Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Tempt the Devil

After a two month break to deal with a ton of emotional crap around a death in the family and another huge setback, I'm writing again. I'm always amazed at how long it takes to drag a story out of my imagination. Ans how many false starts I have. If I wrote a straightforward story, I probably wouldn't have as many problems, but I like all the layers and complicated nature of life in Ponong.

So, what do we have?

When one of QuiTai's enemies turns up dead at the Red Happiness, it's no surprise that she's the prime suspect. The colonial militia is notorious for arresting, and executing, any handy suspect-- as long as they're Ponongese. Even her solid alibi isn't enough to save her. Before they hang her for the murder though, they want her to tell them who really did it. Should she tell them the truth, or get revenge?

Secrets are exposed at every turn, and an inconvenient character arrives from Thampur with orders from Grandfather Zul. RhiHanya and LiHoun work together, but don't dare suggest RhiHanya is LiHoun's assistant.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Ten Books That have Stayed With Me

This is the current meme going around the social networks. You're supposed to list the first ten that come to mind, but pfffft, I revised after some thought.

In no particular order:

1. Dune by Frank Herbert. The first real science fiction novel I ever read. Made me a fan of the genre. Still among my top ten favorites.

2. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. It probably helps that the year I read it, Apocalypse Now was released.

3. No Fight, No Biting by Else Homelund Minarik with illustrations by Maurice Sendak. I still like this book.

4. Green Eggs and Ham. I didn't like it, but it's the book I was looking at when the whole reading thing clicked into place. I didn't want to go to sleep that night because I was scared I'd forget how to read during the night and the thought of that devastated me.

5. The Harry Potter series. This is my first cheat. But if I list the series book by book, I use seven slots on this limited list, and that simply isn't going to happen.

6. Gun, With Occasional Music (tied with As She Crawled Across the Table) by Johnathan Latham

7. Glass Books of the Dream Eaters/The Dark Volume/Chemikal Marriage by Gordon Dahlquist because they are one book in three parts in my mind. And because I'm cheating again and listing a series as a single book.

8. The Sherlock Holmes mysteries by Aurthur Conan Doyle. truthfully, I listed Agatha Christie here first, but I have a difficult time remembering individual stories beyond And Then There Were None and Murder of the Oriental Express, whereas I can remember almost every Holmes story as distinct.

9. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. But you could put any of his books here because I love them equally.

10. We Have Always Lived in the Castle because it is brilliant and horrible as only Shirley Jackson can write.

and because ten is a silly limit:

11. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin because it really is that good.
12. From The Mixed Up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler by E.L. Koninsberg because I really identified with a girl who wanted to escape the horrible fate of being a girl.
13.Kiln People by David Brin because science fiction and a mystery! Great concept. Have to admit the ending draggggggggged.
14.  The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
15. The Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters

And my top two for 2013
1. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
2. Alif the Unseen by G Willow Wilson
The reason I'm not including them in the rest of my list is that it's too soon to say if they'll stay with me.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Rainbow Awards

I'm apparently in three categories:

Bisexual & LGBT Fantasy, Paranormal romance and Sci Fi/ Futuristic (Runner up)
Debut Novel (Runner up)
Bisexual Novel (Runner up)

You can see the full list here.

Nice to see friends Sassafras Lowrey, Jeff Mann, Laura Antoniou doing well this year, as well as many, many names I know among the finalists.

I lost to Greenwode by J. Tullos Henning in two categories. It won many other awards so Go Read It.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Rainy Days Are Good For Writing

I woke to the sound of rain this morning, which made it easy to huddle under the covers and let my mind wander. I've decided to delete the short scene I wrote yesterday as it doesn't add much to the story.

Here's a plot diagram, if you've never seen one:

See how it's an uphill climb from the start? By the time a writer nears the peak of that graphic, the narrative must narrow focus to the important parts and all energy must be devoted to hitting the crest. The scene I wrote yesterday diluted the focus and sucked energy worse than a space vampire recently out of hibernation. I can sum up everything that happened in those six hundred words with one line of dialog in the next scene. That's tighter writing. Hell on the word count, but hey, it's not as if I'm Charles Dickens and getting paid by the word.

 You'd be amazed how many times I write scenes that don't make it into the final cut of the story. Far too many times. But it helps me to keep the vision of a fully developed world rather watching characters say their lines while standing in front of facades. (I hope that makes sense to someone besides me.)

I had planned to go to the Huntington Library and gardens today, but the rain makes it easy to stay inside, huddle around the warm glow of my laptop screen, and tell stories.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Disney's Frozen

Several years ago, about as long as it takes to develop an animated film, the people at Disney must have sat down and had a real conversation about the messages in their movies. True Love Conquers All was wearing thin and princess isn't a real career option for many real girls  So I think they decided to make an effort to portray healthy female relationships.

Brave was the first step in the right direction. (Yes, I know it was a Pixar film and not under the Disney banner, but still) Brave centered on a mother/daughter relationship. Marriage wasn't the goal. Avoiding it was. But that was only a catalyst for the real story.

(Late addition: The Princess and the Frog. I'm told the two female characters are kind to each other even when it seems they are rivals for the same guy. I really like this move away from the mean girl depiction of women where if you both like a guy, the other girl has to be a nearly homicidal crazy bitch rather than simply someone who wants the same things you do. Anastasia and Druzella are sooooo last century.)

Frozen (Disney banner this time) takes another bold step into the frontier of female characters. It's a story about sisters. And *spoiler alert* that even true love has meaning way beyond finding a boyfriend/fiance. I really loved that. And as a bonus, at the end, the love interest dude Asks Her Permission to kiss her. Yep. Sisterhood and Consent Culture, all in one film. I may swoon.

I should also mention the stunning animation, great voice work, and some interesting musical numbers that seemed to owe a lot to musical theater (in that they moved the plot forward and explained inner thoughts of the characters) rather than being musical numbers (which, while entertaining, could have been cut out of the story and not changed the story). I'd also like to point out that while there was the threat of violence, it was mostly against a character who was different, and negotiating around her differences brought harmony. Giving her crap for being different caused years of misery for everyone.

So good work, Disney folk. Keep having those conversations that lead you to make these kinds of choices.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Big History

We recorded Big History on H2 -- History Chanel 2, or, more accurately "History" Channel 2 -- because it looked like the kind of program we enjoy. Truthfully it looked like a total ripoff of the great series written and presented by science historian James Burke The Day The Universe Changed, but Mr Burke is sadly not making any more, so we'll get our geek fix where we can.

It could turn into a decent show if they'd follow a few suggestions:

Aim for accuracy.

I heard that Bill Gates put money into this production through his foundation, and that science education is a big interest, so I'm a bit confused that he didn't insist on accuracy. Or at least not perpetuating lazy history errors by repeating such tripe as the legend of Paul Revere's ride. Here's a place to set that right by giving credit to the people who really risked their lives, and to get the message they spread right too. Just because that's not the focus of the episode does not mean it's okay to perpetuate mythology (and poetry) over fact. Sloppy work is not cool and doesn't help anyone. Okay? 

Stop repeating what you've already told us.

You're covering big ideas here. You say so in your title. You touch on a lot of complex issues that, by necessity, you're going to gloss over. And I'm sort of fine with that but not when you go back and restate the same bit of information four times. We saw it, we got it, move along! 

Spend your graphics budget wisely.

The hunter/gather rising from the salt was pointless the first time. the fourth time we were rolling our eyes and saying things like, "The producer must be very proud of his son's work."  Obviously, this is a budget issue. So next time skip the mammoth rising from the salt and, I don't know, show us where the Romans built their first paved road from and to instead of just showing us the pavers. Don't just say human's first big towns were built by water and salt. Show us a couple on maps! Or how about a quick glance inside a salt mine. Or salt flats. Show a natural salt lick with a herd of caribou lapping at it. I don't know, but anything is better than a graphic that illuminated nothing being shown over and over again.

Watch The Day the Universe Changed.

And maybe hire Mr Burke. He knows how to fascinate an audience and how to link ideas together without repeating himself or looping back to odd points in your presentation.

But other than that, a half-hearted thumb's up for you. At least you tried.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

I'm Back

And I am now caught up on Elementary.

Still over season behind on Supernatural, although now watching it seems like a chore rather than a pleasure. The writers are recycling their bad ideas, and while that's okay for fanserve once, make it a habit and you look uninterested.

Looking forward to Doctor Who.

And of course, Sherlock.

I've been writing but it's been a difficult month. Amazing how a death in the family can knock you sideways for a while. Don't get me wrong, but watching relatives react the way they do is like a master course in character studies. And maybe distancing myself like that to watch them is how I handled part of it. But then there's the sheer overwhelming gaping hole of persondom in the center of your little universe, like a black hole sucked up Saturn, and now the orbits of the remaining planets are all wobbly. Everything has changed but the same stuff has to get done so we're sorting out the new distribution of responsibility.

As our little group got up to do our part of the eulogy, I was thinking-- another chance to step back and watch myself observing others-- that I guess this is official adulthood at this point. Once the generation before you is stripped away, you're it.

That's a little too much reality for me, so I'm filling in the gaps with binge TV viewing.

Observations on Elementary: A little flat this season, not sure why. Also not sure why they chose to give Mycroft and Sherlock a strained relationship since that's not canon. Yes, BBC's Sherlock has a strained relationship at the heart of the brothers, and it works gloriously because of the actors and the scripts, but in Elementary, it feels wrong and only paper deep. Part of my reluctance to embrace it is Sherlock's obsession over Joan's sex life. He's put himself in the role of her duenna but she's a grown up woman, so he should NOT be commenting on, much less trying to manage, her sexuality. Stepping in there between her and his brother is downright creepy and obsessive. Add to that how he refuses to accept her boundaries (putting a turtle on her bed still means you went into her room while she was sleeping and violated her space, dude!), poking her bedding with a stick to both scold her for the possibility of having a sexual partner and for giving into his brother's machinations (so Mycroft would have no interest in her otherwise? huh?), and also meddling with her desire to start dating again (do we see the pattern of control building here? Why is this not setting off alarms? Because we like Sherlock? Still not cool. Joan Watson, call him out on that shit!)

I hope the season gets better. The cases must, or they won't last long.

Oh! Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  Now I'm officially bored by agent whats-his-face. Grant? Gary? Who cares? Even he doesn't believe his backstory. And the Wonder Twin scientists? Too. Damn. Perky. I'm tired of reading that you have to give JW time to develop his characters. The time is NOW before you get canceled. Also, stop hinting at an interesting premise as you did in the first episode then wiff on it. You're science fiction - so if you ask the question you have to explore it in detail. Maybe over a whole season. Okay? 

And while I'm at it, what's with the very yucky 'Murica! Fuck Yeah!' attitude toward the ignorant savages, POC,  military of a sovereign country taking possession of something found on THEIR soil? We can't trust them because their skin is browner than ours? Only white Americans can be trusted with great power? And their women are exotic lovers who will stab you in the back in a fiery passionate rage.   See, I'm white and I'm noticing this, so it's REALLY BAD.  REALLY, REALLY BAD. Oh, that's not the message you meant to send, writers? Well guess what?  And you tried rather pathetically to make it up with The Girl in the Flower Dress. (Let us take a moment here to enjoy that an adult female in charge of a scientific group is a GIRL, not a woman. Dear lord, writers, are you really that clueless about your gender issues?) Anyway (Yes) An-y-way... So the local S.H.I.E.L.D people in Hong Kong (see, we hire brown people!) Are on the case but thank goodness the 'Muricans arrive to show them how a real investigation is run. Because the locals are only here to babysit other brown people who have power but Can't Be Trusted to Use It Wisely.   Yeah, I'm tired of it. Hiring Ming-Na Wen to play dragon lady does not get you a 'get out of being called on our bullshit' free card. Okay? We expect more from you, writers. (Strangely enough, not from JW, who while still thumping his chest loudly and proudly about his feminism  is a spectacular fail at race *cough FIREFLY cough*)

Saturday, October 5, 2013

It's Officially Autumn, and You Know What That Means!

Premiership games!

Okay, what it really means to most Americans is that the new television season starts on networks. Does anyone else remember the preview nights they used to run for the new and returning shows? Yeah. CBS tried that with the actors from We Are Men and it was embarrassingly horrible. Maybe with the advent of quality television (the Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones), I'm getting picky about my junk food viewing.

I can't bear to watch it, but is that Robin Williams show as painfully forced as it looks from the ads?

Elementary debuted in it's sophomore season last week. My (extremely cool) niece, who is big into maker world, robotics, and 3D printers was vastly disappointed by the incorrectly portrayal of 3D printer technology. Welcome to my world, Alicia. Now you know how I cringed at the Moriarty/Irene Adler story's nonsensical financial plot in season 1.

Through most of the sequence of Joan and Sherlock riding through London, the word 'travelogue' popped into mind, which is my mental shorthand for 'if I mapped out the sites shown in this montage, would I find out they traveled five ties further than necessary to get where they were going?' Don't feel bad, Elementary. I often wonder the same thing about BBC's Sherlock.

Overall, not an interesting mystery and a rather flimsy excuse for the second murder. Getting rid of the nail would have accomplished the same thing. And why couldn't the murderer hang the mask at the same height? Really sloppy 'believe it because we wrote it' from the writers.

Oh yeah, and Mycroft showed up. Couldn't care less. He added nothing to the story.

Jumping over to Agents of Shield, the debut and following week were a bit rough but once they get the hang of things it may be a good show. I saw comparisons between Torchwood and AoS, which isn't a criticism by a long shot. A group of humans dealing with alien advanced technology secretly to help the world deal with aliens superheroes works for me, except that there seems to be one more cast member than fits comfortably in these types of ensemble pieces. I'd give up the hardass agent dude. He's by far the least interesting, although the wonder twin scientists are a close second. I liked Ming-Na Wen's work. When she's on screen, she has my complete attention. She feels like someone in command of things. Chloe Bennet has the right light comedic touch and her role is by far the most developed. So I'll watch for the women and hope the male characters get more interesting fast, because they're starting waaaay behind the curve.   

I'm sorry, but I didn't get a chance to see Sleepy Hollow. If it's my typical pattern, I'll binge watch it next summer and decide then if it's worth a regular time slot.

Monday, September 30, 2013


Another interview! I talked about world building, strong female characters, and watching paint dry?

Oooh, and there's a giveaway!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Review and Ramblings

I won't know if I'm a finalist for a couple weeks, but I'm in the running for a Rainbow Award (scroll down to see the lovely write-up)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Lego! Sherlock!

I love what they did with Moriarty's eyebrows.

Isn't this the second LEGO of Martin Freeman?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Guest Blog

Catherine Lundoff was kind enough to host my guest blog today about the series.

Read it HERE

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Return of Irene Adler?

Laura Pulver hinted more than once that Irene Adler may return to BBC's Sherlock. She was quoted in April saying she might be back in series 4, and again five days ago here.

I'm torn. Laura Pulver was wonderful in the role that was written, and the script for Scandal in Belgravia was brilliant, but it was a horrible depiction of Irene Adler. Horrible.

As I've commented many times, it seems to be a modern issue that writers (male) can't seem to let Irene Adler beat Sherlock Holmes, despite the fact that it's the primary description of her. She's the person who outwitted Sherlock Holmes. A Victorian gentleman could imagine that scenario and write it, so what's the problem with writers in this century? I don't get it. Simply can not fathom what's going on with this persistent lack of respect for the character. (If you write for the Sherlock Holmes movies or BBC's Sherlock, kindly drop a private line to me and explain your issues. A note from your therapist will also suffice. The writers for Elementary are exempt from this request.)

I won't get into the absolute stupidity of the person (probably male) who decided that Sherlock could change Irene from a lesbian to a bisexual with his all powerful cheekbones or purple shirt of sex or whatever. That's so obnoxious I can't even comment on it. Or the clueless person who decided that because her pulse raced (a sign of sexual arousal) that she was in love with Sherlock. Seriously guys? Sexual desire  =  love? *long sigh* In what weird little fantasy world of yours is that true?

There are many other issues I have with the way Irene was handled in that script. So if they do bring her back to Sherlock, I really hope the writers check their personal issues and treat her with the respect she's due. If they do, I'd be so pleased to see Laura Pulver reprise the role she played so well.

Which brings me to Elementary, winner of the 'Best Modern Depiction of Irene Adler This Decade' contest amid a dismaying lack of competition. Will they bring Irene back on Elementary? Technically, she doesn't exist except as an alias, which annoys the heck out of me. Why do modern adaptations feel the need to intertwine Moriarty and Adler? To the point where Elementary made her the same person. Ugh. Why would you do that? Two exciting characters to play with, and you waste them in the same story arc. *whimpers* Why, writers? Why? But Moriarty does exist, and she's not beaten (yay!) although they had Sherlock "let" her win (BOO!). She could return. I look forward to that.

Elementary season 2 starts soon! As that winds down, Sherlock series 3 should start. This is a good time to be a Sherlock Holmes fan.  

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Sexy Lamp Test

Oh dear. I'm crying and laughing at the same time. The Sexy Lamp Test, or why I write a non-white central female character. (the white lamp test)

Monday, September 2, 2013

Gin Wigmore

Have I mentioned how much I love her music?

I'm so sorry I missed her recent US tour.

Seriously, isn't she the best?

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The First Maishun Spirit

The Maishun Spirit

(a Ponongese folktale)

 When the goddesses were still young mothers, they despaired that their children, the Ponongese, fought day and night. The goddesses came together and decided to tell each clan to gather on the high ground. When this was done, the goddesses plowed deep lines into the low ground and invited their friend, the Te’Am Ocean, to irrigate the furrows. Each high ground became an island, and the clans, now separated by the ocean, could no longer fight. The goddesses, enjoying the peace, went to their hut on the mother mountain and fell fast asleep.

The people looked across at the other islands and were jealous, each believing that the goddesses had favored the other clans with better land. They learned to swim so they could invade other islands, but sharks and treacherous currents were in the water, and while the people were willing to die in war, they did not want to die before they could fight.

The people of the Jui clan were very clever and had the idea of a boat that would carry them safely to the other island so they could make war.  They worked quietly on in it secret so the goddesses would not awaken and stop them. The people of the Shi clan were also clever, because all people are, and they also decided to make a boat. The Shi also thought only of war. 

Every day, a daughter of Jui would catch fish in the tide pools. From there, she could see across the channel to Cay Shi where a Shi son also fished along their shore. Jui daughter was very shy. She liked to fish apart from the other Jui so she would not feel obligated to talk. Shi son was the perfect companion—he could not talk to her across the water, but she could see him so she was not lonely. One day, Shi son sent a message with their seabird friends, who flew between the islands. It was easier to write than to talk for her, so she answered his messages. In the manner of such things, she decided he must be similar to her people, and he believed she was like his, and thinking they knew each other, decided they must be together.  

Every day, Shi son asked Jui daughter to come to him. She sadly replied that she could not. One day, he did not come to the fish. She was sad, but caught her fish and took it back to her people. The next day he came to fish, but he did not read the messages she sent to him and did not send any back. She was puzzled by his actions, but caught her fish and took them to her people. The third day, he sent a message ordering her to come to him. Again, she replied that she could not. She wanted him to be happy again, and wondered why he looked so angry now. His next message said that if she really loved him, she would steal the boat her clan had built and come to him. She was shocked that he would ask her to betray her people, so she refused.

Jui daughter decided she should not see Shi son again, so she went to tide pools on the other side of their island to fish with the rest of her people. She missed her silent shore and wished she could hide her face when the other fishers talked to her. Birds came every day with messages from Shi son asking why she had not come to fish at her regular place. Then the birds came bearing apologies and sweet words. Jui daughter’s heart was touched, so she returned to the place where she could see Shi son.

It was as if they’d first met, but after a while, Shi son began to demand she come to him again. He would often turn his back to her and refuse to answer her messages.  Finally, in despair, she threw herself into the sea and swam to his shore. Rather than greeting her with love, he shoved her back toward the sea and shouted that she must bring him the boat her people had made, and then he would love her. His fingers bruised her arms. His face was a war mask and his eyes showed his blood lust. She knew he meant to use the boat and the one his people made to attack the Jui.

Crying, she stumbled back into the waves and began the swim home. Auntie shark, who had watched their courtship, felt pity for Jui daughter and let the girl hold onto her fin while she brought her safely back home. 

Auntie shark said, “I once loved a squid. One day I grew angry and ate him, because that is my nature. I cried afterwards, but that did not bring him back. Shi son would also cry when your village is nothing but ashes.”

Jui daughter thanked auntie shark for saving her, and for the lesson. For the rest of her life, she warned young fishers from the tide pools where they might look across the water, see Shi sons and daughters, and be tempted to betray their clan. Even though she was still very shy and it pained her to talk to people, she pointed to auntie shark’s fin and reminded them that the channel between the islands was dangerous. After she died, she clung to this world and became the first maishun spirit, who warns people before they make a foolish mistake, then flees into the jungle.

(c) 2013 Jill Braden


I promised if more than seven (why did I pick this number? no clue) reviews on Devil Incarnate, I'd write a folktale about maishun spirits. I'd glad I had to.

First thing: research! I read folk tales from many south Pacific cultures as well as from southeast Asia to get a feel for them. Then I had to think of a story. Writing it was odd. Most folktale 'tell' you everything, which is considered poor writing style nowadays. We're supposed to 'show' the audience things and let them draw their own conclusions. So I had to turn off that training. But the good thing about writing a folk tale? Talking sharks.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Devil Incarnate reviews

Devil Incarnate has some new reviews that are so lovely I'm touched.

I promised if the number of reviews hit seven (an arbitrary number if ever there was one) I'd write a Ponongese folktale about maishun spirits. Reviewers kept their end of the bargain so I must keep mine. This calls for research. I've never made up a folktale before.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Strong Female Characters

I've read several articles lately about strong female characters, what that term means, and the archetype traps surrounding those portrayals.

Sophia McDougall's I Hate Strong Female Characters

Chuck Wendig On The Subject of The "Strong Female Character"

Greg Rucka Why I Write Strong Female Characters

Athena Andreadis The Iron Madonna or: Kicking Ass While Female

(This came across my desktop Monday morning: The Mako Mori test as an alternate to the Bechdale Test. I LOVED Pacific Rim. Mako was a great character.)

although there are many others. There are also gifs celebrating a few well known writers for their "strong female characters"

But what does strong really mean? Physical strength is the cheap way out of it. Shooting or punching your way out of a situation doesn't make your character interesting or right. It simply makes them physically stronger or in command of more fire power.

Chuck Wendig touches on it best in his comments, but I'll say that a strong character of any gender is a person with presence. It's someone who commands enough attention to deserve center stage. It's someone who is an interesting story. So we're using strong here to define personality rather than physical strength.

Mattie Ross in True Grit is a strong female character. She's a young teen. Her strength comes from her unwavering demand for justice. For someone so young, she's already a stiff-necked Christian. You get the feeling she had to grow up fast, which means the adults around her failed her in some sense. She goes looking for a man who, in her words, has true grit, but by the end of the story, you realize she was the one who had it. She just needed a vessel to carry out her will. Mattie Ross isn't likeable. She isn't sweet. In a sense, she isn't very feminine and yet I have no problem seeing her as a realistic female character.

I was remiss not to mention Mako Mori of Pacific Rim in my first draft of this. She was a great character with agency. What I liked about her the most was that her "more traditional" values didn't make her seem weak. She had her own agenda and pushed it, but she understood heroism as being part of a team, not running off like, well, a typical American yahoo. I had a little bit of issue that her relationship with her Jaeger partner had have a romantic spin on it. I would have preferred simple professional respect, but that' a minor quibble over a stunning part well played in a big action movie.

Athena Andreadis brings up an interesting list of central female characters in science fiction that she calls Iron Madonnas. As many others have, I'll dismiss Padme Amidala (Or as a writer friend once called her: Princess Imadolly)  because 1) she isn't interesting, but that's hardly because she's female. Star Wars suffers from a dearth of interesting, dimensional characters of any gender, 2) she only exists to drive Anakin Skywalker's story, so she's just another chick in a fridge. 3) she's a chick in a fridge madonna, which is worse (But how sad is it that she's such a place-holder character when her daughter Leia goes down in motion picture history as the first princess EVER to be the hero? Leia grabs the gun, seizes control of her own rescue, provides cover fire, and finds the escape route! She's the original kung-fu princess. She lost all agency in later movies-- I guess they had to neuter her to make sure the story was still about the boys-- but for one brief shining moment, she was the most amazing woman in cinema history.)

But what about the others on that list? I have a small issue with Cordelia Vorkosigan being included. Saying she should have done more or shouldn't have followed the "trope" of becoming a mother and opting to live in a misogynistic society is like pointing to feminists from the 1960s and saying "You should have accomplished more!"  We're awfully quick to dictate the terms of our hero's lives.  One of the things I have enjoyed most about Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan series is how one generation makes uneasy peace with a horrible truth, then the next generation comes along and screams "No! That isn't all right! I do not accept that solution!" Because constant reinterpretation of history and negotiation of our relationship to it is a huge part of the human experience, but it's rare to see anyone tackle that mess fearlessly in a novel. I don't feel that Cordelia sacrificed herself to eternal iron madonnahood. I think she gained what she felt was important with a good understanding of which beliefs would be compromised. And being a wife and mother didn't render her ineffective. She had profound influence over the next generation and sabotaged the foundation of male privilege in Vor society. Not bad. Not bad at all.
So where does QuiTai fall in the spectrum?

If I were to write a physically imposing character, that character's reaction to danger might be to fight her way out. But QuiTai's biggest strength is her mind. She will always try to think her way out of a situation first and resort to the physical last. When she gets hurt, it isn't to enrage a male and send him off on a heroic quest. It's the stakes in the game she plays. She doesn't want to be hurt, she doesn't enjoy it, but she doesn't fear it. 

She certainly hasn't lost her sexuality. Someone at some point is going to call her a slut. If it's meant as an insult, it is. I prefer to think of her as owning her body fully and without fear.

She's maternal. That should never be considered a weakness in a female character. There is nothing wrong with being female. There is nothing wrong with having characteristically feminine traits. It doesn't make a character dull, less than, or weak.

That's ultimately where the discussion of female characters should lead us, to the point where strong doesn't have to mean physical BAMF,  or having the most firepower. Maybe we should use central instead of strong. Looking back at literary history, in times that we consider horrible for women, writers had no problem creating interesting central female characters. My favorite example is Irene Adler from Arthur Conan Doyle's A Scandal in Bohemia. So what is our problem now? Why do modern adaptations of Irene Adler strip her agency? Why is there such a backlash against central female characters to the point where people feel a need to ask Joss Whedon and George R. R. Martin about their rare and apparently mind-blowing inclusion of them? I don't know, but it's interesting that these discussions ignore Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Amelia Peabody, and the Sookie Stackhouse mysteries, to name a few extremely successful series with admirable central female characters, but were written by women.    

Thursday, August 15, 2013


 What's with all the jelly fish?

I get asked that a lot.
Isn't this amazing? It's Bioluminescent Bay, Viqueues Island, Puerto Rico.

I saw this picture after I wrote Devil's Concubine. Bioluminescence fascinates me. From milky seas to mushrooms to fireflies, if it glows, I want to see it. Most bioluminesecent creatures are unremarkable when they aren't glowing, but jelly fish always amaze me.

In high school, I took an oceanography course at the Museum of Science and Technology in Los Angeles. We took a field trip to the harbor and went out on a fishing boat. One of the creatures caught in the net was a jelly fish. (So, you know, poke it with a stick! For science!) It had tiny (dead) fish in its body, but I never knew if that was a result of being pulled out of the water while entangled in a net with all sorts of other creatures or if that's what it looks like when a jelly fish eats.

By the way, Sea Wasps are real.

AKA Box jelly fish. Found near Australia. They're known as the deadliest creature in the world. Their stings leave horrible scars (I won't post pictures here, but you can find them easily). I don't know if you could really load a water gun with them and shoot chunks of them at people, but let's agree now that there are some things in stories that we should just take on faith and never attempt in real life. Okay?


For all you Sherlock fans, I wouldn't have added Bluebell,

the vanishing luminous rabbit, to my list, but then this. Funny, it didn't happen in Baskerville.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

This is Brilliant. Fantastic, Even.

I'm sure you've seen this already if you're a Doctor Who fan, but if you haven't, click on this.

Follow the double arrows.
Take a walk around inside.
Really wish you could read Gallifreyan (look up).
Read the reviews. (I had to leave one)

This is probably a way for Google to introduce a Yelp-like product linked to their maps (because, hello, reviews!) but well-played, Google, so no fussing about sneaky tricks from me.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Elizabeth Peters

I've seen a few comments that Barbara Mertz, AKA Elizabeth Peters passed away, but I can't find confirmation.

If it's true, how very sad. Her character Amelia Peabody and her books had a huge influence on me. Ostensibly mysteries, the Amelia Peabody stories were adventure, mystery, comedy, and a continuing romance between a married couple. When I wrote The Devil's Concubine, I was specifically trying to write the kind of story I like to read, and the Amelia Peabody books were near the top of my list of 'stuff I want to see more of, so I might as well be the one to write it.'

It's too bad she won't be writing any more books for us to enjoy, but she left a good legacy. Go. Enjoy. And if The Crocodile on the Sandbank is a bit too romancy for you, give the second book a try before giving up on the series. Trust me.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The New Doctor Is Here!

Are you surprised I'm a Whovian? There seems to be a lot of crossover from the Sherlock Holmes fandom. (proof: 10 and 28) People with curious minds need their fixes. (I also watch Supernatural, House of Cards,  MLS games, Premiership games, and plan to watch Orphan Black. So now you know my entire TV schedule.)

Yeah, a female Doctor would have been cool, but I'm fine with another dude, especially when it's this guy:

But some fans are complaining. And saying terrible things and the poor guy hasn't even had a chance yet. But if you've seen his work, you're probably going, "Oh. Yeah. I can totally see that."

Besides, he's a lifelong fan! How cool is that?

"He's too old." Too old for what? He's playing a character who, gosh, what was the Doctor's last stated age? 1013? Something like that? How can Peter Capaldi be too old to play 1013? I swear he doesn't look a day over 700.  ;)

"Unattractive" Uh. Are we looking at the same guy? He's much more attractive when he's talking, because he sounds smart. And as Sherlock fans know, brainy is the new sexy.

"Bad choice." Anyone who saw his amazing performance in Torchwood: Children of Earth would not say he's a bad choice. Listen, I never watch the credits to find an actor's name at the end of a show, with two exceptions: I watched the credits of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy to find out who played Peter Guillam (that was the first time I'd seen Benedict Cumberbatch), and to find out who played John Frobisher in Children of Earth. Since then, it's been a game of spotting him in other shows, and I'm always so impressed. When I heard he was the new Doctor, I was thrilled.  I can't wait to see what kinds of stories they build around him because different Doctors tend to spark different work from the writing staff.

And speaking of writers, all my Whovian writer friends (legion!) are dancing in the street over this choice (in our introverted, wouldn't be caught dead outside our writing lairs or dancing kind of way). If writers are excited by the character possibilities, so should normal fans.

Give the new Doctor a chance. You know you're going to love him soon, more than Daleks love to exterminate.

BTW - Still not a ginger.

Saturday, August 3, 2013


Less than 24 hours ago, BBC released a 30 second trailer for the new series of Sherlock.

Since then, those 30 seconds have been used to created about 17 hours of fanvids. Individual screen shots have been turned into at least 2000 memes, not counting fan art-- but by Sunday evening I expect the number to be in the tens of thousands. (as this points out.) This is the first new footage the fan have had for almost three years. It's like a sun shower on the desert.

Almost universally, the attention has been drawn to John Watson's mustache -- AKA The Johnstache. It looks properly military. I'll give it that. Some people like it. Some people think it harkens back to the original illustrations of the Sherlock Holmes stories. Some people call it a porn 'stache *shifty eyes* I have no idea who might have blurted out that word. shifty eyes*

DO NOT click on this link if you have problems with flashing images. Or you're easily traumatized by facial hair. Okay? You've been warned. The Link

Meanwhile, the Elementary writers have been whipping up interest in the coming season. (If you must, the official CBS site is here, but I can't stand it so I stick to the Twitter feed from the staff.) I feel sort of bad for them because the fan base, while having some crossover, are two very different groups. There is fan art, but every single second of available footage isn't on Tumblr somewhere. It's simply less rabid.

There's a lot of snobbery and bad feelings lobbed between the fandoms, which is weird because they all probably enjoyed House.  And no one gives anyone a hard time for liking the Sherlock Holmes movies. Why all this animosity? But I think all of you should put it to good use by challenging the other fandom to buy more stuff at Save Undershaw! Or donate more money. Or buy this book.  Right? Good. Get on it


BTW - find me on Twitter as @JillBradenWrite.  Until I joined Twitter, I had no idea how many Jill Bradens there are in this world, so I had to add write to it, which I hate, but there you are.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

A Breakthrough!

If you write, you'll probably understand this.

If you don't, your eyes will betray your suspicion that I'm a bit mad. And then you will back away slowly.

But I had two amazing moments of clarity on Tempt the Devil last weekend.

#1 I realized I had the wrong detective.

It's a bit of agony trying to stretch the investigation of a murder over a novel-length work when QuiTai is the detective because she's so smart that it shouldn't take her that long to put things together. (Which is why even modern takes of Sherlock Holmes tend to still be short stories or novellas and not novels.) So either she had to be struck repeatedly by the stick of amazing stupidity (not going to happen!) or I had to put the investigation into the hands of someone who would need more time to piece things together.  

Last May at the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival, I asked mystery novelist Ellen Hart a question that at the time was just something that had popped into my head that moment but now seems strangely prescient. I asked her if the detective had to be the main character in a mystery. She said yes, I said okay, and we both went on with our lives. But as soon as I realized I had the wrong detective,  I recalled that question and the answer. QuiTai couldn't be the main character if she wasn't the detective. Frightening, but since Devil Incarnate was told from several points of view, I'd already let some characters take over the narrative. I decided I could do that again only confine it to two POV characters, QuiTai and the detective, but still the detective had to be main character.

Another rule of writing: the first chapter needs to be about the main character. So my great opening chapter wouldn't be the opening anymore. I had to come up with another first line. Which led to...

#2 My new first line(s)

I'm still debating if it's  

She was vapor. Insidious, addicting, forbidden.


She was vapor: insidious, addicting, forbidden.

I shall consult with the punctuation oracles for their wisdom and guidance about the subtle differences.

If you've read Devil's Concubine and Devil Incarnate, you know that vapor is her world's version of opium. So I'm not talking about a liquid in a gaseous state, although I like the evoked image of a maishun spirit type creature projected onto mist or water. He can reach, but never grasp her.

So I'm off and running now although I have to rewrite most of the first third of the book. If you're a writer, you understand why those moments of clarity are so rare and amazing. Who knows where they come from. Hours of pacing in the backyard seems to be the way I stumble on them. Or maybe they're evoked by writing the wrong thing. I do enough of that! But anyway, now I feel I'm on the right track and things are falling into place. That's not how I usually feel about things, so I'm determined to enjoy it.

Monday, July 22, 2013

While I'm Reimagining Irene Adler...

Someone else is reimagining Sherlock Holmes!  The fabulous Catherine Lundoff hosts Rachael Acks on her blog.

Steampunk and a female Holmes?

You KNOW I'm going to read these.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

His Last Vow

The title of the final show of series 3 of BBC's Sherlock has been revealed as His Last Vow.

And the fandom, which is already in a state over, well, everything else about the series, goes into a piranhas-chowing-on-a-movie-villain froth.

But what does His Last Vow meeeeaaaan??!!??

Oh dear lord. It's like the lonely wail of the banshee, only since the fandom is a multitude, magnified. I don't think there's been this much self-inflicted angst since the Beatles. Or the last New Direction concert. (I have nothing against the fandom. I'm part of it, after all. But in the contingent standing a bit apart looking bemused at the rest of the group and wondering how I got here) I'm beginning to view the fandom as preta - hungry ghosts who are never satisfied with what we have. There's this ravenous need for more information within days of the latest big reveal that everyone was salivating over. There will never be enough. There will never be enough episodes. There will never be enough interviews with Steven Moffat or Mark Gatiss. There will never been enough footage for fanvids or memes.

I'm trying not to speculate, and I don't want to hear any spoilers. I don't want to see pictures. I want to sit down and watch the story unfold without anticipating certain scenes because that would take me out of the moment. So of course I am speculating. And hating myself a bit for it.


I just finished reading The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker and enjoyed it. I liked the worlds evoked in Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson more, but they're both amazing tales. I'm looking for fantasy fiction that depicts mythology outside the Celtic and Norse, so if you know of one, leave a comment.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Bits and Pieces

A few exciting things today:

I stumbled onto this, which is brilliant and just my kind of thing. Steam punk Girl Genius a comic?  I'm so there. Plus: cool stuff. I like the Tesla pin. 

Also: Vera Nazarian's Cobweb Bride dropped yesterday. (dropped = became available) So of course I bought a copy.

And: Catherine Lundoff's Silver Moon was nominated for a Tiptree Award! (Go Catherine!)


Koko will love this! She's a major Harley Quinn fan.

Friday, July 12, 2013


The reviews on The Devil's Concubine have been lovely. Here and here.

But I have to thank Carrie Slager for this amazing review.  When someone says your main character is one of their favorite characters, ever, it's enough to make you feel like every frustration while writing it was worth it.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Tempt the Devil

Spent most of this weekend working on Tempt the Devil.

Kyam's wife and QuiTai had a chat. That was a fun scene. Their talk was friendly, for the most part. But Kyam was quick to remind his wife that QuiTai is not someone she should mess with. (another fun scene to write). Meanwhile, QuiTai is trying to solve a murder, because if she doesn't find the killer, she'll probably hang for it. The last thing she needs is Kyam's wife trying to drag her into one of Grandfather Zul's schemes while she's trying to find a killer.

I've read hundreds of murder mysteries, from cozy to police procedural. You'd think I'd know how to chart out an investigation by now. QuiTai and I are figuring this one out together.

Things I have to keep in mind: How advanced their forensic technology is (not very), the limitations of QuiTai's network of informants, and perhaps the most important-- why would anyone in the colonial government want to believe her solution?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Get The Devil's Concubine Kindle version for 99 cents!

For a few more days, you can buy THE DEVIL'S CONCUBINE for you Kindle for only 99 cents!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

My Cats Wouldn't Let Me Post

My cats have decided that my laptop is a kitty heat rock. The moment they see it, they're all like "What you doing, Jill?" "Mind if I watch?" "Mind if I help?" "That keyboard looks like a cat perch." Then I get distracted and the next thing I know I'm trying to type with a cat across my hands, and they get really upset with me for disturbing their rest. Because god forbid a cat only get 23 1/2 hours of sleep a day.

This time, I distracted them with food. We'll see how long that lasts.


I wrote an author's note for The Devil's Concubine, but I just realized it didn't make it into the Kindle version. :(  In the note, I talked about the history of DC. Since some people have asked me in direct messages about where it came from, etc., I thought I'd tell everyone here.

Every November, some of my writer friends do NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month - so I thought I would try it. But you can't just sit down and start typing. You have to have some idea of what you're going to write, especially if you're going to grind out a full novel in thirty days. I came up with a few thoughts, but nothing seemed all that interesting. Then I was stuck in heavy traffic one evening and had, for want of a better word, a vision. It was like seeing ten or twenty seconds of a movie.   

What I imagined was this: (I'm not going to write it as I would for a book. This is a sketch - wandering tenses, poor grammar, bad sentence structure and all)

A tall, handsome man is dragging a steamer trunk through a town. Most of the buildings are painted bright colors and have verandas wrapping around each story, but a few look like something from Thailand or Viet Nam. The road is red dirt. A woman in a sarong with a basket balanced on her head walks past him.

He stops to wipe sweat from his temple. He's dressed in a sherwani jacket and trousers that are obviously far too warm for the climate.  As he tugs at his tight collar, he's distracted by a prostitute sitting on a white wicker chair on the veranda of a pink building. As he watches the prostitute, three men jump him, knock him down, and beat him.

No one walking past does anything. it's as if they can't see him or the men beating him. But the crowd suddenly parts, and a woman saunters through them. She's dressed as if she's from Victorian England, except that her hair is in a long, thick black braid.

The moment the robbers see her, they grab the man's trunk and run away with it.

She walks straight toward the man on the ground. He thinks she's come to help, so he says, "Help! Get the police!"

She says, "The police? You are a fresh," and steps over him as if he's nothing more than a mud puddle.

In pain and bleeding from his nose, he rolls over to watch her walk away, because he can't believe that she'd just ignore him. She stops a few steps from him and turns back to look at him. Her eyes are like a reptile's with oval pupils ringed by a thin band of bright yellow.

"Welcome to Levapur, Mister Zul."

She saunters away, chuckling. The hem of her skirt drags through the dust, leaving a serpentine trail.


Wow! That takes much longer to write than it does to imagine.

That was all I had to go on, but I was intrigued. Who was that woman? What's with her eyes? How did she know his name? Where are they? What was that all about?

I had a few clues. The plants, and humidity told me they were in the tropics. So did the buildings, but there were two very different styles going on, which made me think two cultures were living together. He was dressed in a sherwani jacket, which said India or southeast Asia to me, so he belonged with the Asian architecture crowd. She was dressed as if she were from the same country he was, but she was clearly of the same race as the people wearing sarongs, so she was from the culture who built most of the buildings - a native. He had a trunk and didn't know the town, so he was clearly an outsider.

But who was she?

That question bothered me for a week. Anyone that intriguing had to be a main character. She dressed differently than her people, so she had to be an outside among them. She certainly wasn't nice! But that's okay because what she did was far more interesting than rushing to his aid. That wasn't enough though. I had to know more.

Finally, I had this second "vision":

The man who had been attacked on the street followed a grumpy older woman up a flight of stairs. He looked hot and miserable. The blood around his nose had dried. There were two doors at the top landing. Before the woman would hand over the key to unlock one of the doors, she demanded two weeks rent.

Angry, but exhausted, the man paid her. She handed him the key and toddled down the stairs. He unlocked the door.

The one room apartment was bare, except for his trunk sitting in the center of the room, and the woman perched on top of it. He now suspects that she knew the men who attacked him and probably told them to do it. The man slams shut the door, strides across the room, and shakes his finger in her face.


But he's so furious that's all he can say.

Calmly, she watches him for a moment in silence. The corner of her mouth curves up in a cruel smile.

"Are you feeling ill, Mister Zul? Or are you always a man of such few words?"

"What are you doing here?" he bellows.

"There's no need to shout. I can hear quite well, thank you. And I thought my presence here was rather self-explanatory."

"How did you know I'd rent this apartment? How do you know my name?"

She smoothed her skirt. "I know everything that happens on this island." She rose and looked around the apartment as if seeing it for the first time. It was a dump.

"Why did you steal my trunk just to return it?"

"I have twenty witnesses who will swear I didn't steal it." 

She was obviously enjoying herself, which only made him angrier. She walked past him to the door.

"Paints and brushes. That was unexpected," she says just before she steps out.

He spins around, "You went through my trunk? Why?"

Looking him right in the eyes, head tilted as if the answer to his question deserves careful thought, she says, "Because I wanted to."


And unfortunately it ended there, but I had more insight. She was definitely not a good guy. Not intimidated by a big, muscular man yelling at her. Seemingly cold, but with a perverse sense of humor. I knew  could work with that.

The first two times I wrote this novel, the opening scene was that first vision. By the third rewrite, I realized that I couldn't use it because it happened a full year before the rest of the story. That made for an awkward jump in time. I could have used it as a prolog, but many readers don't like them, so I had the characters mention that first meeting but never showed the scene. Too bad. I still like it.

Who is that woman? QuiTai. The woman.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Blog Tour!

QuiTai is going on tour! Go to the following blogs on the dates indicated and enter to win prizes:

So, grand prize winner:
1) The Devil's Concubine, paperback
2) The Devil Incarnate, paperback

First runner up:
1) The Devil's Concubine, paperback

Second runner-up:
1) The Devil's Concubine, ebook (choice of .mobi, .epub, or .pdf).

6/10-Page Flipperz

6/10-  United by Books

6/10-  Confessions of the Paranormal

6/11-  Paranormal Book Club

6/11-  Froggarita's Bookcase

6/12-  Spiced Latte Reads

6/12-  Mythical Books

6/13-  Sassy Book Lovers

6/13-  Book Lovin' Mamas

6/14-  Salacious Reads

6/15- Scorching Book Reviews

6/16-  Kristina's Books & More