Too serious for a flippant title: content warning: sexual assault discussed

I’ve been struggling to write this post – or indeed any post, but this one in particular, for the whole week. This year has been difficult for people who’ve ever been sexually assaulted, and the last week in particular has been ugly. Because there’s always another one, isn’t there? Another abuser, another person who has gotten away with assault because we don’t believe people who come forward; at least not the first 10 times. Or 20. Or 30.

It’s good HW has been outed, kicked off of boards and clubs and companies, forced to admit to his wrongdoing. But it’s always disheartening to hear all of the “Oh, well, what were those women wearing/doing/saying/thinking, and how could they have ended up there? Oh, there aren’t that many men like that. Oh, statistically speaking, it’s really not as bad as it looks….”

Yes. It is. It is in fact, far worse than it looks. Because your math is wrong. The statistics are important up to a point, and that point is when you start to excuse the behavior as not that many, not that bad, not so terrible really.

As I said on someone’s page tonight, even if hashtag notallmen, it IS ALL WOMEN. ALL women, ALL feminine-presenting people, and I’m pretty sure, ALL non-binary gender people, and an extremely large number of men, have been sexually assaulted, harassed. ALL OF US. And if your math is ignoring that, then you’re not nearly as smart as you think you are. Because we have to have a culture that allows that to happen in the first place. We have to bring boys and men up to believe that they get to have any body they want. They have the last word in what happens in any encounter. They get to decide if they’re having sex, or if they’re having sexual contact, and the other person’s opinion means nothing. It especially means nothing if that person is a woman, or is feminine, or is marginalized in any way, because that person is less of a person. We have to have a culture that teaches that expressly, and keeps it so much in everyone’s minds that we even have sayings like “boys will be boys.”

We have a toxic masculinity problem. We have a culture that teaches boys that they are entitled to other people’s bodies. Maybe not every man grows up to believe it, but it’s out there; it’s the air we breathe; it’s the water we drink. Like racism and sexism and other bigotry, we are swimming in it. And I am always going to be someone that the culture says is OK to hurt. That my body isn’t really mine. That I’m not really a person, not truly, not compared to the man in the situation. Especially not the white man. The further you get from our culture’s margins, as far as we’re concerned, the more of a person you are. Which means the more in the margins you are, the less you are a person. I’m not as far into the margins as some, but I’m still in there. And our culture treats me accordingly.

I’m going to preface the next bit by saying – no one owes anyone their story. I’m telling mine now because I’m moved to do so. And mine are nowhere near as horrific as others’ are, so the stigma is maybe less. You should believe people when they say they’ve been hurt. You should believe them. You’re not a judge, or a jury, and you get to choose, but if someone is telling you that they’ve been hurt, they’re probably telling you because they hope you’re a safe person to tell. Oh, and also, content warning for the below. It’s not as bad as some, but everyone has their limits, so fair warning.

The first time I was sexually harassed and threatened I was nine. I was nine years old. It was a classmate and his older brother. I was in the high school where my father was a teacher. It was some kind of school fair. They followed me around making a lewd gesture with their fingers, and saying they were going to “get me.” I didn’t really know what they meant, but I was scared. I’m pretty sure my best friend was with me. Those two boys seemed to be everywhere, every time I turned around. We kept trying to find somewhere they couldn’t find us, but the school just wasn’t that big, or full. I can’t remember what I told my mom and/or a grownup, but I do remember that I didn’t have the vocabulary to tell them exactly what was happening. And that I was so enraged, so confused, and literally worried they were going to touch me in some way. I don’t remember what anyone said to me about that incident exactly, but what was normally said about stuff like that was “they’re just teasing. Ignore them and they’ll go away.” That advice is hardly ever true. But it was all anyone ever told me when I was being bullied in any way. (My best friend totally had my back, but she didn’t have the vocabulary, either.)

The first time I was groped, I think was probably Jr. High. And I want to iterate here, especially for someone who made some comment of every woman having this sort of thing happen to them before the age of 40, that this sort of thing happens to most women, and a lot of other genders, *before the age of 13,* so adjust your fucking math. I had my ass grabbed in 7th grade. Several times, really. And I wasn’t a popular girl, I didn’t dress any differently really, than I had at 10 or 11, so 12 (I was 12 in 7th) shouldn’t have been a big change. And my father was a teacher in the school. Honestly, everyone should have been worried I’d tell. I don’t think I even knew what to do about it. I barely remember what I did next. It was a crowded hallway, I didn’t know who it was, I became known as a girl who would swing her purse or backpack around wildly if upset.

I forgot about that last part until just now. I was a weird kid, is how I remember playing that off. But if someone grabs your butt as you’re walking down a hall and you can’t even tell which someone it was, what do you do?

I remember in 9th grade one boy, who I thought was cute, and who was always nice to me, stuck his hand up my shirt and fondled my bare waist. In math class, as we were walking past each other, either going in or out of class. He just grinned at me, and I stared at him in shock until he walked away. I didn’t know what to do then, either.

I know my ass was grabbed in Jr high a lot, and high school, too. I know a lot of other stories from other girls in Jr high and high school that were much, much worse. Those aren’t my stories to tell. So I always just thought that I’d been lucky.

I want to scream about that. I thought I was lucky to *just* be fondled and have my ass grabbed by friends and strangers.

The most egregious sexual assaults that happened to me I didn’t even think were sexual assaults at the time, because it didn’t occur to me that my body was mine enough to matter to anyone but me. I was frightened, and enraged, but I wasn’t “hurt.” I wasn’t injured, and I wasn’t hit by anyone, so I thought, well, who would care? It was wrong, of course. I was mad. But I didn’t think “sexual assault.”

It was sexual assault.

Just a couple of years ago, a friend of several of my friends, who I considered friendly, or at least a friendly acquaintance, was at a party I attended. He was drunk. The party was crowded. He told me, drunkenly, that the only reason I was with my boyfriend was because he (my boyfriend) “got there first,” as though I were some prize in a race. He then hugged me, which I shruggingly tolerated, and grabbed my ass. I froze. He moved on. I didn’t know what to do that night, but the next day I wrote to him saying it was unacceptable behavior and I expected an apology. He never apologized, and won’t speak to me since. I won’t speak to him either, but he has yet to apologize, so. I’ve told this story to a lot of people. Most have stayed friends with him, because “well, he’s not really like that, or only when he’s drunk/with this bad influence.” My boyfriend is still friendly to him when he sees him. Everyone knows what he’s like, because I’m not the only person he’s gotten “handsy” with. (The man did apologize … to my boyfriend. Who told him “I”m not the one you need to apologize to.” Still. Waiting.)

In the first week of college I was thrown onto a dorm bed and dry humped by a guy I barely knew, held down while screaming and kicking, and the 5-8 other people in the room stood by and laughed. They told me I was over-reacting when I came up swinging and screaming more. That guy was a rapist, and by the middle of the year everyone knew it. I don’t actually know if he was ever stopped.

Some rando dude grabbed my breast as he rode by on his bike while I was walking down the street. I was alone, it was night, and I screamed “asshole” after him, but I was immediately afraid he’d come back and do worse. I hurried back to the hotel I’d been leaving, so I would be around people. My people were there for me, but that dude was long gone, so there wasn’t anything to report.

In high school, a boy I had a huge crush on goosed my ass hard, close enough to my vulva to really hurt, and I jumped about a foot. In front of my male music teacher, that I was trying to talk to, that I was trying to impress. I turned about eight shades of scarlet and nearly broke down in tears right there. I know my voice went whisper soft and I tried to keep talking to my teacher, but he (the teacher) gave me a look. I never really knew if he’d back me up if I made a scene, and I was afraid that look meant that he was disappointed in me, so I stuttered through asking my question. After, I pushed that stupid grinning guy out of the teacher’s office, and told him off, and never spoke to him again, but I was always a little worried that my music teacher thought less of me. Because of someone else’s actions.

I had already learned that it was always my fault. Because if you ignore them, and they don’t go away, then you’re doing it wrong. Because if they embarrass you, it’s your fault. If they hurt you, it’s your fault. That’s the lesson, isn’t it? We learn it very early. And if you tell people what happened, they might just tell you that. And there might not be any repercussions for the person who did the assaulting. And meanwhile now everyone is giving you that look. You know the look. We give the look to ourselves, sometimes. We even give it to other people who’ve been hurt, because it’s an ingrained toxic behavior, that look.

But we don’t deserve the look. It’s not our fault if someone hurts us. It’s not our fault if someone doesn’t believe us, either. And I’m here for all of us survivors, those who’ve survived as bad, or not as bad, or much, much worse. It’s not our fault. And it’s time we were believed.

It’s time we changed the culture. I don’t know if any of what’s happening now will do that, but I can hope. I can hope my story does its part. And I can learn to be a safe place for other survivors, and be my own safe place, too.

To haven thee, well is me, I have thee wonnen in fight.

Hello my blog, hello my website. I’ve been gone awhile. The reasons are varied, but many of them come down to: I have been too overwhelmed by what’s happening in my country to manage regular blogging, too. In fact, it’s taken a terrible toll on my creativity. I’ve been working on getting more done, but I haven’t always succeeded. People who have been creating despite all of this, I salute you. I’ve been feeling much like I did when I went through my divorce – dry of creativity, unable to delve into story the way I need to, to finish novels or pull entertaining posts from my brain. I’ve mostly been either furious or grieving, and neither help me to write.

But – I am coming back. I refuse to let this white supremacist regime keep me from my own life’s work. We need art and stories more than ever, and I will do my best to contribute to that, and get my stories written and published. I will work to find ways around sorrow, around rage, to words and to actions. I will put in the work of creating, along with my work of resisting the harm that my government is hell-bent on doing.

So, here on my 45th birthday, I am making a pledge to myself. Self-care is important, resisting is important, but so is the creative work. I have chivvied myself into a mental place where I can again feel story churning like a stormy ocean. I’m going to dive in, and see where it takes me. I’m going to post about it, and about my feelings, and about politics, and do all of this work. I think it will help. I know it will be good for me. So – a post a month, and several chapters a month, and all the story I can pull from the deep. I’m in the middle of my life, and I’m not letting anything stop me from being all the me that I am.

(Title is from a poem in “Commonplace Book of John Grimstone, 1372,” and also the song “Love Me Broughte,” by the Mediaeval Baebes.) (PS it’s me, I won me in the fight.)

Resistance

I knew when it came, if it came, the authoritarian changes in our government would be quick and vicious. I just didn’t expect that the US slide into complete fascism would be live-tweetable by the hour.

I haven’t blogged in a long time. Partly because I have been busy, and partly because I have been feeling overwhelmed, and partly because now it’s been so long I feel like there isn’t a graceful way back in. Which means that everything I might want to write about feels either not important enough, or too important to lump in with a “hey there long time no see.” But it’s important to speak. So I’m speaking, so to speak. This will be rough, but heartfelt for all of that.

We’re at a dangerous place here in the US. The Trump regime is already ignoring and subverting the law, and we’ve barely started. If you think I am over-reacting, please do some research into other countries who have gone on the Authoritarian Boogaloo ride, and compare and contrast. And also compare and contrast what our laws have been, and should be, and what is happening now. This website has a list of what has been happening since the election – with very good links and breakdowns – and all of the lies and outright lies and subtle and not-at-all subtle changes since we allowed someone who is supported – and being led – by Nazis and the KKK to come into power over us.

The thing is, it feels normal to be lied to by the GOP. It feels like business as usual. They have been lying about climate change, about women’s bodies, about regulations on businesses, about who is profiting from what, about who our enemy is … for what seems like my entire life. We let it get normal. We let them get away with lies because they refuse to stop lying, and then they say their lies are just as good of an opinion as anyone else’s. No. But we let them tell these lies over and over as they said things like “have to look at both sides,” and “what if we’re not lying,” when it has been obvious to anyone who is willing to do the research that they are, and are taking advantage of people’s desire to pretend everything is OK, to pretend to play fair.

And now a more extreme version of those lies has taken over our highest levels of federal government, and has appointed a Nazi to be in charge of national security. Do not think this is hyperbole. Read what Bannon has written, what he’s said. Bannon is a Nazi and is working to make this country a Nazi country. He just doesn’t want to use the term Nazi because Nazis have a branding problem. But everything he says shows he doesn’t care about good government, he only cares about destroying people he dislikes. And he dislikes a lot of people, mostly for just existing as human. He’s not the only horrible person in charge with Trump, but he’s a major one.

All of them, Trump’s staff and those supporting him, are lying to us, daily. About big and small things, like what size the crowd was at the inauguration, like what Trump publicly said ten minutes ago, like what they talk about behind closed doors, and is leaked, but then they deny. They lie because they can, because it’s a strategy to keep everyone off balance, because they want to control all narratives through brute force. They gaslight and they bald-faced lie and too many people nod along, and decide that they can’t be lying, because who would lie about that? Trump. Trump would lie about that. If he will lie about the size of his inauguration for ego, what won’t he lie about? I think everyone knows the answer to that, whether they’ll admit it or not.

I have family members who are black and brown, family members who are immigrants, family members who are at risk from this hateful, fear-mongering government. But even if I did not, I would resist them. I have friends who are afraid of being deported, of being targeted, of being set on by police because of their skin or their beliefs or their personhood. But even if I did not, I would resist this president, and his rolling back of our laws. I would resist his taking our right to affordable healthcare, and our right to worship however we please. Because he is in the wrong. Because he is harming the entire country. Because he will harm people, will get people killed, through incompetence and vicious self-interest. Because all of his appointees are people who will do immense harm to the institution of our government, and the people they’re supposed to help. Because at every moment of every day he has been campaigning, and coming into power, and now in office, he has looked to harm others and aggrandize himself. Because the GOP has been, for the most part, supporting him in these endeavors, so that they can keep power. Because it feels like the building is on fire and large numbers of our congresspersons and senators are still sitting inside the building trying to convince the arsonists to play chess instead. Pro-tip: you can’t play chess with people who are setting the building on fire. They aren’t interested in chess. (I did not come up with this image, but I think it fits.)

So many of the orders Trump is signing are the death-warrants of millions of US citizens. The arsonists do not care.

The elderly and disabled and chronically ill and the poor will die quickly without Medicaid and the ACA. Then will come anyone who tries to change jobs but can’t get insured, and then gets injured or sick. Then if anyone is diagnosed with say, cancer, or anything else that adds up quickly in healthcare costs, they’ll end up getting lifetime caps on their insurance coverage, and they will die because they can’t afford treatment once they reach those caps. And they will reach them, almost immediately. Any premature baby born will reach their lifetime cap before they’re even well enough to go home and start living. And then if they ever get sick again, their family will have to find money for their care and go into massive debt or watch them die.

And that’s just one issue.

The government is defunding national programs in every area of the country, in every area of expertise, which means that thousands are going to be without jobs, and all of us are going to be without protections to make our food and water safe, or research into new cures for illnesses, or regulations to keep random industries from killing us with unsafe machines. I find that the GOP leadership wants us not only to go into the past, say, the 1950s, so they can be openly sexist and racist without repercussions, but that really what they meant is they want to go back to the 1850s. They want to make us owe the factory store, the monopoly barons, and scrabble in the dirt for what little life there is in our lives. They want everyone except the super rich to be unable to protest, unable to fight back, and to work themselves to death to make them more rich.

This isn’t hyperbole or extreme reaction – this is a basic extrapolation of what they are doing right now, this minute. They are making our lives less livable and safe. They are taking away freedoms and protections for every stripe of U.S. citizen, and they are not going to stop with the Black people, the disabled people, the women. Don’t think they aren’t coming for you, too. Unless you are white and rich and cis/het and ablebodied, etc, they are coming for your rights too. Just look at what they’re trying to pass all over the country. Taking away the rights of women, taking away the rights of people to assemble, taking away the rights of people to even see what the government is doing.

There are some who sneer that “You lost, get over it,” but people who say that often fly the Confederate flag, or sometimes the Nazi flag. Which makes that argument ridiculous on many fronts – but here’s the big hint that those people aren’t paying attention: all of us are losing, now. The rights that are taken away from some of us are taken away from all of us, eventually. Every citizen – Trump isn’t going to take care of people who voted for him, not even the bigots. Not unless you’re very rich. Even then, I wouldn’t trust him. He keeps everything for himself.

This government has ignored the rule of law, is ignoring the US Constitution. Not just the right to bear arms, although no one ever did come for your guns, did they? They might now. The right to assemble in the Constitution, too. And it’s not as though this government has any respect for any of the rest of it. They certainly have proved they don’t have any respect for the laws passed by our judiciary.

The current government is coming for everyone’s rights. They’re on their way right now, more quickly than most of us imagined. We imagined months, not days, not weeks. But here we are. And we have to resist. We have to resist because if we don’t, then we were never good people, and we never had a hope of a good country, not once. This country has had some shitty times, and some shitty laws, but we usually could at least say we had hope of being good. That won’t be true for very much longer. We must resist.

I’m not good at resisting. I wasn’t brought up for confrontation, and I don’t have the personality for it. But I will make calls, I will go to protests and sit-ins, I will make cookies and babysit and bring water to people who go to those things, and I will write. It has been very hard to write, as I watch the fascism slime over our country. But I will write. I will do what I can when I can, and I will not let this country be taken over by Nazis without a goddamn fight. I will resist, because I must resist to still be able to live with myself. We are under siege, and we must resist.

She’s walking on fire….

(Trigger warning for discussion of abuse/rape culture)

I’ve been neglecting writing essays and posts for awhile now, partly due to being busy, and partly because writing isn’t coming easy right now, and I let the non-urgent things slide. But there’s a lot being flung around at the moment about consent and lack thereof, and I find I have something I need to express.

Not that I’ve been silent about the current GOP nominee for president in other social media spaces – DT’s racism, anti-Semitism, ableism, misogyny, etc have not been lost on me, and I’ve been speaking up where and when I’m able. Mostly to pass on the thoughts and essays of other people – elevate and amplify where you can, right? But I don’t think anyone who knows me is unaware of my opinions. He is a garbage person, a white nationalist, and a sociopathic liar.

Since more and more information is coming to us about his harassment and sexual assault of women throughout his life, there has been a larger outcry. I know there are specific reasons behind why now the outcry, and not all of his earlier offences – which have to do with racism and other bigotry, and the fact that a specific subset of religious people think he has now attacked women who belong to them. Which is another problem. But with all of the women and various genderfluid people speaking about assault and consent and their experiences, there appears (again) to be a common thread. It’s that we as a larger society teach men, especially white men, that they get to touch whomever they want, whenever they want. And women are always fair game.

It’s becoming more visible in the past few days, now that DT has said “it’s just talk,”, even though it isn’t just talk. Obviously it’s not – there are reports of teenage boys harassing girls in school with his words, women grabbed by their genitals as they stand on public transportation, the grabber saying “Trump 2016!” and laughing about it, saying “when Trump wins we’re going to force you to….” These types of acts are not new, but the glee in a presidential candidate who embodies this kind of abuse is. This is the kind of abuse that his supporters have been heaping on immigrants, anyone who isn’t white, and/or who isn’t Christian, etc, all along.

We have a large subset of people who think they own everyone else. They think they get to touch people without asking for consent. They believe consent is implied by our leaving the house. Consent is implied by being in public. Consent is implied by existence. These abusers think they have the right to your body. They think they have the right to any body, specifically women’s bodies. They escalate, get angry if they are ignored, or confronted, or rejected, or anything. It doesn’t matter how they are reacted to. They are already angry. They want to dominate someone, and they think women are theirs for dominating. You never know which one will be that man. Every unknown man – and even some known – is always Schrödinger’s abuser: if you engage in any fashion, there’s a high chance he could attack in some way.

I’ve been grabbed, mauled, patted, pinched, groped, poked, smacked, goosed; in public, at parties, on the street, by strangers and acquaintances and friends. I’ve had gay men tell me it’s OK they slapped my ass because they’re gay, so it doesn’t matter. I’ve had friends laugh when I was outraged at being grabbed and goosed. I’ve had men who touched me inappropriately apologize to my boyfriend, but not me, as though being in a relationship implies that I am owned by a man, and I didn’t get any say either way. I’ve been assaulted in front of people I thought were friends, or at least friendly, and they all just laughed while I screamed and tried to get away. Like it was a joke. Like watching someone throw a woman down and hump her against her will is hilarious. I’ve had complete strangers grab my breast as I was walking down the street. I’ve had a constant flow of verbal street harassment follow me as I walk to and from work, or lunch, or the movies, or anywhere.

I’m a woman; I exist here and now. Of course these things have happened to me. We expect, we allow, we pretty much guarantee these things will happen to a woman in this society. And we look the other way. We shrug. “Whaddaya gonna do? Can’t change men – men are just like that.” How insulting to men. Why are men just like that? Because our culture teaches them they’re supposed to be. We teach them it’s OK, it’s how they’re supposed to act, no one will really stop them or retaliate.

Am I outraged that DT boasted about sexually assaulting women?

Of course I am. Am I surprised?

No. No I am not. He has shown us who he is over and over – a predator, an abuser, a sociopath, someone who doesn’t care for anyone but himself.

There are those who will react to this kind of post with “Not all men!” But is that true? We’re told “not all men,” and then with this recent revelation the words change to “all men say those things!” You can’t have it both ways, my friends. I believe that it is not all men. But it is too many men, and it is all women that it happens to, and it is all of us allowing it.

Our culture sets up situations for predators to flourish, and throws out useless excuses for that allowance. We pretend it’s not that bad, that it only happens in specific situations. We’re not complicit; we didn’t know they meant it. It’s just words, and words, as we all know, have no meaning.

And actions have even less meaning than that, am I right? Boys will be predators, and girls just have to be victims, and everyone not identifying directly as either might as well not exist, or exist only as further victims. Despite constant overwhelming evidence that our society’s expectations of masculinity and femininity are toxic and harmful, despite evidence that terrible things happen when we don’t teach what consent is or means, our country, our world, likes to blame the end state, the person harmed, instead of fixing anything before that.

Even worse, we’re not believed. We don’t believe others. To even begin to be believed, we have to crack open our lives and insides like eggs and stir the damaged and bruised yolk out for everyone to pick over – here is where I was hurt, here is where I asked for help and didn’t get it, here is where no one believed me. And media, our friends, our families want to just wipe up the mess and pretend it wasn’t that bad, that we had it coming somehow, if only we had done something different. But there is nothing else we could have done; we didn’t have it coming. No one has it coming. And it is that bad. It is always that bad. For all of us, over and over. So many people, so much pain, so much trauma, and yet our collective first instinct is to blame the person hurt, and not the person doing the hurting.

And it’s so much worse for people who aren’t white, who aren’t straight, who aren’t able-bodied, who aren’t cis-gendered, who don’t fit into our narrow precepts of who is “normal.” We blame them so much more, and we let specifically white men off the hook so much more quickly. There are many varied reasons why, but the biggest reason is white nationalism, and patriarchy. (I won’t go into evangelicalism and what that means in conjunction with white nationalism and patriarchy, but you can read Julie McGalliard’s words about that here. She is smart, and has personal experience, and you should read it.) We have a broken system in so many ways, and they all feed into one another: the racism and the sexism and the homophobia and all of the bigotries. We’ve broken it further by pretending those things aren’t there and that they don’t interact. And we let the broken bits cut into everyone and tell them it’s their fault.

So – let’s start fixing it. Don’t touch people without their consent, as a basic beginning. Don’t let other people get away with touching people without their consent. If you know someone is handsy, step up and say something to them – don’t let your problematic friends off the hook. Don’t harass people, and don’t let others harass people either. Help out people who are being targeted.

I don’t care if you’re a gay man; you don’t get to touch my butt. I don’t care if you just wanted to grab onto someone, I am not someone you get to grab. If I don’t like hugs, don’t hug me. If I do like hugs, and you do too, and we both want to hug one another, great! But my hugging one person is not blanket consent to be hugged by anyone else.

My reading racy romance novels is not blanket consent to have my personal space violated or to be touched whenever by anyone at all. My consent is not blanket at any time, and neither is yours. Nor is anyone’s.

Never assume consent: always ask.

Intoxication does not indicate consent – in fact, intoxication generally means consent isn’t possible. My clothes, no matter what they are, do not constitute consent, my leaving my house does not constitute consent, my existing on this planet does not constitute consent.

Neither does yours. No one gets to touch you without your say so. No one gets to abuse you, no one gets to hurt you. And we should all step up and make sure that is a lesson that we all teach, and that we all learn. Teach your sons not to touch without asking for, and receiving consent. Teach your daughters that it’s OK to have boundaries – you can say yes, or you can say no, but no one gets to bypass anyone’s choice. Teach everyone to recognize and enforce boundaries.

Because if we don’t, if we just let all of this continue, rape culture flourishes, and predators will continue to get away with whatever they want, with little to no consequence.

Just like they do right now. And that is intolerable.

Title is from Alicia Keys “Girl on Fire.”

We tried to go inside, and it would rain there too….

Sometimes I have dreams that are more story than dream, and those are my favorite. It means my subconscious is entertaining itself. It means my subconscious wants a story. It means I’m still a storyteller, even though I sometimes worry I’m not.

I had nightmares the other night – not terribly unusual. I have stress dreams from time to time; often irritating – oh no I’m so late, oh no my teeth are falling out, oh no I managed to leave the house without clothes, oh no I never went to this class and now I’ll never graduate … I hate those. But this one was the kind I don’t mind having. Because while I was definitely scared during several parts of it, at least it had an interesting narrative.

(Note: dream description coming yes I know but hey it’s my blog and it was a cool story.)

It started off the way dreams do, one dream slipping into another; there’s a high school where a girl died, ghosts are haunting it, now I’m driving and I don’t know how suddenly, etc. It all morphed into a holiday feast. The holiday was some sort of amalgamation of Halloween and Thanksgiving, but to honor specific gods. The women gathered were friends and family (fictitious dream family, not my real family), in a big Victorian house on a dark street, and we were observing some of the rituals but not all of them, just family and friends having a holiday. The table in the main room was long, made of a heavy wood, and the rugs on the floor were Persian, the colors all warm creams and burgundies. It was night, the wind blowing through trees, cold outside. The group hadn’t invited one of the usual friends/family, because we kind of didn’t want her there. But she came anyway, as family does, and she was insisting we follow some of the rituals that everyone had given up as weird and old fashioned and superstitious. Everyone was secretly wishing she would go away. No one was rude enough to say it, but we sighed at each other as she brought out her Tupperware and weird food and deliberately obtuse questions. “Are you sure you aren’t going to…” “We can’t afford not to…” We all bit our lips and rolled our eyes.

In another house, some slip-dream away, as dreams do, a dark god is angry with someone for not following the rituals, will kill them for it. The person screams, calls on a different god for help, but who knows if that other god is real, or strong, or cares? There is only this god in front of them, angry, awful, turning them into sand. The person shreds in the wind on a shriek and disappears.

Back to the big house with the women – the uninvited guest pesters all of us, peering into our faces, making us prepare food that no one wants, gather things no one has time to gather. The gods show up. They appear, prowling, suddenly in the house like a fearful quiet before the screaming – a squall of gods, intense and ready to strike. There are a handful of them; they are changeable, tricksters, morphing from form to form to form and laughing and raging and expecting to be honored. We are all terrified but follow our erstwhile friend’s instructions: offer the food, gather the things. One of the instructions from the gods is “gather four stolen things” and everyone runs around the house to find something the gods might consider stolen. The house has a collection of shells and preserved specimens of tropical fish – kind of tattered, kind of old, dry and battered and torn. I pick up shells and fish and tiny statues, hoping I’m not offending my friend/relative whose house this is, but we all have to find four things the gods consider stolen. I don’t know what they mean by stolen. I hope I’m right. I dither over a figurine of a dog. Is the dog stolen? I don’t know. I choose another dried fish. We all rush to bring them the shells and fish and statues.

The gods bring the fish back to life, and we shriek a little, startled, pour the now-live fish into a huge fish bowl/tank that looks like a birdcage, glass or magic behind the bars of the cage to keep the water in. We ooh and ahh over the fish, watch them swim. We pour in more specimens, turning to life before our eyes. The fish are still tattered but swim placidly. The shells become snails and cuttlefish and jellies.

The gods consume all the prepared food, and we’re running around trying to get more food for them, but they’ve knocked a lot of dishes over. We can’t offer them food that’s been on the ground. One god corners me in the kitchen, walking softly, eyes like storms, and I clutch a bowl and babble how we’re trying to get something ready, just a minute, just a minute. They look at me, wistful, sheepish. Are there any potato chips, they want to know.

I’m pretty sure that’s when I morphed the dream myself because I didn’t want to be scared anymore. It was a lot more relaxed after that. It softened, blurred, faded into waking.

I like the imagery throughout that dream – it was so detailed that I can still see the house, the carpets, the crowded knickknacks on the tables, the Victorian sprawlingness of it. The dark shadows and the warm light, the bright yellows and blue stripes on the fish, the red and beige and black of the sand and wind. It was so vivid, drummed into me. I love that in a dream, even scary ones. Unless the scary ones are about spiders. Then no.

When I think of the images, though, none of the faces stuck with me, if I ever saw them at all. I think that’s usual for me with dreams – I almost never see faces clearly. I wonder if that has to do with my slight facial-blindness. There’s something in my brain that just doesn’t register faces properly all the time. The movement of the whole body, the sound of the voice, the corner of a mouth – those register more strongly in dreams, and maybe in my brain in waking life.

In any case, this is the sort of dream that makes me feel like my story brain is working, churning – just wants to let me know it’s back there. It was bored and made something up that imprinted strongly enough to be remembered. Hi story brain. Nice to know you’re weaving away back there, building worlds and ready to rumble. Let’s get together and finish this novel draft, shall we?

Title is from “Jolene” by The Weepies

Desire’s the Element that I Can’t Fight, Dream is the Arm of God…

The navel-gazing writer looks more closely at her navel and realizes she owes a lot to many other authors … some maybe more than others.

I’ve said before that Robin McKinley is one of my favorite authors, and that if there’s anyone that I think my writing is like, it’s probably (hopefully) hers. I reread many of her books yearly or so, and I’ve been in love with her stories since I first ran across them, when I was 13 or 14.

For whatever reason, even though I love it so much, I haven’t reread The Hero and the Crown in many years, perhaps as many as 15 or more. Certainly not since before I started the rewrite of what became A Ragged Magic. And I guess I forgot, if I ever acknowledged, how very much I borrowed or stole of my Rhiannon from that book.

THATC was the first book of McKinley’s that I ever read. I was going through a dragon phase, (luckily there was a pretty heavy dragon fad on and I could get a decent number of them, not as many as horse books, but still quite a few…). I don’t remember where I picked the book up, but it was the mid 80s, and it had a dragon and a woman on the cover, and I bought it (for $2.95, thanks for the allowance Mom) knowing nothing more about it than that. I didn’t know that The Blue Sword was written first (although chronologically 2nd), and I didn’t know anything about other stories by McKinley. Just the fact of the dragon, and the woman, and the fire. I loved it. I devoured that book. I reread it time and time again in the first years I had it. I bought other books by her, and loved them, but I read that first, THATC, every six months or so I think. At least until I got Beauty, and still probably at least once a year until Deerskin came out, and that one was my favorite until Sunshine. (Sunshine still reigns as my favorite, but maybe when Pegasus is complete, that will be my new favorite world. It has that potential. Every McKinley book sits pretty high up on my favorites list, but some hit closer to my personal list of everything I ever wanted in a book than others.)

When I started writing ARM the first time, when it was still just called “Witch” in the files of my secondhand, already-old computer, and I was in my early 20s and I wasn’t sure it was going to be a novel yet, I sort of knew I was using Robin McKinley as a primer for how to write a story. I knew that I liked the poetic manner of McKinley’s prose, and her way of going deep in the protagonist’s head, and the way her stories fan out from this pinpoint in that point of view and expand, but never lose that deep thought. I knew that I emulated a lot. But I hadn’t realized, until I reread THATC again just recently, how much I stole from her protagonists.

Rhiannon is more than half Aerin, I think. Her confusion and fumbling for answers, her mistrust of herself, of her power, of the people around her, even when she loves them. Her stubbornness, her tendency to be both too pliant and not pliant enough, her tendency to just *think* too much; even her hair. (Although I noticed recently that I gave Rhiannon that hair, the red rippling hair I loved on Aerin and always wanted for myself, and then immediately chopped it all off and dyed it brown and made it into the curly mess that I myself had at 12, and hated. Ah, the twisty ways of the subconscious.)

It’s a little surprising the way that McKinley’s prose has … imprinted on me. Or maybe not, considering how often I reread her books. She has a very particular voice, a voice that I brought myself up as a writer on, and maybe it isn’t a shock that her type of protagonist and type of situations would sit in my head and take up residence. But it was a small revelation to me, in rereading one of my comfort reads, that I haven’t allowed myself to pick up in some time, how very much I recognize my own protean writer-self. Or at least, how much I recognize that protean writer-self me stole from another, much more accomplished, author.

I must offer my most humble compliments and, um, maybe apologies to Robin McKinley, for making me the writer I am today. I’m not sure she’d recognize her prose in my writing (or that anyone else would), but I sure do. And I can only thank her for being always herself, and for writing stories and protagonists that make me want to curl up and read again and again. I only hope my own stories are half as good.

Title is from “If I Could Write,” by Sam Phillips

I’ll be writing more in a week or two….

I’ve been absent from this here blog for a couple of months. I can only tell you that life is full of hijinks and mundanity and all of it takes up time. I suppose technically I could tell you more but it’s really not all that interesting from a blogging standpoint. But I have a plan, of sorts, to keep things bloggity rolling in here a little more regularly. On the non-bloggity life side of things, I have been writing, and dancing, and doing the things that need doing. Such is life.

 
I have a Sort-of Sekrit project I’m working on that will be revealed Real Soon Now (TM). It involves several people, and a lot of planning, and some dorking out about random stuff, and it should be a lot of fun. With any luck, we won’t be the only ones who think so.

 
But for today’s post, I think I will talk about books I’ve been reading over the last couple of months.

 
I am a voracious reader. Yes, yes, many writers are. I am not special in that regard. But as it’s winter, I’ve also been hiding out a little when things get too full of stuff, or stuff gets too full of things, because that’s the way I stay sane. Mostly I read books in my own personal cat-and-blanket fort when this happens. Oh, let’s be honest. I’ll do that just as easily when I’m not overwhelmed as when I am. But when overwhelmingness happens, it’s extremely likely to find me curled up with cats and blankets, seriously not hearing a word anyone says, hey this book is good. So I thought, well, why not post about a few books I’ve been reading lately. Note: this is not all of the books I’ve read recently. I don’t have that kind of time, to talk about all of them. But I feel like highlighting a few is a good idea. (I also will write up some reviews on Amazon and/or Goodreads, because that’s how you help a writer’s career, other than buying their books.) Here, in no particular order, are some of the books I’ve read recently. They are all fantastic and I highly recommend any and all of them, and other books by these authors.

 
Shadowshaper, by Daniel José Older – excellent YA urban fantasy. Great characters and a lot of action. Go for the zombies and sarcasm, stay for the super-cool magic. Or vice-versa, whatever floats your boat. Here are kids being realistically kids in a very real Brooklyn background, while magic and family and magical family type stuff is all going down. The main character is kickass. Also this is a very thorough takedown of gentrification and white-savior-ism. I loved it, and I’ve loved his other books as well. I’m about to read his next one. Highly recommend.

The Bollywood Bride, by Sonali Dev – Contemporary romance. (In case you didn’t know, I read a lot of romance. I read it because it is good and fun and people get HEAs (that’s Happily Ever Afters, for those of you who are not in the know) and who doesn’t love a little angst where people get HEA at the end of it? And so much if it is so well written, and human relationships are important to everyone’s life. So if you were feeling snobbishly above icky girl stuff, you are wrong and confused.) Anyway, I honestly could not put this one down. These characters are loveable and flawed and I heart the precious, precious cinnamon roll of the hero, and I want to hug the protag until all the hurt is gone. Young love parted, people trying to save one another but getting it wrong, lovely family stuff. Fantastic romance, will read again.

Furiously Happy, by Jenny Lawson – I guess this is a sort of memoir? Ish? If you follow The Bloggess, you know what it is, and you’ve probably read it. It’s heartwarming, funny, and it makes me feel way less alone in my weirdness. My weirdness is not the same as Jenny’s, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t crosshatch over. If you want to take a look at a woman who’s making her illness and her difficulties work for her instead of against, at least as much as is possible, read this book.

Level Up: A Geek Romance, by Cathy Yardley – Contemp romance – OMG THIS BOOK IS SO GOOD! I’m not even the same kind of geek as these people, and it felt so at home. If you like geeks, romances, people who work too hard, people who have trouble relating to people, and people fighting for – and winning! – equal treatment stories, this book is for you. If you like to heart characters and cheer them on, this book is for you. Seriously, I love it so much. Another I will definitely read again.

Indexing: Reflections, by Seanan McGuire – Urban-ish fantasy. The tag line for this series is ‘“Never underestimate the power of a good story.” Good advice…especially when a story can kill you.’ I’m not sure how to categorize it, but if you love Seanan McGuire stuff (and I do), then you’ll like these. It’s a Kindle Serial, but both full, uh, seasons? are out now, so you can get both books, but only on ebook from Amazon. When fairy tales take over everyone’s lives, basically. What happens if the story decides you’re the evil step sister, even if you don’t want to be? Our ATI Management Bureau team may be your only hope. Full of typical McGuire characters who swear and bleed A LOT and get shit done whether the world is working for them or not. Frequently not. Damn it, world. (I feel like that’s something all McGuire characters would say.)

Once Upon a Marquess, by Courtney Milan – Historical romance. I heart Courtney Milan so much! I read all of her books, and I can’t wait for more. Her characters are the best. This one is no exception. I love a romance between people who used to love or be friends, but who have parted, and slowly find their way back again. Slow build to trust is my catnip. Also I love terrible puns, and this is chalk-full of them. Go read.

Lord Dashwood Missed Out, by Tessa Dare – Historical romance. Tessa Dare is one of my very favorite authors. If you’ve ever read any of her Spindle Cove books (which you absolutely should! They are so much fun!) then some characters here will be familiar to you. Here’s another couple who used to be friends, but Lord Dashwood, well, he missed out. He lives to regret it. 😀 It’s a novella length, I think. The protag is a woman who writes with passion and determination and wants to have a real career, even though she’s (gasp) a woman! Yay! Tessa Dare is wonderful and you should buy her stuff.

Act Like It, by Lucy Parker – Contemp romance set in England. This book is adorable and fun with a lot of hidden depth. A fake romance turns to a real one – always a good time. The writing is great, and the characters are very real and endearing. I really liked the – again – slow build from animosity to trust. Yes, OK, that’s a big romance trope, but there’s a reason it works. When it’s well-written, as this one is.

Carry On, by Rainbow Rowell – YA fantasy. Oh, man, this book is such a GIFT! I LOVE THIS BOOK SO MUCH! It’s the best novel that got started as pretend fan fiction of a pretend novel inside of another novel in the history of ever! (It’s also possibly the only novel started that way, but I do not judge, I only marvel.) If you love Rainbow Rowell, you probably read Fangirl, which was a fantastic book, in which the main character is writing fan fiction for the Simon Snow books, (loose stand-in for Harry Potter). Then Rainbow Rowell thought about what the Simon Snow story would be like if she actually, you know, wrote it. So she decided to do that. The book Carry On is not the story from the fan fiction, or the story that the fan fiction was based on, but her own rendering of what if she wrote a book about a magic school in England. I don’t know what to tell you but that these characters, man. They are amazing. I can’t fall in love any harder. Now I want to read this again. If you’ve ever loved a reluctant, eager to please, confused young hero, a not-so-villainous villain, or girls who refuse to be pigeon-holed no matter their parent’s, society’s, or whomever’s wishes, then you will love this too. READ IT. If you do not end up falling absolutely in swoony love I will be surprised.

Ancillary Mercy, by Ann Leckie – Science Fiction. This is the final book in the Imperial Radch trilogy. I think this series might be my new SF fave. I unabashedly love Breq. I love a main character who has to push boundaries, who keeps going after being brutally thwarted again and again. (Note: I do not want to BE that person. I would definitely not love to be brutally thwarted, please and thanks. But I can ADMIRE it from afiction.) (afiction as opposed to afar. harhar.) This series is brilliant and brilliantly written and I will nominate it for all the awards. Seriously, it’s the best. I know some people who were put off by the disaffectedness of the main character in the beginning of the first book, which is fair. But she’s, y’know, a spaceship. A person who is a ship, who is no longer a ship for reasons, and she has to figure out how to manage the impossible and also feel and not feel. Jesus, it’s so good.

Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty, by Christine Hepperman – Poetry, I would call it feminist poetry, using fairy tale tropes. Lovely, haunting, and pointed. I’m happy I got the physical book, so I can put it with my other poetry.

The Wrath and the Dawn, by Renée Ahdieh – YA high fantasy, set over the 1001 Arabian Nights stories. This book is amazing. I absolutely love it. I found the main character to be fantastically compelling, and the storyline is certainly a fresh take for this. What if the monster was forced into monstrousness? Does that excuse it? And who doesn’t love a determined, impetuous, smart, kick-ass young woman? Well, I love her. I can’t wait for the next book.

Go ye forth and read. I sure am. My TBR pile is ridiculous. Just the way I like it!

Title is from “Paperback Writer” by the Beatles.

And I’ll be fine and dandy…

I’m just adding in a quick note to everyone that my book A Ragged Magic is back up for sale on Amazon.com as ebook – for $4.99. Soon the paperback version will be available for purchase, as well. So if you were looking for a little something to read, and you haven’t picked it up yet, why not give it a try? Look, it’s so shiny!

(Edited to add: Ebook also available at Barnes&Noble and iTunes. Yay!)

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Here’s a tiny excerpt from the middle of the book. (Warning: mild spoilers if you haven’t read it.)

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“Orrin!” I whisper. “Orrin, come and talk to me. Where were you? What happened? Are you all right?” He turns and stares at me, his expression blank. I reach out to touch his arm, and he flinches. “Orrin?” I say, feeling helpless.

“May I help you, my lady,” he says, but he doesn’t look at me, only at the air past my ear.

“Orrin, it’s me. Don’t you, don’t you know me?”

“Should I, my lady?” He still will not look at me. I can’t tell if he means he should not know me, or he does not know me.

“Orrin, if you need to leave, to get out, Connor says, he says we can do it. Tonight. We’ll take care of everything. Whatever he’s done to you, we can fix.”

This time he looks at me, and I reach for his arm again, but he moves back. The wine in the pitcher he’s holding sloshes.

“Let’s go somewhere we can talk for a moment. Orrin, let me help you.”

He shakes his head. “I don’t know you. I don’t know you, and you can’t help me,” he whispers. “Just stay away from me. Stay away, do you hear me? I can’t know you.” His eyes are fierce.

I hear people coming, and I reach for him again. “Please just come with me,” I beg, and then he does move closer, and I feel a spark of hope.

“I’m sorry,” he breathes, and then wine pours down the front of my dress as he tips it, stumbling, looking straight into my eyes. “My lady, I am so sorry. So sorry. Please, my lady, please forgive me,” he’s saying, and I don’t know what’s happening until I see red out of the corner of my eye.

Gantry’s red feast robe glitters as it billows around him, as he grabs for Orrin’s arm. Orrin’s brown sleeve slides up a little. I see patterns in angry red and white, runes to match my own.

“Clumsy!” The Bishop shouts as he shakes Orrin. “Look what you’ve done!”

Orrin begs pardon in a dead voice, his head low.

“I am sorry, lady. My acolyte has ruined your gown.”

I curtsey low, feeling Gantry’s eyes burn into the top of my head, and sweat drips down along my own carved patterns.

I glance up to See Orrin’s scars glow a pale amethyst for a moment, see him flinch and gasp.

Servants are coming through the corridor now, bearing food and drink. I choke on words, then stammer, “My Lord Bishop,” I say, and stop. What do I say? “Yes, the gown, I, I will go and change,” I say, and hurry down the corridor to an exit, any exit. I end up in the front hall, and then run to Julianna’s rooms, my lungs and eyes burning. My hands grip the wall, the stair rails, to keep me upright on my shaky legs.

I was right. The vision was true, and I was right. I start to shudder and cry when I reach the safety of my own room. Oh, Keenan, help me. Help Orrin.

I will have to tell Connor, after the banquet is over. But for now, I just want to hide. I crawl, wine-stained, into my bed and huddle in a ball. Another sacrifice to demons, but his runes burn purple. I remember to breathe just in time to pass out.

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Title is from “Hard Candy Christmas” by Dolly Parton because I just like that song. And Dolly.

 

For I smell of the earth and I’m worn by the weather…

I meant to post this up on Halloween. I meant to do several things. I was distracted by a costume party, writing, and knitting, in that order. Whoops. And of course, all of the regular things that need doing, such as work and sleep and food. However now I have set of spooky (but not too spooky) book reviews to get to, so let’s get to gettin’. Better late than jolly, I guess.

First up, Haunted Fairs. Who doesn’t love a good “This carousel/amusement park is maybe haunted, that’s probably not good,” kind of story? If we’re talking about me, it turns out I only love that kind of story if it doesn’t give me outright nightmares. So I like these stories. (PS Something Wicked This Way Comes, as I recall from childhood, is Too Scary. Too many spiders, for one. But I only saw the movie.)

The first book I shall review today, is actually a series. And it’s less spooky than magic a little altered, and less haunted than well, weirdly possessed. It’s the Archer’s Beach series by Sharon Lee. The first book, Carousel Tides, hooked me quickly and I devoured all the stories I could get my hands on as soon as I knew they existed. Kate Archer has come home to the coastal Maine town of Archer’s Beach, because her grandmother is missing, and they’re about to lose the family carousel. If they lose control of the carousel, then they lose control of the imprisoned souls who are bound into some of the wooden animals. And that would be, in a word, bad. Kate and her family don’t particularly want to imprison those souls, but they haven’t had a choice. And now things are going from bad to worse very quickly.

This series has a very unique magic setup, across dimensions and worlds and times, and a protagonist who ran from magic under a self-imposed exile sentence but has returned and must figure out a way to save herself, her grandmother, the town, and maybe the universe. Not necessarily in that order, but she needs to save herself pretty quick or it’s all going down. The characters in the book spoke to me in a way that guaranteed I would keep reading without pause, and if I find out there are more than the books and short stories I know about, I’m going to get them and devour those, too. Have at. I highly recommend. The second two books are Carousel Sun and Carousel Seas. Magic, mayhem, and a sort-of haunted carousel. Get them get them now. (NOTE it’s not your usual haunting type. So don’t go in expecting ghosties.)

The second book up for review is Wild Ride, by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer. Yep, this amusement park is haunted. By demons. Ancient demons who are maybe a little mad at the being bound part, and keep trying to get free. Mary Alice Brannigan is restoring the Dreamland Amusement Park to its former glory, with a lot of paint and polish and hard work. But she hasn’t been told the big secret – the park is a demon prison, and the prisoners want out. She’s skeptical but the magic seeping through is too obvious to keep ignoring, and the guardians are going to need her help.

Ethan John Wayne, the park owner’s son, is a soldier who’s come home to die. But maybe not yet – the guardians are going to need him, too.

Honestly, this book isn’t Crusie and Mayer’s best, but it is a lot of fun, and there’s a haunted amusement park, and Mab (Mary Alice) is suspicious and snarky and smart, which I always like in a protag. I think the writing styles of the two writers don’t gel as well here as they should, and the way the stories blend is a bit like reading two different books at once at times. But I really love Crusie’s turns of phrase, and her ways of turning an antagonist slightly sideways is still definitely here. The main love story(ies) isn’t/aren’t what you suspect, which I like, and the HEA isn’t quite what you think it’s going to be either, and the magic/demons/haunting is pretty different from the usual fare. (Fare/fair, I’m so clever.) ANYHOODLE I like but don’t love this book, but I have read it at least 5 times, so take that as you find it. Of course, I’ve read almost every Crusie book I can get my hands on more than two or three times, so that’s part of it. (The best Crusie/Mayer combo book is Agnes and the Hitman, which is great.) (Crusie’s very best novel, I think, is a toss-up between Bet Me and Faking It, but I love almost all of them.)

MOVING ON, my very favorite spooky fall read does not have a haunted amusement park, although I’m sure the protag would have found that easier to deal with. The last book on my review list for this month is Maybe This Time, also by Jennifer Crusie. It’s a take/homage to The Turn of the Screw, which is an old-timey spooky read/watch. This book is probably the spookiest of my reviewees, but remember it’s me, so while there is a body count, it’s not viscerally bloody and there is an HEA.

This book is a little hard to describe without spoilers, but I shall try. Andie is trying to finally break off final contact with her ex-husband, North. They haven’t seen each other in years, but she wants to pay him back his support checks, and finally get him out of her heart. But he asks her for one small favor. Of course, the favor isn’t small at all – would she please be a live-in nanny for a month for his two wards, children of his cousin, who are living in, apparently unable or unwilling to move from, a mansion in the country. The other nannies have fled, saying the place is haunted. The children are orphans, traumatized, and need someone to help and care for them. North will pay Andie a large sum of money to go and assess the situation. And… the Turn of the Screw adaptation goes from there.

This adaptation has spooky ghosts, creepiness, and a lot of snark and heart. The romance is pretty stellar, and the ghosts are creepy, and the children are in terrible danger. I really liked all of it – I like the fallibility of Andie, and her character growth. I like the children, with all of their grit and fire and stubborn ability to cope, if brokenly. I like North, even if he is kind of willfully blind at times, but still willing to try. And I love all of the side characters, who make a screwball comedy out of a ghost story without diminishing too much of the creepy. (And if you’re really thinking about it, especially the ending, it’s pretty dang creepy.)

So there we have it – 3 spooky Fall reads, too late for October, but still Autumn, and this way, if you’re dreading the holly and jolly taking over everything, you can fight it off with another dose of fun but still atmospheric creepy. Happy reading!

The title is from the song “I Am Stretched On Your Grave,” which is a translation of a 17th century Irish poem, and recorded by a lot of people. I have Sinead O’Connor and Kate Rusby versions, both excellent.