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Act 2 Scene 1: or, After the Lights Come On

Act 2 Scene 1: or, After the Lights Come On published on

The Scene:

A darkened auditorium

Your Well-Loved Narrator:

-taps on mic-

‘Is this thing on?’

-looks offstage-

‘Can I please get the stage lights brought up please?’

-Lights come on-

-Looks right at you-

Well hello dear reader! Have you missed me? I’m sure you have. I’m back from my wee little sabattical (Well, really I’ve just been being utterly terified of 2016 and trying hard to avoid it’s monstrous gaze). There’s so much going on and I just don’t even know where to begin.

A word of housekeeping I suppose, and that is that I’d like to apologize to the screenwriter and director of ‘Arrival’. I’ve said since I first heard that ‘Story of Your Life’ had been optioned that it was absolutely unfilmable….

Yeah, I was so so wrong. It was brilliant. Simply the single finest science fiction film I’ve ever watched.

Alright, and now lets get into what you’re really here for. Let’s talk books. I’m working on a wrap-up for 2016 that I’ll post in January. But for now let’s start looking forward to the first quarter of 2017.

January 2017

A new Tad Williams!!!!! A new Peter Beagle!!!!! A New Laura Anne Gilman!!!!!

I adore Tad Williams, and a new book by him is always a treat. I’ve been reading on ‘The Heart of What Was Lost’ and it is a wonderful revisit to Osten Ard. It’s a much wider story than his last visit (1998’s lovely and haunting ‘The Burning Man’) and really drops you back into the fuller world of Osten Ard in set up to ‘The Witchwood Crown’ later this year.

I really look forward to reading the new Peter Beagle, it’s great to see one of our living legends releasing new material, and after the recent ‘Summerlong’, I anticipate his next book will also be lovely.

People paying attention here know I’m a big fan of Laura Anne’s first book in her Weird Western Devil’s Hand world (and please let this one run for a long long time). So I’m very excited for the second volume in that saga.

There’s been a lot of buzz around Katherine Arden’s ‘The Bear and the Nightengale’ for awhile, and from reading the first few chapters (so far!) I don’t think it’s misplaced. For fans of Patricia McKillip and Noami Novik’s wonderful ‘Uprooted’ this is a must-read.

I read through Seanan Maguire’s ghost story novella ‘Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day’ the other night, and I was deeply impressed with how quickly and apprarently effortlessly she created a world and populated it with fully fleshed out characters, without bogging us down with needless details. I hope to see more of this world.

Hand, Elizabeth • Fire • (01/01)
Modesitt, L. E., Jr. • Recluce Tales • (01/03)
Older, Daniel José • Battle Hill Bolero • (01/03)
Pratchett, Terry • The Witch’s Vacuum Cleaner • (01/03)
Williams, Tad • The Heart of What Was Lost • (01/03)
Gilman, Laura Anne • The Cold Eye • (01/10)
Gladstone, Max • Bookburners •(01/10)
Arden, Katherine • The Bear and the Nightingale • (01/10)
McGuire, Seanan • Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day • (01/10)
Beagle, Peter S. • In Calabria • (01/17)
Stross, Charles • Empire Games • (01/17)
Vaughn, Carrie • Martians Abroad • (01/17)
Westerfeld, Scott • Horizon • (01/17)
Goodkind, Terry • Death’s Mistress • (01/24)
Brust, Steven, & Skyler White • The Skill of Our Hands • (01/24)
Okorafor, Nnedi • Binti: Home • (01/31)
Aaronovitch, Ben • The Hanging Tree • (01/31)

February 2017

Oh February…

You’re trying to take away all my reading hours aren’t you?

A new book in Brad Beaulieu’s marvelous Sharakai (I promise you, it’s MARVELOUS!!!), the final volume in Victoria Schwab’s ‘Shades of Magic’ series, and FINALLY ‘Miranda and Caliban’ by Jacqueline Carey which I’ve been waiting for what seems like centuries to read. It’s staring at me alluringly from my bookcase.

I also breezed through Garth Nix’s charming middle reader book ‘Frogkisser!’ the other night, as he had read a bit of it when I saw him in Seattle this fall, and it was delightful. It will appeal deeply to fans of Patricia Wrede’s ‘Enchanted Forest’ Chronicles.

Beaulieu, Bradley P. • With Blood Upon the Sand • (02/07)
Danielewski, Mark Z. • The Familiar: Volume 4: Hades • (02/07)
Hurley, Kameron • The Stars Are Legion • (02/07)
Sagara, Michelle • Grave • (02/07)
Harrison, Kim • The Turn • (02/07)
Carey, Jacqueline • Miranda and Caliban • (02/14)
Duncan, Dave • Portal of a Thousand Worlds • (02/14)
Schwab, V. E. • A Conjuring of Light • (02/21)
Kadrey, Richard • The Wrong Dead Guy • (02/28)
Kiernan, Caitlín R. • Agents of Dreamland • (02/28)
Nix, Garth • Frogkisser! • (02/28)
Wendig, Chuck • Thunderbird • (02/28)

March 2017

FINALLY! The new Scalzi is almost here, and I feel like I’ve been waiting for simply AGES.

Bishop, Anne • Etched in Bone • (03/07)
Bledsoe, Alex • Gather Her Round • (03/07)
McGuire, Seanan • Magic for Nothing • (03/07)
Briggs, Patricia • Silence Fallen • (03/07)
Robinson, Kim Stanley • New York 2140 • (03/14)
Scalzi, John • The Collapsing Empire • (03/21)
McDonald, Ian • Luna: Wolf Moon • (03/28)
Kiernan, Caitlín R. • Dear Sweet Filthy World • (03/31)

And now my dears, as a reward for your patience with my long absence, here is Brent Weeks reading from his forthcoming book that will return him to the world of the Night Angel Trilogy. This won’t be his next book (which will be the final volume of the Lightbringer Saga) but the book after that.

An Interview with Lynsay Sands

An Interview with Lynsay Sands published on

About the Interviewee

Lynsay Sands is the New York Times bestselling author of the Argeneau Vampire series. She has written more than thirty-four books and anthologies since her first novel was published in 1997. Her romantic comedies span three genres — historical, contemporary, and paranormal — and have made the Barnes & Noble, USA Today, and New York Times bestseller lists. Her books are read in more than twelve countries and have been translated into at least six languages. She’s been a nominee for both the Romantic Times Best Historical Romance Award and the Romantic Times Best Paranormal Romance Award, was nominated and placed three times in the RIO (Reviewers International Organization) Awards of Excellence, and has several books on All about Romance’s Favorite Funnies list.

Lynsay’s latest novel is Runaway Vampire.

The Interview

GW: Hi, Lynsay! Thank you so much for agreeing to an interview with us! We are celebrating Valentine’s Day (okay, we celebrate Valentine’s Month) by sharing with our readers – who mostly read traditional fantasy and science fiction – some of the stand-out writers and series from the Paranormal Romance side of the street. Of course, you are one of our favorites. Where would you suggest new-to-romance readers start with your Argeneau series?

51zmj81S8zL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_LS: Most of my Argeneau books are standalone stories, so you can read them in whatever order you choose. That being said, I do know some readers like to read them in their written order, for them I’d suggest they start with book #1, A Quick Bite.

(Argeneau Reading Order)

For those who don’t mind reading them out of order, though, then it really depends on preference. If you’re in the mood for humor then I’d suggest Single, White Vampire, The Accidental Vampire or Under A Vampire Moon. Or if you’re in the mood for more of a thriller then I’d suggest The Immortal Hunter, Immortal Ever After or The Immortal Who Loved Me.

GW: Your series is one of the longer and more successful series in the paranormal romance category. I’ve seen other series get somewhat repetitive, but not yours! In fact, the series seems to have series within it: we have deeply personal family books, we have Enforcer books, light-hearted romps, dark mysteries, and what seems like everything in between. Do you have a strict pattern of what you’re going to write next in terms of thematic elements, do your editors make suggestions, or does the story evolve organically?

LS: No, there’s no pattern and no suggestions. I’m a “fly by the seat of my pants” kind of gal. I write the stories as they come to me. I sometimes have an idea or two percolating for a few years in my head before I write them, but it’s mostly just ideas, scenes I’d like to write, or characters I want to play with. I don’t actually plot anything out before sitting down to write it. I find when I do that and start writing already knowing what’s going to happen, I get bored with the story and don’t want to do it. And I believe if I’m bored, the reader will pick up on that and be bored as well, so I toss that story aside and start another instead. Fortunately, my editor doesn’t insist on outlines and whatnot, but gives me my creative space and lets me do my thing. I guess I’m lucky that she has that much faith in me and gives me that kind of leeway.

38568GW: What I am most impressed about regarding the Argeneau series is how ably you create arcs that last for several books. For example, the name of a character’s dog all the way back in the first book is revealed to be significant in the ninth book. Does this happen naturally, or do you have a series Bible you consult in order to layer in your mysteries?

LS: Mostly it just happens naturally. I do have a character archive that I can refer to, but when I named that dog back in the first book, I had no idea what was coming in book nine (good thing I didn’t name him Spot or something, huh?). And there are loads of other things that have happened that later turn out to be important where I’ve thought to myself, “Wow, it’s like I planned it or something,” when in truth I didn’t, at least not consciously. Actually, to me, it sometimes feels like a host of characters decided I should tell their story for them, flew into my head to act out their history, and I’m just watching the film of their life in my mind and scrambling to get it all written down. Their actions quite often surprise me. I’ll be typing madly away and give a startled laugh at their antics because I didn’t see it coming, or I’ll be thinking, “You little devil. I can’t believe you did that!” or “Oh wow, that explains a lot!” LOL.

Hmmm…I probably shouldn’t have admitted that. I should say, oh yes, of course it’s all plotted out. Every word, every coincidence, every thing…which reminds me, you can cut this out if you like, but I recall when I was in one of my University English classes, the professor pointed to a description in a novel we had to read. The description was of shadows moving across the floor as a door opened and he assured us that this was deliberate foreshadowing from the author of the tragedy that was going to happen in chapter twenty-something. I remember thinking at the time. “Really? Holy crap, I don’t write like that. I don’t foreshadow way ahead or even plot way ahead. Maybe I’m not a good writer. Maybe I’m doing it all wrong!” It really made me doubt myself. But now, sixty plus books later, I wonder if the truth isn’t that the professor was wrong and it wasn’t a simple description of what the author saw in his/her mind’s eye as he/she wrote. I don’t know. Every one has a different writing technique. Perhaps some authors do spend weeks or months or even years fretting over every word placement and such, but I don’t have the patience. I just enjoy the movie playing in my head and write down what happens in it.

As for that archive I mentioned… Unfortunately, I don’t always think to check it, and even when I do accidents happen. Like in one of the earlier books Marguerite claimed to prefer showers to baths because they are faster, and then in her own book she claimed to prefer a nice relaxing bath. We didn’t think to put her bathing preferences in the archive, and I didn’t remember myself, but readers certainly noticed, lol. I don’t just need the archive, I need someone to double check every little thing I write down, unfortunately, that would take forever and readers don’t want to wait forever for the books. So, there are mistakes on occasion, and I just have to accept that I’m not perfect.

1422252GW: One of the major villains in the series was recently put to rest. Forcefully. Will we see another villain rise up who has a several book arc?

LS: Yes. I’m working with one now. He was supposed to appear two books ago, but sometimes characters don’t play nice and he was one of them. So I put that book aside and wrote The Runaway Vampire where the evil character is merely mentioned, or his handiwork is. And then I meant to introduce him in Tomasso’s story, but again, he wouldn’t play, so Tomasso’s story steered away from him to a sandy beach and was written with just the revelation of this villain’s name. Now I’m working with him again.

So far he’s cooperating, but we’ll see. I suspect part of the problem is I really don’t like this villain. This guy’s a real piece of work, a brilliant psychopath as opposed to the major villain you mention who was more of a disorganized sociopath. The things this new villain has done to people…ugh! And his victims are mortal and immortal alike. Definitely a psychopath. But I’m sure there will be other villains like that as well. I like challenges and a proper villain is usually smart enough not to get caught right away. He’d hardly be a challenge if he were stupid enough to get caught in one book.

Besides that though, there’s still a villain from past stories out there who will eventually have to be dealt with, but I don’t have any plans for him in the immediate future.

(Here’s a fun question for readers…Can you guess who I’m referring to? )

GW: We know that Dante’s book will be followed by Tomasso’s (can’t wait!). But do you know yet what the future holds for the Argeneaus? Can you give us a scoop on what we can look out for in 2017?

LS: LOL. Guess I kind of just answered that, but I’ll tell you more. If this villain stays to play this time, and I have high hopes he will (after all, third times the charm, right?) then this book will introduce a whole host of new characters who are– Hmm, not sure how to put this, they aren’t immortals, but they certainly aren’t your average humans either. Guess that’s the best way to describe them for now. And if I like these characters as much as the Argeneaus, this book might start a new series all it’s own.

However, there will definitely be more Argeneau stories to come in 2017. I can’t say much more than that though, mostly because I don’t know much more than that myself and don’t want to. Wouldn’t want to get bored and drop my Argeneaus, I enjoy them too much to risk that.

20452210GW: Thank you so much for your time! We always like to conclude our interviews with a silly question: What is your silliest childhood memory?

LS: Well… Wow, silliest childhood memory. Okay, well the first one that comes to mind isn’t my silliness so much as my mom’s, but believe me I take after her so… Anyway, it was the day my younger sister came home from the hospital after being born. I was seven, my older sister ten and we were both excited about this day. We’d helped pick out the pretty pale yellow dress she would wear home and everything. Well, the car pulled up and my parents came in, my mother carrying this little bundle all wrapped up in a blanket. My big sister and I rushed forward, squealing to see the baby and Mom smiled and bent down as she lifted the blanket aside to show us our new sister. We both gaped, then sort of blinked, looked at each other and asked with confusion, “Why is she yellow?”

Mom frowned and peered down at the sweet little face, bit her lip and said, “I’m not sure. I thought maybe it was just the dress making her look yellow.”

I think it was Grandma who frowned and said, no she didn’t think that was the case. The baby was definitely yellow. It looked like she was jaundiced. Well a panic ensued and my parents rushed out and hurried back to the hospital, thinking our baby was sick and needed immediate attention. They were back surprisingly quickly, and with another baby. It seemed a mistake had been made at the hospital. A switch. My mother had been given the wrong baby. The nurses realized that when they checked the baby’s hospital tag and saw that it said “baby Small.” They asked my mother hadn’t she read the hospital tag when she was given the baby? Yes, she said, but she thought it referred to the baby’s size.

It still makes the family laugh, and it is funny in retrospect, but it’s also kind of frightening to think that if that child hadn’t been jaundiced, Mom never would have known that Small was the family’s last name, not the size, and we might now have a different sister. Imagine that! No, don’t, aside from loving my sister, I quite like her as well and wouldn’t want any other.

Between the Covers, or

Between the Covers, or published on

My Shopping Cart This Week was an Embarrassment of Riches

Dearest reader,

What a busy busy week!

I feel like everything came out this week, not one, not two, not three, but FOUR new books I simply must read. Plus a bonus novella that was both a surprise and a delight. And now comes the hard part, where I am going to SIMPLY RAVE to you about how amazing two (and a half) of these books are.

18739426Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson

As the faithful reader here knows, I was not a huge fan of the original Mistborn trilogy, though my issue was rather singular to me, and not a problem with the books themselves. Namely, I deeply dislike both Kelsior and Vin (though for rather different reasons). But this is a mark of Sanderson’s success not of his failure, as he wrote characters real enough that I could hate them, and not because they’re poorly written.

But the new Mistborn books are a whole new cut of cloth. I adore Waxillium, and Wayne is a delight. ‘Alloy of Law’ was a fun return to the world, and then there was ‘Shadows of Self’, which stunned me. Oh was it good! And now the latest, ‘Bands of Mourning’ which is just WOWWWWWWW!! Now can it just be 2017 already so I can read the last book in the new sequence The Lost Metal.

.

23909755City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett

So, a confession: I read this book months ago. AND I LOVED IT. I mean, I knew I would, since I adored the first book in the series, and Bennett might be incapable of writing a bad book. But ‘City of Blades’ is a great read in a very different way than ‘City of Stairs’, and while it might not be a better book, it’s also not a worse book; and that says something since ‘City of Stairs’ was my favorite book of 2015. The nice thing about these books is they stand apart from each other. You don’t need to know what happened in ‘City of Stairs’ to get any part of ‘City of Blades’. I suspect that next year’s ‘City of Miracles’ will be the same. Though I do hope for a return of a couple of VERY SPECIFIC CHARACTERS from City of Stairs in Miracles. RJB, if you read this, YOU SHOULD KNOW WHO I MEAN.

There’s cookies in it for you if you make it happen.

Please?

.

25372801All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
So since we’re all friends here, I have a confession. I haven’t finished this one yet. So my review is not on the completed book, but only the first half.

When I started this book, I kind of expected All the Birds in the Sky to be one of those over hyped books by an new author which was going to be good as a first novel, but not actually as good as the hype. And the hype has been ABUNDANT. And in a way, it IS very much a first novel. The beginning of the book is a lot of telling without showing, and it has a strangely slow build up to where the action really starts. But, in spite of that, I am really loving it. There’s something strange and beautiful about it that reminds me slightly of Patricia McKillip and Charles de Lint, with more than a hint of the pre-apocalyptic dread of Sheri Tepper’s ‘Beauty’.

All in all, I hope the book finishes as well as it is going right now, because I want it to be one of those instances where the buzz is deserved.

.

51gZ5QdYeUL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Up next, besides finishing All the Birds in the Sky and the poor neglected Trial of Intentions by Peter Orullian which I keep setting aside to read more current books so I can write about them for you all (Do you see the sacrifices I make for you?); I also have two books I am so excited about that I can barely speak. Kingfisher by Patricia A. McKillip and Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold are new books by two of my favorite writers in the business, and if I hadn’t gotten an advance copy of ‘Gentleman Jolie’ (Thank you lovely Chris, for coming through!)

Layout 1This isn’t the book I’d recommend starting Bujold with, especially not the Vorkosigan Saga, as it depends heavily on what has come before.Much of the weight of this book comes from emerging from the shadow of a character that isn’t present in this book at all, though his absence is constant. If you’re looking to start the Vorkosigan books, good places to start are Shards of Honor and The Warriors Apprentice. If you prefer fantasy, her Curse of Chalion is superb. All of three will stand alone very well.

25489443Patricia McKillip was one of the first writers I really fell in love with (her writing, not her, I’ve only met her briefly though she seemed lovely) and is one of the finest writers of fantasy alive, in more opinions than just mine. Each of her books is like a little gem; perfect and lovely. Kingfisher will no doubt be another lovely book. If you’re not familiar with her, her books are beautifully written compact stories, and not sprawling epics (though when she turned her hand to epic fantasy, she produced one of the classics of the style, her acclaimed Riddlemaster Trilogy). Excellent places to start with her are The Book of Atrix Wolf and The Forests of Serre, or if you want something a little more epic, the previously mentioned Riddlemaster trilogy.

Alright my lovelies, I am off to read some more, or possibly sneak in some of this week’s ‘Shannara Chronicles’. I promise not to write anymore fan fiction about that adorable Will Ohmsford.
This week at least.

Google Interview

Google Interview published on 1 Comment on Google Interview

I have spent the last day listening to and reading interviews with Jim Butcher, and I have to admit that some of them are frustrating in the repetition of standard questions. But I should have known that Google would have something special – not only did the interviewer push beyond the stock questions, but she obviously read and was delighted by The Aeronaut’s Windlass. She is savvy about promotion, and she kept her questions about TAW. She was great!

GOOGLE: “What book are you reading right now?”

Jim Butcher: “I just got done reading Tribal Bigfoot by David Paulides for my nonfiction which is a book that compiles Bigfoot sightings and encounters in connection with Native Americans. And I’m reading the first Powder Mage book by Brian McClellan.”

GOOGLE: “Does the nonfiction book have anything to do with Dresden?”

JB: “No, I’ve just been fascinated by Bigfoot since I was a small child, I used to have nightmares about him.”
____________________

GOOGLE AUDIENCE MEMBER I FELL IN LOVE WITH: “I’ve read all the Dresden Files, and I’ve recommended them to friends, and I say: “But the first two… they seem a little… like he didn’t know where he was going”. And then Summer Knight happens, about book three or four, and it seems to just gel and all of a sudden there’s this major arc. Is that a correct assessment, or is that incorrect? At what point did you have that big arc that you’re building now? And I hope I’m not offending you.”

JB: “Oh, not at all. Okay. When I first wrote the first Dresden Files book, I turned in the first couple of chapters and my teacher told me I did it. It was publishable. Then she told me I needed to plan out the rest of it. She meant the rest of the book—I took it to mean the rest of the series. […] As I’ve continued writing, I’ve learned to trust the readers a whole lot more. When I first started setting up the story, I was only dropping one or two little hints and a couple little things that were going to continue into the long haul and otherwise trying to focus on Harry’s immediate surroundings, basically. And then I realized – oh, wait a minute, readers are much better at putting all these things together than I thought. So I started incorporating more and more, more subplots, more characters, more hints to the future, and more pay off from the past. I’m basically writing for people like me, for nerds. Nerds are smart, they can work this stuff out. As I learned to trust the audience more, the books got better.”

GOOGLE AUDIENCE: “I love the Dresden Files, the arc, the payoffs. Normally I would never ask this, but it’s driving me nuts. Every time a new Dresden File comes out, I reread the entire series and take notes. In Proven Guilty, when Harry’s driving back, he gets hit by a drive-by, and there’s some hints, and that never gets resolved in that book and I haven’t seen a resolution since. Is that – will that—“

JB: “YEEEEEEEEEAH, THAT’S WEIRD, RIGHT? There’s a lot of little stuff like that that’s been seeded through, actually, and will get answered eventually but hasn’t been yet. And that’s cool. It’ll be more fun later.”

GOOGLE AUDIENCE: “Back to the role-playing thing. We as readers love to see characters level up. But I’ve seen many authors that level up too much. The campaign goes Monty Hall and it ceases to be fun, almost. In your books, thankfully, you don’t seem to have an issue with that. Is it hard not to write yourself in a corner that way, though?”

JB: “No, because I know what the end is. The reason why series get too long, and people get too powerful, they get handed the dagger of Cain or whatever and it just keeps going and going… the story was supposed to end before that, but they didn’t end it. Stories aren’t stories unless they have an ending to them. I don’t believe in a neverending story. It’s easy to keep Harry in check in terms of where he’s getting at as he gets more buff and more contacts. It’s because I know what he’s going to be fighting, you know, like in the next book or down the line. I can kind of gauge – oh, he needs to be about this far here, so that he is never the super overpowered guy who just smashes things. It’s all about pacing and where we’re going to wind up.”

GOOGLE AUDIENCE: “Silly Dresden Files question. I remember in Cold Days the shenanigans regarding the origin of Demonreach. And can we expect more time shenanigans in future books?”

JB: “More time shenanigans? SIR, one of the Laws of Magic states that you cannot mess with time like that! OF COURSE, there will be more time shenanigans! I only established the seven Laws of Magic so I could have Dresden methodically break them one by one!”

The Curious Case of Monica Sells and Linda Randall

The Curious Case of Monica Sells and Linda Randall published on 7 Comments on The Curious Case of Monica Sells and Linda Randall

I have mentioned this before in my Why-I-Love-Dresden post. Whenever I recommend the series to anyone, whether they are close family members, people who have friended me on facebook, or people I meet on the street, I always mention one thing: The first two and a half books are not representative of the writing in the rest of the series. Fool Moon is especially hard to get through, but it is so worth it. So, so worth it.

Two problems in Storm Front (which is still a very engaging and fun read) are the arcs of the characters Monica Sells and Linda Randall. There is nothing wrong with them in description or deed. The characters in and of themselves make sense. The problem? They’re cliché.

When Harry is initially brain-storming with Murphy and Carmichael as to who could possibly do this, he is pretty confident that the person involved would be a witch:

“’Yes. The killer knew the victims. And I’m thinking it was a woman.’…’Because you can’t do something that bad without a whole lot of hate,’ I said. ‘Women are better at hating than men. They can focus it better, let it go better. Hell, witches are just plain meaner than wizards. This feels like feminine vengeance of some kind to me.'”

This supposition is later discarded, caught up as Harry is in discovering that Victor Sells very much wants to kill him for getting in his way, for investigating him. The set-up in Storm Front thus remains no different than in a lot of crime fiction: a victim comes to the hero, a mystery is introduced, there is an alternate mystery that turns out to be connected to the first, etc. It’s a formula, and it’s one that works. So why don’t I quite believe that Monica Sells is exactly as she appears to be: a damsel in distress, a total victim of her husband’s quest for power?

For one, Butcher eats clichés for breakfast. The story of how Storm Front came to be is a story oft-repeated:

“ In 1996 he enrolled in a writing class where he was encouraged to write a novel similar to the Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series by Laurell K. Hamilton, rather than the more traditional high fantasy that had been his focus in the past, as Butcher had previously stated that he enjoyed the Anita Blake series. Despite initial resistance, he wrote the first book that semester, closely following the instructions of his teacher, author Deborah Chester: ‘When I finally got tired of arguing with her and decided to write a novel as if I was some kind of formulaic, genre writing drone, just to prove to her how awful it would be, I wrote the first book of the Dresden Files.’ ”.

After that first chapter was written, he envisioned the entire series (well, the big huge plot points, anyway). Butcher has always maintained – always – that he likes to subvert tropes, and make clichés his bitch.

For another, if one follows the story with a suspicious eye pointed at Monica Sells, it reads like Monica is setting Harry Dresden up to take the fall for her husband. She gets Harry involved in the background to a major SI investigation. She gives him just enough information to get him to suspicious places at suspicious times, she dangles her own distress like a carrot, and chivalrous Harry Dresden is none the wiser.

But what about the soulgaze? Harry saw that she was mama bear protecting her children. If Monica was setting Harry up for a fall, and hoping he’d take out her husband while doing it, that technically counts as protecting her kids from being known children of a warlock, of a legal mess, or undue scrutiny. I think when Harry found innocence, it was nothing more than a mask. My bet is that Monica Sells will show up again, and some of the aspects of Harry’s first case up against the series-wide threat will be made clear.

Linda Randall is another case entirely.

The White Court is introduced—spectacularly so—in Grave Peril. Thomas Raith attends the utterly important masquerade, and though we don’t yet know he and Harry are brothers, his scenes pop from the page. The White Court is an entirely different breed of vampire than the Reds and the Blacks—they feed off strong emotions. They are inhumanly beautiful, physically powerful beings that can also manipulate pretty much anyone they want to into doing pretty much anything they want. I have a theory that the White King was responsible for a lot of the earlier events in the series, like Sells being taught magic, the FBI guys getting the wolf belts, etc. But that is for another essay, now we are focusing specifically on certain oddities in a character from Storm Front: Linda Randall. One of my favorite moments in the series comes from Blood Rites, and in it one of Harry’s favorite enemies is introduced:

“The newcomer was the real thing. She was grace. Beauty. Art. As such, she was not so easily quantified.
She would have been tall, even without the heeled faux-Victorian boots of Italian leather. Her hair was so dark that its highlights were nearly blue, a torrent of glossy curls held partially in check with a pair of milky ivory combs. She had eyes of dark grey with hints of violet twilight at their centers. Her clothes were all effortless style: natural fabrics, black skirt and jacket embroidered with abstract dark crimson roses with a white blouse.
Thinking back later, I couldn’t clearly remember her facial features or her body, beyond a notion that they were superb. Her looks were almost extraneous. They weren’t any more important to her appeal than a glass was to wine. It was at its best when invisible and showing the spirit contained within. Beyond mere physical presence, I could sense the nature of the woman—strength of will, intelligence, blended with a sardonic wit and edged with a lazy, sensuous hunger.”

Lara Raith (married name Lara Romany) is one of Harry’s favorite enemies. In fact, he reveals to Thomas that when he was deciding on how to kill himself, it crossed his mind that he could do worse than allowing Lara to eat him all up. He may not trust her, he may not like her, he may regard her as one of the scariest beings he has ever come across, but he (and we, the readers) can’t deny the attraction he feels whenever he is in her presence. She is beauty, grace, and dangerous sexuality all in one.

Compare this description to Linda Randall, another dark-haired, grey-eyed beauty to whom Dresden was drawn to intensely.

“It buzzed down, and a woman in her mid-twenties arched an eyebrow at me. She had beautiful eyes the color of rain clouds, a little too much eye shadow, and brilliant scarlet lipstick on her cupid’s-bow lips. Her hair was a medium brown, drawn back into a tight braid that made her cheeks look almost sharp, severe, except for her forelocks, which hung down close to her eyes in insolent disarray. She had a predatory look to her, harsh, sharp. She wore a crisp white shirt, grey slacks, and held a lit cigarette in one hand.[…] She was nervous. Nervous enough to be shaking, and now I could see what she was up to. She was wearing the alley-cat mask, appealing to my glands instead of my brain, and trying to distract me with it, trying to keep me from finding something out.”

We’ve got a working theory here at the Wampus that one of the main Big Bads of the series (and, in fact, the cause of Harry’s first few cases) is the White King. We will delve into that next week, but for now we will just say that it’s possible Monica Sells was influenced by the White King in the attempt to neutralize Dresden, and that Linda Randall was a plant from the White Court who met a bad, bad end.

Was Monica Sells totally level with Harry in Storm Front?

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Any chance Linda Randall is either a plant from the White Court, or actually part of the White Court?

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The Duck Quacks Some More

The Duck Quacks Some More published on 3 Comments on The Duck Quacks Some More

Mab, Little Chicago, and Demon Reach, Aka the get out of dead free plan
by Ms DucK

Ok, let’s go back a bit:

Grave Peril:
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Here is where we first meet the winter Sidhe. And here is where it is established that Harry traded Lea his ‘life, fortune, and future’ in exchange for the power to beat Justin. (power he already had, and only needed to believe in himself, but hey.) It is also established that by breaking his word three times, his own power turns against him, his very magic now trying to force him to keep his vow. Harry later bluffs Lea (or so he believes) into an extension, but the debt- life, fortune, and future- remains in force. And then, of course, Mab buys that debt from Lea, in order to balance the scales between them. (This btw means that Harry is worth as much to Mab as the original Morgan lefay’s dagger, or fricking Excalibur) Also in this book we see Harry exit the NN near his apartment, and describe the area of his apt as a shadow version of itself. This is important later, as neither Bob or Harry remember these events in Changes. At some point soon after this book Lea builds her secret entrance into Harry’s lab; she can now enter or leave his place at will (as well as protect the NN side) since Harry’s magic and thresholds are no longer an impediment to her- since she owns them.

Summer Knight:
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Enter Mab. Cue rock and roll music, with extra rocks in. Mab demonstrates that the clause is still in full effect, by making Harry stab himself. They renegotiate; Mab allows Harry a chance to buy himself free, in return for three tasks. The limits are Harry can say No, with no reprisals; the deal remains solely between them; she cannot send lackey’s to chastise or force him by proxy. When Mab leaves, she hurts him, both out of spite and to let the reader know the original clause is still in effect- she still owns his life, future, and fortune; he only has a chance to earn his freedom. At the end she offers him the knighthood, and agrees that all debts between them will be canceled if he accepts.

Proven Guilty:
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Now here is our famous mystery. Who entered Harry’s lab, without his or Bob’s knowledge, and fixed Little Chicago? And why? Who would know about it at all?

Back In 2006 JenniH posted that she didn’t think Mab was responsible for Proven Guilty, as she would not sacrifice a main servitor. Jim replied:

Quote from: jimbutcher on January 13, 2008, 05:11:45 AM

Quote from: JenniH on June 19, 2006, 02:09:18 PM

Mab as orchestrator of all is just a little much for me to swallow. Seems like she loses a lot more than she gains, and I don’t think Mab is big on coming out behind in her negotiations.

Yeah. It sure looks that way from here, don’t it.

But to correct some minor stuff: the fetches aren’t even /close/ to her strongest servitors. They’re her couriers, harassers, spies and occasional assassins. Captain Kudzu was a being that was deemed more-or-less sufficient on the badassometer, but nothing to write home about. The fetches main use, to Mab, isn’t as battlefield thugs. She’s got /plenty/ of other things for that. Another mild correction: who says Mab /lost/ the battle at Arctis Tor, before Harry and Company arrived? At the end of the day, the Winter Queen was still in her fortress–but you didn’t see anyone standing around assaulting the place, did ya. Also, it has probably occurred to more than one of you that if Mab was /really/ in trouble, she could have had the entire military might of Faerie back at the fortress in moments–exactly the way they *did* come back when Harry smacked the Winter Well with the fires of Summer.

(Which goes to show that while Mab may be canny to an inhuman degree, she isn’t infallible. Just way closer to infallible than us.)

See above regarding “the question is *why*?”

Ask yourself why Mab had Molly brought in. What chain of events did that set in motion? What secondary effects came about because of it? Ultimately, Mab can always go to the Wyld and draw in more muscle to replace fallen thugs. If worst comes to worst, with just a few “seed” fae, she could rear up enough Changelings to repopulate her cadre within a human generation or two–nothing, to a being thousands of years old.

As far as she’s concerned, everyone and everything is expendable, including herself, when it comes to adhering to her (seemingly irrational and inexplicable) priorities.

(And by the way–don’t think Titania is much better. When push came to shove, she let her own daughter be murdered rather than upset the balance of the Faerie Courts. At least Mab is up front about it. Usually.)

Sacrifice her best troops? Mab would sacrifice every creature *in* Winter, every one she could bring from Summer, and every single mortal on planet Earth if that’s what she thought was appropriate. And she wouldn’t even need to add extra sugar to her cup of tea afterwards, much less lose sleep over it.

But no one does cold-blooded like the Queen of Winter. Mab’s been in the business a long time, she’s got a balance sheet, and she is *not* going to come out in the red–

–unless, of course, she really *has* stripped a gear, as Lily and Maeve believe. In which case there’s a stark raving bonkers demigoddess whose powers are no longer being held in check by the Escher-esque code of Sidhe behavior. And that’s all kinds of bad.

But hey. It’s probably not that. I mean, not *everything* that happens can be the absolute worst possible possibility, right?

Jim

The part about Mab being mad (with evil smiley face) was later contradicted by Jim when someone else guessed that Mab was not insane, but wounded.Note that this post confirms two things, long suspected: That Mab had Molly brought in, and that Mab and Titania worked together to kill Aurora. And he specifically addressed the chain of events that this caused. Said chain could not have occurred unless Harry and co could reach actris tor, thus for the Plan to work Mab is required to fix it; which she could easily do; just walk thru the bottom door, fix things, and tell Bob to forget it happened.

White Night

Only a small maybe cameo here: The base was built by the Sidhe (think Mab left a hidey hole?)( confirmed in TC, how Did Titania get Morgan out?) and Anastasia complains of headaches, sex drives, and a strange female voice whispering to her in her dreams.

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Stay tuned next week for more from Ms. Duck.

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