This is my personal blog and does not necessarily reflect the collective views of Hard Limits Press

Monday, October 12, 2015

Cerulean Sins Chapter Thirty

Anita carries plastic in her car for when she needs to "transport" something "messier than chickens." First, its been so long since anything having to do with her animating has come up that the chickens thing is almost a non sequitur. It took me awhile to remember that on the extremely rare occasion that Anita actually does her fucking job, she sacrifices chickens to get the power required to raise a body.  This also makes me realize how few details are provided about animating, its origins, and how/why it works.

I'm a fan of what Sanderson would term "soft magic." That is, I don't think magic needs to have a set of hard and fast rules to be interesting, and in fact sometimes I prefer that it doesn't have many limits. That said, there's a difference between soft magic and a series of faint sketches that don't really come together in a cohesive image.

See this is why these take me so fucking long, because even the first sentence of an Anita Blake chapter inspires two paragraphs of bitching. 

Anita apparently stopped breathing during her bedroom scene with Mamma Darkness. Angst! Nathaniel has to drive so you know shit is bad.

Can someone explain this to me: "And I'd touched enough of her thinking to know it wouldn't bother her."

Is this some dialect I'm unfamiliar with or is this as nonsensical as it seems?

Anita goes on to say this in regards to Mamma Darkness: "She thought like a sociopath--no empathy, no sympathy, no guilt, no compassion."

Anita shows her ass by trying to hold forth on what sociopathy is. She cites the notion of a "pure sociopath" and I will tell you in all my years studying this and similar disorders I have never once heard that term. "True, pure sociopathy is pretty rare..."

Many years ago I had a friend who was a pathological liar. This person would lie about things just because, not out of any need to fabricate the information (e.g. to get in to a bar or out of trouble) but just because they couldn't admit when they didn't know something. That's what Anita reminds me of. She can't acknowledge that she's ignorant so she just makes shit up instead. That, or she's so incompetent she doesn't have the skills to recognize she's incompetent. Anita Blake: Vampire Dunning-Kruger Effect-er.

Anita sniffs the air and decides Caleb smells "young." This means his meat would be particularly tender. This is totally gross. She thinks Caleb smells like jailbait and that makes her want him more. Ugh. There's nothing good to say about this.

"You smell good, Caleb. All tender and scared."

I don't think it's a secret that I hate every sleazy cell in Caleb's stupid, stupid body. But this is so far from okay you couldn't locate okay with a detailed map, a magical compass, and a sentient animal companion to guide you. Okay has gone the way of the dodo. It is the free love generation, once so full of hope, now nothing but the threadbare scraps of a dream.

Ugh, sorry. I have been reading LKH for so long I get purple prose seizures.

What I mean to say is, this is fucking bullshit. And it's absolutely unforgivably disgusting. Caleb is not a piece of meat no matter how many times Anita compares him to one. I get that we're supposed to think oh look how vampire-like Anita is becoming ooga booga spoopy scaryz, but it doesn't work. This is Anita right now:

Anita uses the word pulse like eighty billion times. She fantasizes about his pulse being like candy and omg you guys I am so over this. Didn't we just have a chapter where she just about took a chunk out of him? 

There are cars following them. Um, I thought we already covered the fact that they're being followed. Did LKH forget her own stuff between this chapter and the next? Am I going crazy? (crazier?)

Jason is also thinking about eating Caleb. Anita says that the difference between dogs and wolves is that dogs never look at humans and think "food." Honestly, neither do wolves. LKH seems to know this because she makes Anita say something about how there's never been a recorded wolf attack on a human in North America, but that must be wrong because somehow the supernatural wolf monster that acts nothing like an actual wolf behaves in a blood thirsty manner.

Somehow Jason is "projecting his need" for flesh on to Anita, which frankly just sounds like a narcissistic inability to take responsibility for her own desires.

They try to figure out what to do about the guys that are following them. Anita actually admits she's not a real detective and doesn't know what to do in a situation like this. Normally I would be glad to see her admit to not knowing something, but this just makes her look ridiculously incompetent. Sure, she's not a detective but she's constantly playing up her involvement with the police and what to do when being followed is some 101 shit.

Oh, well. Now they're not being followed. Maybe they weren't being followed at all. Because turns out, if you're banging the Master of the City it's pretty easy to find you which means no one needs to follow you in the first place.

Here lies Tension, taken from us too soon. Sadly, she never matured in to Plot.

She touches Jason who is still wolfed out. For some reason this makes their mutual desire to eat Caleb get stronger. What the fuck? Why is she reacting to Jason as if they're bound? Sense, it makes none. Also jesus this is the weirdest car ride. Oh, and when did they have the time to pull over and switch drivers? God, I am so lost.

And let me just point out, Caleb is a fucking leopard. It was stupid enough to characterize Donovan the Swanking as food, considering he turns in to a ginormous vicious bird from hell that can break arms and drown people, but Caleb is. a. leopard. Why the fuck a werewolf and an overpowered animator want to eat him, I have no earthly clue. Caleb tries to get away from them. He "spills" and they "spill after him."

Sooooo not only has this been several chapters of nothing but people in a car feeling feelings and seeing things, BUT this is the BIGGEST CAR IN THE KNOWN UNIVERSE. Right now it contains a fully shifted werewolf, Anita, Nathaniel who at one point earlier was also shifted if I remember right, and Caleb. Somehow, Anita, Jason, and Caleb are all in the backseat. Remember, Jason is SHIFTED. And YET Caleb ALSO has room to try and get away from both him and Anita.

Anita is on her knees in front of Caleb. How is this possible? THEY'RE IN A CAR ON THE HIGHWAY. Oh and here comes Richard in a cloud form to blow through Anita's mind in a cloud of sugar. DOES ANYONE ELSE REALIZE THAT THIS ENTIRE CAR RIDE HAS CONSISTED OF PEOPLE SEEING AND SMELLING THINGS IN THEIR OWN HEADS? What must this look like from the outside? Is this supposed to constitute plot? There are EYES and CLOUDS and BLACK ROOMS and GOD why am I doing this again?

I'm on a lot of oxycodone right now but it turns out there's no drug that can numb the psychic pain of reading this 'book.'

Anita just loves the pulse in Caleb's neck, so much that she has to mention it a hojillion times. She goes on to mention that both she and Richard are homophobes yet seems to think that's just a quirky little character trait rather than a glaring personality flaw. The hunger is coming from him, too, thanks to Belle screwing around with his mind. Are you getting the sense that it's tough for me to try and turn all of this in to a coherent synopsis? There's a reason and it's not the painkillers.

Caleb has a pulse in his stomach.

Richard suggests Anita turn the hunger to a desire for sex instead. For some reason Anita asks Richard if he'd really be okay with her fucking Caleb, even though they're broken up. And you know, the whole Richard being Anita's rape victim thing.

Even Richard is like, we're not dating.

Beasts go through Anita. She's left "kneeling" despite the fact that she was already kneeling somehow in the backseat of her fucking car. And can I just say, the Circus must be hundreds and hundreds of miles away given how ENDLESS this STUPID FUCKING CAR RIDE is.

Richard forces Jason to change. This is a very painful process and also totally unnecessary. I have zero idea what is going on anymore. Oh, I guess it's to keep him from eating Caleb? But the context made it sound like it was because Anita wouldn't fuck Jason while he's shifted, except the talk had been about fucking Caleb....

Anita stares "at the curve of his butt." She's a grown woman regularly getting railed by just about every swinging dick she comes across, but she uses the word "butt" with a straight face. Oh and now she's just hungry for Jason too, in a sausage way not in a 'sausage' way. Richard tells her he'll feed and she'll be sated through that. For some reason the proper response is to scream.

So let's recap shall we? So far this car ride has involved disembodied eyes, glitter clouds that are also sweet, the smell of roses, a bazillion pulses pulsing tenderly in pulse point places, a little visit to a black black blackity black room with a bed DARKER THAN THE DARKEST SOUL upon which the Mother of all Darkness rests in all her spoopiness, a vision about Belle Morte where there's screaming and dreams and gossamer, a driver switch that apparently no one had to pull over to accomplish, a near accident that inexplicably and conveniently attracted zero police, a magically expanding backseat, and Richard turning up on the mind phone. Anita then punches a dent in the car door, but is still intact.

Richard decides the best thing to do to keep Anita from eating Caleb is to play with himself, hoping to turn Anita on enough that she'll want dick instead of a slim jim. Keep in mind he's jerking it in front of poor Jamil.

This has got to be one of the most asinine things I have ever read, and I've read both My Immortal and My Inner Life. I would read My Inner Life in particular over this drivel any day.

Anita consideres forcing Richard to do what she wants. I guess once you've already violated someone's consent, why not do it again?

Richard is sorry for...something. I don't know what. I hate his character because he just exists for LKH to masturbate on. He sucks and it's on purpose. It's like when you're in fifth grade and your first story is how McMeanyHead gets punished for being mean to your 'main character,' a main character whose name is suspiciously similar to your own.

Her and Richard are like melty candy and Anita wants to melt together forever.

J.C. wakes up. This car ride FINALLY ENDS.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Moar Anita this weekend, I hope

Sorry about the no entries situation for the past couple of weeks. Life happened in a lot of ways but I haven't forgotten about skewering Anita (not like THAT) so stay tuned.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

if I've done you wrong

This is something I've been wanting to say for a long time, but like many things I let it percolate for awhile first. I still don't know if it will come out as coherently as I might like, but here's my attempt:

If I have ever caused you harm, trust me, I remember it. The nature of my psychiatric illnesses means I will never forget it. I don't bring this up as a means to acquire sympathy for myself, but only so those I have truly injured know that I do not carry the memory lightly. I have examined it, dissected it, agonized over it, tried to understand why I behaved as I did.

For many years I reflected the abuse that had been dealt me, hurting others with it just as I had been so grievously injured. Now that I am free of that influence, I look back in horror as if some awful person were wearing my skin, that face stapled haphazardly on over my real one.  But I know that my actions, regardless of lessons learned in a crucible of trauma, made others feel lesser. I took from them. I made their hearts hard instead of open and soft. I let rage guide me.

Without that anger I am left with the desire to add something to the people I meet, instead of subtracting. I have made a conscious decision and effort to come from a place of kindness and assertiveness instead of aggression and thoughtlessness. So I hope that now when I extend the following invitation, the people carrying around scars I inflicted know that it's heartfelt: if there is anything left undone and unsaid between us, please send me an email and let's talk. I hope the intervening years have been kind to both of us. Know that I likely loved you, and had no idea how to show it. Know that most of you, I still miss terribly, and that I think of you often and wish good things for you.

Thanks for listening.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Cerulean Sins Chapter Twenty Nine Part Two

Aaand right back in to the turgid prose, friends:

"The air in the Jeep was suddenly soft, sweet, like the perfect summer night, where you can smell every blade of grass, every leaf, every flower, like a scented blanket that wraps you in air softer than cashmere, lighter than silk, a sweet blanket of air." 

Anita goes on to describe the presence of the first vampire, who she has already titled The Mother of All Darkness:

"It was like standing on the train tracks, when you feel the first vibration down the metal lines, and you know you should get off, but you can't see anything. As far as you can look, the tracks are clear, there's only that metallic vibration, like a pulse beat against your feet, to let you know that several tons of steel are hurtling towards you. People die every year on train tracks, and often their dying words are, I didn't see the train. I've always thought that trains must be magical that way, or people would see them, and get the fuck off the tracks."

Let's just say the faith readers still put in the traditional publishing industry is amazing.

Things get so bright in the car thanks to Anita's blazing cross that Jason has to stop the car in the middle of the street. How they haven't found themselves in a horrific six car pile up by now is beyond me.

The Mother of All Darkness is a vampire and a shifter.

I don't mind that she breaks the known laws of this universe, actually. Big Bads often do. I just wish she were better written, because it's almost impossible to get past the shitty prose. It takes away from the dread we should be feeling.

This chapter is a treasure trove of absolutely shit writing. It's as if I opened up a bank vault only to discover that all the money has been replaced with rotting meat:

"The cross was still glowing, but only the metal itself, as if it were hollow and candles burned within it." 

Anita's faith is literally so strong her simple cross necklace is repelling the Mother of All Darkness. Well already, this bad guy is toothless. If Anita can control her at first meeting, why would I care about what comes next?

Anita considers opening her bonds to J.C. and Richard, but is concerned that they might be taken over too. J.C. has no faith (though I suspect this means no faith that Anita respects) though Richard does. This is news to me. Since when does Richard believe in god? Maybe this is because I started at NiC but I can't recall a single moment when Richard references any kind of belief in god.

Hold everything! I actually like the next, oh, three paragraphs. Anita struggles with the MoaD and all the shifters in the car start to get animal-y as they respond to the MoaD themselves.

Here is where I am going to pause and hold forth for a moment: I think talent is overrated. It exists, certainly. People have natural affinities for certain things sometimes. But if you love something and you're willing to pour your heart, soul, and most especially your time and effort in to it, odds are you can become quite good at it. I point this out because I think with a heaping dose of self awareness, a tough editor, and a writer's group that is both supportive and realistic, LKH could hone her talent and turn out something good, if not great. But her story is one that always reminds me to be on the lookout for narcissistic, egotistical tendencies in myself. Creativity suffers, more often than not, if you indulge in those traits. Even Kanye West works his ass off, whatever you think of his personality.

Okay, okay.

Despite the fact that I enjoyed the last page, it quickly devolves in to something silly as Anita and the MoaD psychically scream in each other's faces.

A few acceptable paragraphs follow about how Anita realizes that the MoaD has no scent, seeing as she's not physically present, and that helps her ground herself in reality. That said, it's pretty obvious it's a psychic experience right? And I don't understand why they're all focusing so hard on "it's not real." In this world, psychic projections can be very real. Hell, Anita has been nigh-rolled by Belle several times now, entirely from a distance. Pay attention to your own world, damn!

Anita has a vision of the MoaD asleep in a black, dark, black room. The MoaD is doing all of this in her sleep. So what in the fuck is drawing her to Anita, of all people? I can't believe I am even asking that question. Everyone is drawn to Anita. Those who aren't not so mysteriously get killed.


Anita mentions the fact that vampires tend to call MoaD names like Mother Gentle to appease her. This is interesting since that is probably where terms like The Fair Folk came from. She concludes though that Mommy Dearest is a lot more accurate. Is this a reference to the movie? Isn't she a little young for that?

This hellish chapter is finally over.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Cerulean Sins Chapter Twenty Nine Part One

This chapter opens with the dumbest fucking thing I've read yet:

"Nathaniel had gotten one of the extra crosses out of the glove compartment. I always carried spare crosses, just like spare ammo; when you hunt vampires, running out of either one is really bad."

Holy fuck beans, so we went through that whole eyes vs. cologne cloud reckless driving eating perfect strangers nonsense because everyone forgot there were crosses in the glove compartment?

Her only defense for this fuckery?

"Sometimes I'm a bit slow."

Anita is trying to describe her physical state in contrast with how beautiful the day is. This is how LKH sees fit to do so: "it was one of those glorious end of summer days, sun-warmed, sparkling, bright, and soft at the same time."

Adjectives are like culinary lavender: one bud too many and your cookies taste like dish soap.

What follows is one of those paragraphs you really only find in LKH's books and the books of her imitators, where so much is wrong I don't even know where to begin. Let's go with the fact that Anita says something angsty about being cold in a way no blanket will fix, then immediately jumps to Nathaniel being curled around her lower half like a blanket. I see what you did there, and I don't like it.

Nathaniel is somehow wedged between the floor and Anita. What kind of magical clown car does this woman own that this is possible? She goes on an extended tear about how Nate is like a dog, and that's great because dogs don't think about sex (?) and she needs a dog and not a person and Nate sometimes isn't a person.

Anita ponders the fourth vampire mark. Apparently it will make her ageless and immortal as long as J.C. is around. Holy shit, talk about power creep. She does go in to some interesting ideas about her Christianity versus being immortal, which in a better book would be truly fascinating.

Also let me just pause here and say that I am religious. I practice minority religions but I do believe that Christianity is real and applies to its adherents. And as a religious person, Anita's take on it chafes. She is the epitome of Sunday Christians, the kind who are only Christian when it suits them, who are only Christian because they go through the motions. Her idea of what God is, is ultimately self serving. The handful of times we've seen God through her eyes, He's essentially just showing up to sign off on all of her depravity. He's not a God, an almighty being with plans and desires and needs of His own. Rather, He is a toy for Anita to play with, a handpuppet that says whatever Anita wants Him to say. That's not spirituality, it's narcissism.

Someone is following them. Earlier in this journey I might have felt a twinge of excitement, a little relief from the endless ruminating, off putting fucking, and misuse of analogies. But now? I know this will amount to exactly nothing. I honestly don't know how she can let her first drafts be published. If I had to publish a first draft I'd drive off a cliff Thelma and Louise style.

Anita doesn't know why people are following her because the two cases she's working on don't have any stand out features. Is this what Anita considers working? I have absolutely no clue how many days have passed since the beginning of this book and I'm hazy on whether she was asked to raise someone's ancestor then because this meandering wordy dung heap is so thick. I mean, though, even if its only been like three days, that's enough to get you fired in most places unless you're having a legitimate issue.

Nathaniel suggests--rather sensibly I might add--that the people following them might be Belle's daytime servants. These differ from the type of servant Anita is because they don't have any vampire marks. They're called Renfields and generally want to be turned in to vampires themselves. I don't know how I feel about all of these terms culled from Dracula. I think it's potentially a cool idea, but because it's LKH it feels lazy. She uses the terms, throws a faint sketch out there, and that's it.

They think they've lost the car, but then the smell of roses happens and Anita's cross starts to glow. Anita is all, Belle can't roll me with a cross on. Caleb asks her why and she says because she has faith in God and faith that the cross will work. She adds that she's not sure how Caleb can doubt God's existence and power. Again this annoys the piss out of me because she doesn't really have a relationship with God. She hardly prays. She doesn't live her life according to anything approaching Christian values. She doesn't study her faith or think about how to apply it to her situation. She references God when she's trying to justify her deeds and when she needs something, e.g. the cross glowing. God never requires anything of her. He's just there to give her a hug sometimes.

Belle is here and her eyes are honey fire and her hair is like a cloak and oh my god whatever. Then she and Anita are menaced by darkness. How do I know? Because Anita proceeds to use the word darkness eleventy billion times:

"The room that Belle had constructed of dreams and power collapsed, shredded like the dream it was, and what ate at the corners of that bright candlelit room was darkness. Darkness absolute, darkness so black that it held shines of other colors, like an oil slick, or a trick of the eye. As if this blackness was a darkness made up of every color that ever existed, ever sight that had ever been seen, every sigh, every scream, since time began. I had heard the term primordial darkness, but until this moment I had never understood what it meant. Now I understood, I truly understood, and I despaired."

Holy fuck balls is that awful. It is one of the most awkward and overwritten things I've ever read, even in contrast against other things LKH herself has written. The stuff about oil slicks and tricks of the eye is serviceable at best, and sadly it's probably the most coherent part of this entire ungodly paragraph. Anita once again can't decide if she's an early 00s tough as nails vampire hunter in St. Louis or a character in The Castle of Ontranto. It's also so clearly just LKH riffing on the page as she goes, and I personally don't want to read that shit. Riffing is first draft business, not meant for the light of day.

At least I sincerely hope that this is a first draft, but hope starts to wane as I soldier on...oh before I quote the turgid slime I am about to subject you to, let it be known that Anita by her own admission is looking in to the abyss, in to primordial darkness, but she's not afraid. No siree! Anita is not afraid of a Lovecraftian monstrous thing from before light itself existed, this unnameable beast that even draws a scream from Belle Morte. And as pathetic as all of this posturing and telling is, what sucks even more is that making a character this supposedly badass just strips her of anything the reader can sympathize, let alone empathize, with. We don't want to spend time with her, and she's not well written enough to make us fascinated to the point where we'll accept the fact that she's despicable and go along with things because my god, we just need to know what happens next.

So here we go: "My mind kept trying to find words to describe what it was. It did loom over me like a mountain, because it had weight and that claustrophobic feeling of a mountain poised to come crashing down, but it was not a mountain."

Wow, thanks for clearing that up. The primordial darkity dark darkness of shadowy doom is not, in fact, a mountain.

"It was more like an ocean, if an ocean could have risen up taller than the tallest mountain and stood before you, waiting, defying gravity and every other known law of physics."

Soooooo it's NOT a mountain NOR is it an ocean, yet somehow it IS both an ocean AND a mountain because I don't know.

It is extremely embarrassing to watch LKH try her damndest to pull out her top shelf writing chops and fail so miserably. Moments like these are where great writers shine. Hell, even middle of the road writers often know how to capitlizie on their skills and give a good mood/description sandwich, spread thick on delicious story-bread. Here, it's like the time I made the mistake of going to a Denny's in Fargo and received a very dubious 'sandwhich' for my troubles, that despite retaining the general shape one expects had zero to do with food. When I purchased it this 'book' had all the characteristics one looks for, but a proper cover and an ISBN can't take the place of actual writing. LKH is the dry floppy mystery meat of literature, or maybe that weird crunchy hard thing you come across in your burger patty that fills you with a special kind of unnameable dread.

She continues meandering about this, eventually figuring out that this is the first vampire, only to end with: "There was a time when she walked among us, fed on us, and when darkness falls, somewhere in the back of our skulls, we remember the hungry dark."


CHRIST. Not that He's going to turn up or anything, because this is a serious situation that can't be fixed by patting Anita on the back and really, what purpose does god have other than showing up to rub Anita's balls from time to time?

There's very little I hate more than when Anita tries to wax philosophical. She's dithering on about how light overcomes darkness. She starts to pray to Mary (?) and conveniently she has her cross in the dream, and the darkness dissipates. She spent like a million years of my precious life describing the darkity dark as the most powerful gloomy shadowy dark black darkity dark LIKE EVUH and she managed to push it away with a single prayer.

Also this chapter is endless so I am going to stop here in the interest of posting this damn thing.