drinking and perhaps worse, ground down by poverty and loneliness.” At this time in history, China restricted the movement of European traders in their country, isolating them, and according to Livingstone, Kerr didn’t even have enough money to buy new clothes and spent much of his time navigating congested streets instead of working. Eventually, his employers decided to make him superintendent at the King’s new botanical gardens in Sri Lanka. It sounds lovely, except he died shortly after arriving. While Potter indicates a fever, Wikipedia suggests opium.

Now you need some sugar, I know. In honor of all the flowers getting ready for their big day, I’ve dropped the price of The Love of Violetta from $2.99 to $0.99.

Violetta learns the bitter truth that, like the roses in the garden, young love fades. What sweetness can she find treading the halls where her love once walked? Who will kiss her, now that he has refused?

Available at Amazon and Smashwords. You can read the first part here for free.

To enter to win the Grand Prizes:

BloghopPrizes

And the $5 Amazon gift card, comment  below with your email address and the bouquet you’d love to receive for Valentine’s Day (mainly your email address though). After you’re done, don’t forget to comment on other blogs for more chances to win the Grand Prize! Every comment equals an additional entry.

Click here to get back to the list of participating blogs!

As far as what bouquet I’d want, it would be full of messy old garden roses, cabbage roses and dog roses and moss roses. I’d also like to thank Jennifer Potter for her lovely book, The Rose, which has helped me to natter at family members about an even wider variety of plants.

Dog-tabulary

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I should probably be ashamed to admit this, but I’m a bit of a pet dork. Yes, I’m one of those idiots you see fawning over their dogs, making stupid faces, muttering, “Schmoopy, schmoopy, schmoopy,” or some other interchangeable nonsense. For the other dog dorks out there, I’ve compiled this list of words which my husband and I use when talking to, or about, our dog, Popeye. Pictures at the end of list!

Bull-face: Used in close range to said face.

Chops or flues: Actually the technical terms for his floppy mouth bits. While it’s not necessary to use both, we always do.

Doggywampus: Bastardization of cattywampus. The state in which he leaves the bed after getting excited (sheets half off, and mattress dangling a foot off the edge).

Jerk face the dog hound: The longest nickname he has.

Hound (suffix): Bull-hound, lummox-hound (generally after he’s injured somebody), meat-hound, plow-hound (used when he’s plowing through the kudzu).

Kicking Time: When he’s stabbing my husband with his front paws and kicking my tits with his back paws.

Manifest Destiny: Used when he’s shoving my husband and I off the couch or bed.

Murdilate: Portmanteau of murder and mutilate. Basically, what he does to any small mammals he catches on our property.

Pink Maw of Doom: His mouth, which I swear I could play lion tamer with (you know, stick my head in his open jaws).

Sea Creatures: Those pink dangly things he’s got around his lips.

Wampus: Anytime he gets wound up, chasing his orange ball around the house like some giant white cat.

Woofertunity: An opportunity to bark at something, like deer and three fawns ambling down the street in the middle of the afternoon.

And here are the pictures! He’s an American bulldog (super fancy Southern porch hound). In a couple of these you can see him showing off those skills, looking magnificent on a porch. He enjoys the show Too Cute! because he likes looking at puppies and the mail woman because she pats him and gives him cookies.

Alert houndDog on blanketdog nap

GTA V: A Spectator’s Review

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Rockstar’s GTA V is a tapestry of snark. Plenty of reviews have come out talking about what it’s like to play the game. Well, I’ve been watching my husband play it since it arrived on Tuesday. I made sure it was installed when he came home, with this favorite controller all charged up and ready to go. He’s pretty much been excused from all household duties, because I knew how excited he was.

Not that picking up the slack was any great strain. I still had plenty of time to watch him play. One thing I enjoy about the game are all the satirical references. The store, Suburban. The radio ads always make me snigger. The characters are a riot, and every now and, my husband drives a car down a mountain and into a fiery crash. In fact, I wouldn’t even call it driving so much as artful falling.

My favorite character thus far has been the psycho hillbilly, Trevor. He’s got a big truck and a lackey to ride around the back of it. He idly sexually harasses those around him while other times voicing opinions you might find yourself agreeing with (like torturing is done for the torturer, not to gain information). Flipping back to him, my husband has found him puttering around on a scooter behind another scooter talking about his scooter brother. Another time he was spooning a distraught Floyd. Given that his special skill is to go on a psychotic rampage, I suspect he’ll be a lot of people’s favorite character.

Best scene thus far was Michael’s drug trip. The music was perfect, as were the voices accompanying Michael’s descent. The electric city beneath him, all red and gold, left tracers of lights as you guided his fall. Both my husband and I were impressed with how they put everything together.

I have to be honest, Franklin hasn’t made much of an impression on me. I like his crazy aunt, and his dog, but I’m thinking I may have been out of the room during some of his missions.

Of course, people buy games like GTA V for more than just the missions. They like the sandbox style of it too. I like offering my husband my opinion on clothes. Trevor has the Nacho Libre tank top with matching shorts. Franklin looks cool in gray with some sweet kicks. We both agree that Michael should look like a loser and generally put him in flip-flops. The cars are sweet. My husband says the chase scenes are harder in this game. I like that things like not wearing a helmet when you’re on a motorcycle will get you killed easily in this game. There are a lot of things interact with, from strippers to warm counter beer to bongs that provide amusement (or existential crises). A lot of work went into this game and it shows. They’ve certainly earned their accolades and their money. They’ve made a game that’s both fun to play, and fun to watch. At least, I have fun watching it.

Harry Potter and Quoth the Raven…

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Pottermore. (I should note, this is vaguely about my reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.)

Yes, I could hardly leave out my exploration of JK’s epic series without considering the full media juggernaut (don’t worry, I intend to discuss the movies).

Right now, I’m focusing on the website. Holy integrated marketing Batman! I think the people who thought this up use flash buzz words, wear whatever the modern day Don Draper would rock, and carry on the tradition of shit-faced by noon on Friday (at least that’s the way it used to go down at my dad’s job). It is very well done.

Let’s start with what it is: smash together Facebook (because there’s a social aspect plus some FarmVille qualities) and those old-school “point and click” adventures plus a few of those “Find your inner animal/mythical creature/sex goddess” quizzes, and you’ve got an idea of what it is. You can either interact with illustrations of the story, or play some mini-games.

The illustrations are very interesting to me. They include a brief quote from the book (and lots of links where you can jump over to buying the book) plus additional information Rowling wrote about the books. Sometimes the information is pretty interesting (like what she wrote about the Pureblood movement), but more often than not I’m amazed at how detailed this universe is in her head. One thing you realize reading her talking about the books is that she really did write what she knew, in a way. She drew a lot of inspiration from real life.

I also suspect the people involved in directing the design of the illustrations knew their psychology. All the faces are very vague, something which I imagine was done on purpose. When you read a book, you picture the characters a certain way (although in Prisoners of Azkaban there’s a very kabuki-ish illustration of Snape). These illustrations don’t interfere with your mental picture. The include things to find and places of interaction (generally a small animation triggered by a mouse-over). On the bottom there’s a progress bar, telling you if you’ve missed any objects or animation. And yes, like the goddamn mammal I am I want to make sure that bar is full! Thank goodness for the comments, as the often note where things are tucked away.

As far as the other aspects of the game, I’ve done the two quizzes (wand and sorting, Ravenclaw in case you were curious, although you can shape your answers to get sorted into a desired house, like Slytherin). I haven’t done many of mini-games. I made a potion once, and it was annoying, requiring you to do tasks in a specific time range and incorporating an incubation period (three minutes of nothing). The duels seem likewise annoying and are based tapping letters on the keyboard at specified times. It’s kind of “meh” for me.

I do have one overwhelming impression of Pottermore, gleaned form the videos where J. K. Rowling takes a minute to speak to us about sorting to her houses. I’m listening to her words and thinking to myself, “Goddamn is this woman tired of these books, and she still has four more to go for Pottermore.” It in fact reminds me of what the raven actually said: Nevermore. Hanging out with my sister’s kids, they were fantasizing about Rowling revisiting the universe, and I told them it’s not going to happen. She wrote seven books and helped make eight movies. She adopted a new pen name. She’s moved on.

Part of me wonders what will end up happening with Pottermore. It seems to me that people may become impatient, given the time it’s been out and the fact that only the first three books are done. I don’t know how much it supplements or enhances the reading experience. I like it because I like playing stupid games. Will I finish the series and then come back for the other four books? Probably, because it’s a free game in ways, and I do find some of Rowling’s exclusive material to be interesting. Or I’ll forget about it.

As far as finishing the series, I liked the third book more than the second, and the fourth movie (The Goblet of Fire) is my favorite movie, so it might be my favorite book too. I’m looking forward to it. Rowling’s comedic violence reminds me a lot of Dickens.

What do you mean you don’t know the password?

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Every now and then, I find myself stranded without internet. And I really do mean stranded. It’s like none of my favorite toys work–I can’t back-up documents on Google Docs, I can’t email things to my Kindle, I can’t piss off on Reddit (current favorites are the suite of subreddits focusing on aquariums). I don’t know what to do with myself. It’s kind of sad, really.

Last weekend I was up at my sister’s rustic cabin, and there was no internet. A friend stopped by and offered to let me sit on her porch and steal wifi, because that’s what stranded people do up there, they go bask in her wifi.

I opted instead to bury my nose in a couple of books (Good Omens and some non-fiction about vampires and the third Harry Potter book) and talk to my sister’s kids about zombis (the real kind) and my sister about dark and stormies (rum and ginger beer and some magic).

The nights were cool, and my mother chased me around, trying to throw a white linen jacket over my salmon colored dressed named David Bowie (because he’s full of 80s goodness). I couldn’t let her though–it would have covered up his great shoulder details (pleating and a zipper) plus it didn’t match, at all. My ratty hoodie with the power lines on it looked a lot better. Oh, I also discovered my nephew wanted his Russian prison tattoo hoodie back. He’d been wondering where it was, and I’d been a little surprised he didn’t want all things considered (there are eyeballs on it, it’s covered in Russian prison tattoos). Somehow, I ended up in a pair of mom jeans one night.

Altogether, I survived. No, actually, I had a lot of fun. I made a couple of aborted attempts to check Gmail on my Kindle, but it was less interesting than what was going on around me.

It’s probably good for me to go without the internet. Of course, the next time I visit my parent’s house in NH, I’m probably going to make more of an effort to track down their wifi password, because without it my netbook is kinda useless.

Harry Potter and I don’t know if I’m gonna make it man…

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Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett is shaping up to be one of those books–the kind where I read the occasional line to my husband, either because I want to, or he wants to know why I’m laughing. I greatly enjoyed this bit:

Human beings mostly aren’t [particularly evil]. They just get carried away by new ideas, like dressing up in jackboots and shooting people, or dressing up white sheets and lynching people, or dressing up in tie-dye jeans and playing guitars at people.

The last bit was particularly amusing to me, because unless it’s an actual musician playing a guitar, I generally want nothing to do with that scene.

What does this have to do with Harry Potter? I felt the first book was halfway there to something that could elicit emotions from me, enough to make my husband ask what I was reading, but Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was just flat for me. It’s neither long nor difficult, but it wasn’t with any enthusiasm that I picked it up. Some of that probably has to do with the fact that the BIG REVEAL (Yer a wizard ‘Arry!) happened in the first book. It’s like those books you read, wondering when the characters are going to do it, and after they do you’re like, “Welp, done with that.” (This pretty much describes my relationship with the Anita Blake books.)

If I’ve reached the moment of satiety, why then, am I rereading them? It’s the rational question to ask at this point, if I’m already starting to feel lukewarm and I haven’t gotten near the long ones. It’s like after the third book they said, “All right, this is a gold mine, fire the editor that’s always red-lining long unnecessary passages of details.” Developmental editor maybe? Someone who loves Hemingway? The thing is, I’ve just started on this task, the task I gave up with one book to go, one that I happen to have gathering dust on a shelf. Chances of success are looking murky, especially given that I don’t do long series. So again, why am I doing this?

Lomonaaeren on fanfiction.net has written 270 Harry Potter stories, and she’s still at it. I downloaded Barbie Jeep by Kitty (produced by Hot Sugar!) for free off Adult Swim and found the word “muggle” in it and the charm “wingardium leviosa.” It’s like references to black poodles in literature. Pop culture is saturated with Harry Potter. People post pictures of lolita skirts to the group on Facebook and a discussion ensues about what everyone’s custom HP skirt would look like.

Pottermania isn’t something I quite understand, but goddamnit, I’m going to try. After all, I read both Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey out of morbid curiosity. HP can’t be any more difficult to read than Stephanie Meyers (I think seven books by Rowling works out to be about one book by Meyers). A Google image search with the keyword “yaoi” added is always enjoyable. It’s just everywhere, and I feel like maybe there’s something I’m missing, and I want to look harder. It’s not that I need it to mean the same thing to me that it does to other people, I just don’t want to leave any stone unturned. Not that any scientific study of HP will yield results that you can copy to make yourself into a successful author. If Rowling’s experiences with writing under a new pen name (a mystery that was reviewed well but sold little) shows us anything, it’s just how fickle fame is. Good thing I’m more interested in taking the HP experience apart like a clock as opposed to attempting to duplicate it.

Pacific Rim: A Review

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With spoilers! Because if you’re going to see this movie for the plot, you’ve missed the point. Although, I will address it, briefly. My husband’s biggest beef with the plot was that del Toro didn’t create a world in which people’s reactions to the monsters worked, something he thought was done very well in District 9. I thought about, and he’s right. It’s also probably the most succinct way to point out where the plot fails–it’s not that it’s fantastic, it’s just the world around it doesn’t support the fantasy.

Guillermo del Toro is one of my favorite directors, and not just because Pan’s Labyrinth is an amazing movie. I enjoyed his Hellboy films (the second more than the first) and The Devil’s Backbone as well. He’s a talented director, and with Pacific Rim I think he accomplished his goal of making a modern Godzilla film. It is a movie that makes full use of the movie theater, the scale and the thumping sound system, and the 3D only adds to the fun.

If you’re sick of the lazy way directors slap the high action moments in orange/blue and mute the rest (like the last four Harry Potter films), you’ll be delighted with the palettes used here. Blues, pinks, reds, gold… The monsters (kaiju) remind me of the fantastic creatures of Hellboy II: The Golden Army, and robots (jaegers) of old Transformers toys.

The characters were pretty slap-stick. Charlie from It’s Always Sunny is himself, only his obsession with rats has been replaced with one for the kaiju and he’s literate. The Russians pilot a first generation jaeger that looks like it’s designed to be repaired with a hammer on the tundra (muck like an AK-47). The Chinese triplets are all razzle-dazzle and red, much like their jaeger. Watching them fight it’s like Chinese New Years. The Englishmen of course have an English bulldog (at least their accents are English) and the youngest suffers from pugilist tendencies. They have the fanciest jaeger, and honestly, visually, it didn’t make that much of an impression on me. Of course I remember the main one, Gypsy Danger, which has a giant sword and a thermonuclear reactor in it’s chest, at least I think that’s what that glowing part is… It’s nicely symbolic too of how in the end Gypsy Danger and her fusion save the world. You know, chest, heart, that stuff.

Ron Perlman is a treat, and has the best exit of the film–down the gullet of an infant kaiju.

The action scenes are amazing, and really, why we went to see it in a theater. At one point, a robot boxes a monster’s ears with some shipping containers. It made me giggle. There’s lots of city smashing as they battle, shattering glass-plated skyscrapers and throwing cars at each other.

Hong Kong made me think of Blade Runner, although my husband told me that that’s what modern Hong Kong looks like, all fierce neon and saturated in humanity–a sci-fi future come to life.

The only major complaint I have, and this may be said of del Toro in general, was the music was only okay. I think he missed out by not finding a place for anything off of Mochipet’s album, Godzilla Rehab Center, all devilishly catchy tracks. His “Get some!” song packed less punch than “Problem” by Natalia Kills or “Might Like You Better” by Amanda Blank. I know dubstep is super trendy right now, but a little wub-dub wouldn’t have been remiss, or some death metal or something. I actually started thinking how his music was unimpressive when I caught an atrocious cover of Nick Cave’s “Red Right Hand” on the first Hellboy. I know the original’s been used to death, but you couldn’t have substituted some other song like “Up Jumped the Devil” or any other brooding bad-ass sounding Nick Cave song? He wrote quite a few. The soundtracks are probably the place where I’d draw a distinction between him and directors like Stanley Kubrick and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. It’s almost like del Toro needs a music lover in his inner circle.

I wouldn’t let that keep you out of the theater though, because if you like pretty movies, and action, you’ll love Pacific Rim.

Out Now: Short Smut Volume 2!

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ShortSmutVolume2-200x300From Smutwriters.com comes a wide, sexy selection of twelve stories, including BDSM, ménage, and exhibitionism. A kinky couple brings a third into their relationship. A brother seduces death to save his brother. A French maid catches the interest of her lord. Enjoy today’s hottest erotica authors at their hottest with this free anthology. Warning: explicit content.

Features stories from Skye Warren, Aubrey Watt and more!

And best of all, it’s free!

Get it here on Smashwords or All Romance Ebooks.

It’s also available for $0.99 on Amazon.

Excerpt from “The Dreams of Violetta,” the first part of the novella, The Love of Violetta.

My darning was interrupted at seven by the baying of hounds, and the entire household staff rushed into the cold to greet Roland.

I followed the press into the main hall. Roland loomed over his father as they shook hands. One tall, pious, with a tidy powdered wig, bending over the short wicked man with the mess of dark curls. Little doubt the Duc’s wig was abandoned on a bust or resting on a drunken maid’s breast.

They shook hands. Roland kissed the cheek of the housekeeper and clapped the majordome on the back. If my love saw me, he gave no sign. Roland went to wash away the filth of the road, and I crept into the empty salon.

My hand searched for his letter, for his words of love. My breath was loud and jagged in my ears.

“Are you ill, Violetta?”

I opened my eyes, and the Duc was standing there, his dark eyes glittering.

“No, Monsieur. I only wanted to catch my breath after the press.”

The Duc was a virile forty-five, and in a moment he had me trapped against the wall. “Can I help you catch it, little maid?” he said, his face inches from mine.

I turned my head, my hands balled into fists. “Please, Monsieur.”

He rubbed the rough stubble of his cheek on my face. “What do you want?” he said, leaning his body into me.

“Father, I forgot to tell you—”

Tears squeezed from the corners of my eyes. To be found like this by my love, my noble Roland, it was more than I could bear. My cheeks burned.

The Duc released me, like a cat done with the mouse it had been tormenting. “Yes, my son, what did you forget?”

“The merchants…they said…” Roland mumbled.

I rushed from the room, up the stairs, and straight to my bed where I bathed my pillow with my tears. It was a quick cry—there was work to be done. I needed to talk to Roland. If I could explain myself, tell him the Duc had caught me in a room unawares…

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