21 June 2017

The Cat's Doooooooooom

I'm curious... who got the signed copy of Flowers of Luna I put up as a prize for Asian Lit Bingo?

12 June 2017

The Honest Review of Doom

Warning: Here There be Spoilers. If you're interested in reading Flowers of Luna, but haven't yet, you probably shouldn't read this entry. A major plot point is discussed.

One of the good things about having published Flowers of Luna and getting it listed on Goodreads is that I get to read what my readers -- or at least, the generous subset of my readers who leave me reviews -- think of what I've done. Recently, a reviewer posted a three-star review which I think is, despite the low rating she gives my book, an excellent review.

Ms. Reviewer puts her finger right on something that I was concerned about when I wrote the manuscript, something that I tried to avoid. To whit, the "bisexual cheater" trope. I am a Sapphist -- a girl-type person who falls in love, and when I'm extremely lucky, in bed, with other girl-type people. One of the reasons I don't use the L word for this preference is that it has been my experience that there's a lot of gate-keeping involved in the use of that word, and I don't care for that at all.

I have dated several bisexual women, and never cared with whom else they might have shared their bed before, or after, me. I only cared that they showed me affection while we were dating, and were occasionally willing to be naked in bed with me.

So, if this is true (and I assure you that it is) why does this trope show up, despite my effort to keep it from being prominent and ugly? How did I end up hurting at least one bisexual woman, despite my deep desire not to? Well, it was a failure on my part; a failure to come up with a better way to tell the story.

You see, I started writing Flowers of Luna after a particularly bad break-up. I had fallen deeply in love with a woman named Michele1; I'd built my life around her. I thought we were going to be together until one of us died. She turned out not to feel the same way. I was crushed, and I needed to think about the things that happened, and somehow find my way to a happy ending for my characters, if not for me.

In the end, Hana is not actually much like Michele. And Ran is only sort of tangentially like me. It's not a Mary Sue tale, or at least, I hope not. But without the actual reasons that Michele gave for breaking up with me, I still needed to come up with a way for there to be a crisis, a way for them to fall apart and come back together.

I tried to make it clear that what happened wasn't because Hana was bi. It was because she was young, and inexperienced, and trying to figure out her feelings. Things snowballed out of control and she didn't know how to resolve the situation.

In fact, Hana is not bisexual. She was raised in an environment where sexuality wasn't a spectrum -- men loved and bedded women, and vice-versa2.  So it wasn't until she went to Lunagrad and met Desdimona (who is bisexual) that she even considered the possibility of romance / sexuality with another woman. When she meets Ran, she's still trying to figure everything out. Does she make a bad decision? Yes; a series of them. Is it because she's bi? No; it's because she's experiencing that most Japanese of plot tropes -- the conflict between social obligations and personal desires.

So. I tried to bring all that out in the story, but apparently, I failed.

Could I have written the story differently? Could Jin'ichi have been female? Yes, but then Hana would have been aware of her own Sapphism, and it would be a case of Hana actually being a cheater. Knowing that Hana had cheated on Jin with her, how could Ran ever make the leap of trust required to get them back together?

Could I have figured out some other conflict to bring the two of them to the brink of a breakup, and then figured out some way to haul the situation back in? Maybe; but I didn't. Perhaps this, too, is a failure of writing.

At any rate, I tried not to make the story about the bisexual betrayer, not to hurt the feelings of any bisexual women. And, at least in Ms. Reviewer's case, I seem to have failed. I'm deeply sorry for that.

1 Yes; the woman to whom I dedicated the book.

2 In this respect, Hana actually reflects my own upbringing and journey to figuring myself and my sexuality out.

06 June 2017

New Interview Without Doom!

My friend Maria Hollis, who also writes Sapphic fiction, recently started a book blog of her own. I had the honor of being the first author she interviewed for it! I'll be excited to see what else she posts as the blog goes forward, and I hope you will, too.

21 May 2017

The Allegations of Doom

A few weeks ago, I wrote a guest post for a bookblogger's blog; someone I thought of as at least a friendly acquaintance. Two days ago, while looking for something else, I happened to glance at that guest post, and saw that the bookblogger in question had added a disclaimer to the previously nice things she had said about my book.  Apparently, someone is contacting bookbloggers who have written positive reviews about Flowers of Luna, and making allegations about me; allegations which at least this bookblogger apparently accepted without bothering to discuss them with me.

I do not know who is doing this. I do not know why. But I am going to address the allegations once, here, now, and then I am henceforth ignoring this person as the troll they are.

The person making the allegations is apparently telling bookbloggers that I am a fraud, a hoax. I am not who I present myself as, and I'm just presenting myself as I do to cash in on marginalized identity.  I think this is ludicrous on the face of it -- As Megan Gedriss wrote in her fabulous Yu+Me Dream, I'm just pretending to be gay for all of the wonderful social benefits it brings?

But if that logic is insufficient, let me point out that between my journals (this one and Walkyrje on LiveJournal) I have fourteen years of documentation of me being me. I joined G+ six years ago, during the open beta (one of my early entries there), and Twitter in January 2011. All of that seems like a long hike to ground a hoax for a book published in February 2017. But what do I know?

Let us also talk about the "cashing in on marginalized identity" bit. Frankly, it's delusional. The people who find it easiest to get published in the traditional publishing business are white men. Pretending to be something else, someone else, would be setting stones in my own path. I present myself as I do because it's who I am. And I have hardly "cashed in." The number one comment I received from agents declining to represent me and Flowers of Luna was "I didn't identify with this." Do you suppose they would have said that about an M/F romance about Jack and Jane?

I ended up self publishing, and so far, every single cent I have received in royalties has been spent on promotional copies of my book, postage for said promotional copies, and other attempts to raise awareness of it among the target audience. If I'm cashing in, I'm doing a smurf-pour job of it.

Tangentially related to this issue, I have decided to leave Twitter. I won't be deleting my account, because that would open it up for someone else to scoop up the name and post whatever they want on an account that has been announced to be mine in various venues. I will be ceasing activity on it, however.

I have severe general and social anxiety... to the extent that I often vomit after talking to strangers on the telephone. Paying attention to a constant stream of negative news items, political doom, and bickering among bookish folk is doing me damage. So I'm not going to do it, anymore.

You will still be able to find me here, at G+, and on various fora around the intarwebz.

I'm sorry to have aired my dirty laundry in public, and as I said... this is my only public response to this trolling. My next entry will be back to writing, lightsaber construction, and similar topics.

Aloha; Shalom; Peace be upon you; Live long and prosper; May the Force be with you -- always.

13 May 2017

More Lightsaber of Doom!

First, let's have the beauty shot. This thing is massive... shown here with a familiar book for scale, it's nearly seventeen inches long. It's definitely a two-handed hilt, which was exactly what I wanted.

Okay, note for experienced saber builders who are easily bored. The rest of this is going to be really basic, and really lengthy, because I'm an utter noob and had to figure stuff out as I went along, and I figure there may be other utter noobs lurking who would like to know what I figured out. So if you're easily bored, now would be a good time to go read something else.

I bought the pieces in two batches. The previous batch, as you may have read in a previous entry, had the blade holder, choke, and pommel. Because my training in sword art is mostly in Japanese styles, I wanted a longer hilt. So I ordered a custom-milled double-female 10" extension (3" longer than a standard main body, and I asked for the grooves to run along the entire length), along with some incidental other bits.

Below, you can see the four primary pieces lined up from emitter to pommel, which gives a sense of their relative sizes.

I apologize for lens flare and other artifacts. My hands tremble very badly, which made some of the pictures in the first batch blurry, so I bought a tripod this time... but I'm still using my camera phone, and I got lens flare. Many indeed are the arts of which I am not a mistress.

Below, we have the blade holder / emitter (I use these terms interchangably). One of the incidental bits I bought this month was the heat sink, TCSS Version 3. Here you can see the copper heat sink screwed into the aluminium lens holder, next to the emitter.

The lens holder has a little bit of a lip on it, so you drop it into the emitter, copper side toward you:

... and screw on the next most southerly piece. The lip on the lens holder is perfectly scaled to lock in between the male and female threads and stay in place.

One of the few parts I did not source from TCSS is this blade safety plug. I just loved the heat-patina look of it. Why is it called a safety plug? Because the LEDs we work with are technically class 2 lasers, which means that direct viewing for more than a quarter of a second can cause damage to your eyesight. Even if you think that you're not the kind of dope who will stare directly into a laser, get a blade plug -- accidents happen, and we have not yet reached the point where we can grow you new eyeballs.

The plug dropped right down into the emitter. It sits on top of the heat sink's lens holder, and the blade set screw holds it in place. Here's what it looks like, looking down the bore of the emitter:

Assemble the emitter / choke to the next piece south:

Now, if you read my earlier post, you may recall that I initially ordered the d-ring pommel insert, and then decided that it wasn't quite what I wanted for this particular saber. So I ordered a couple more:

I decided to go with the one threaded for a recharge port, even though I'm not putting my recharge port there. I didn't like the idea of people looking up inside the hilt through the pommel's perforations, so I went on eBay and bought a quarter-yard of "acoustically transparent" speaker grill cloth. I cut a circle, and put it behind the pommel insert, and secured it with the snap ring.

... is what I'd like to say. But the truth is, I discovered that forceps weren't up to the job, so I bought a pair of cheap snap-ring pliers from Harbor Freight, and the snap ring straight up bent the pliers as I was trying to pull it in tightly enough to engage the groove in the pommel in which it's supposed to sit. So lesson: cheap tools aren't, because now I'll have to spend more money getting another pair of good pliers, whereas if I'd just done that in the first place....

I hope you found that entertaining, and perhaps learned something with me. My next step will be grabbing a bench power supply and some 6061 T6 aluminum tube, and experimenting with anodizing, coloring, and plating. I'll post those results, but it'll probably be a couple of weeks at the very least.

29 April 2017

Saturday Scenes 29 April '17

On the shortest night of the year, on top of the tallest mountain in the world, the wind had never stopped blowing. It was not snowing, but the wind picked up grains of snow fossilized into ice and flung them about with malicious intent. They trailed from the edge of the summit, creating an eerie, slightly luminescent flag downwind.

Something bated the wind, forced it to flow around where it had flowed through. For long, unmeasured moments, the hard grains of ice piled against the stop, forming in negative the impression of a curved cheekbone, the arch of an eyebrow, the hollow of a clavicle, the fullness of an immense breast. The eye blinked, crystals of ice making no sound as they shattered from unseen lashes.

"Where?" she thought, and, "When?" She turned her head, looking at the snowy lumps surrounding her. She looked to the horizon, saw the grey of the approaching dawn. Her temple. Her highest, her best, her favorite. The summit of her mountain was above eight thousand meters. Humans called it the death zone, for they could not come to her unprepared, and could not stay long once they arrived.

Long time past, her warrior-priestesses had gathered on this shortest night, and climbed the long rose quartz stairway to her shoulder, leading captives. At dawn on the longest day of the year, they had climbed the final staircase in solemn procession, and they had waited until the sun stood overhead, until the light of the sun shone through the eye of her gnomon upon her throne. Then, with blades of obsidian, the captives were given to her, their warm blood staining the stone; the devotion of her priestesses warming her core.

Nothing lasts. An age of the world passed, and neither priestesses nor captives came now. The grand stairway was buried in snow, and only vague lumps showed where her throne and stelae stood, the beating heart of the quartz slowed almost to stillness.

She exerted herself, and the heart beat, once, warming the blood-tinted quartz ever so slightly. She called the wind to pick up more snow, to clear her temple. Even that small effort tired her.

Why had she woken? So many solstices had come and gone unnoticed, unremarked, as she slumbered. What had... and she felt them. Two Humans, huddled in a makeshift shelter on the shoulder of her mountain where once her priestesses had waited with their captives. Humans!

She gathered more of herself, formed a body of ice in which to center her awareness, walked to the edge of her temple. For almost an hour she stood as still as one of the stele, her attention clearing ice from the rosy treads of the final flight of her grand staircase.


The wind died down at dawn. George pushed open the tent flap and struggled out like a moth emerging from its cocoon. He gaped at what he saw. "Andy," he said, "Andy, you've got to see this; you won't believe it."

The second climber struggled forth into the light.  "My god," she said. She looked around. The wind had calmed, the sun stood on the horizon, the sky was clear... and there was a miraculous staircase between them and the summit.  "My god," she said again, not knowing if it was a prayer.

"Quick," George said, "grab your pack. We're about to make history."

The two of them left the tent behind and ascended the staircase. Though it was firm underfoot, and the treads were almost perfectly placed, the air was yet thin, and cold, and they must take their time. Still, they made excellent progress. Just before noon, they achieved the summit.

"Look at this!" Andy exclaimed, looking around at the faintly blood-colored quartz pillars, engraved with bas-relief images of marching armies and battles long forgotten.

George wandered to the central stone, the great needle with its eye. "An observatory," he said, wonderingly. "We have made history, Andy, but not the way we expected!"

"We are not the first to the top," Andy agreed, going to sit on the large bolder with a vague seat-like impression. "Not by a long hike."

Noon arrived. The light through the gnomon touched the throne, bathed the climber. A voice, soft as the wind, spoke in her ear, "Andrea Irving, if you give your man to me, I will make you queen of your world."

Andy started, looking around. There was no one there, but an obsidian knife rested beside her. "Look at this," she said, picking it up in her gloved hand. "There's a hole in the hilt." She stood, took off her glove, dropped it. The knife fit her hand perfectly; her thumb went through the hole, securing her grip. It felt right.

She stepped toward George at the needle. Did she need him? Did she even like him? He had been condescending the entire trip, taking credit for everything, standing in front of her when reporters showed up, even though she was the more experienced climber, even though it was her money which paid for the expedition.

But a cloud passed before the sun, and the light in the temple dimmed. And Andy blinked, wondering at her thoughts about her cousin George. "Let's leave this place," she said. "We need to be back at camp by nightfall."

"Yes," George said, turning away. "And we'll need a second expedition, with cameras."


She sighed, watching them walk down the staircase together. Nothing lasted, she thought. Not the feast season, and not the famine. They would be back. They would bring others. She would drink hot blood again, and her power would return.

But for now... for now... she was tired. She released her awareness, and slumber returned to the mountain of the goddess.

21 April 2017

The Lightsaber of Doom!

TL;DR - I got my first order of MHS parts, and it's strangely exciting. This order is comprised of:

MHSV1 Blade Holder Style 7
MPS8 MPS Pommel style 8
Cclip MPS Clip
MPSI12 MPS insert style 12
MHSchokeRL MHS choke style 3 long

The main body will require some custom milling, so I put it off for next month. Pictures follow. This will likely be a slow build. Why?  Well, if you want to know, read on.

I'm an older geek. In 1978, my family was living in a very rural area of Arizona -- so rural, our town didn't even have its own grocery store, just a gas station / convenience store. So when my mother heard that there was a SciFi movie out, she tossed a ten-year-old me in the car and we drove the couple of hours to The City to see it.  We both loved it, and I at once wanted to be a Jedi Knight. My first lightsaber was just a flashlight with an inflatable blade. (No foolin'. You can see the advertisement for it).

Fast forward a number of years, until I was a grown up geek. I was in the Navy and attended a local SciFi con where I saw that they were play-testing a new role playing game based on Star Wars. Intrigued, I got in on the session, and played an Alien Force User because there were no Jedi in what would become West End Games' d6 game... or at least, that wasn't the part of the rules they were testing, and that option wasn't available to us. (My AFU, by the bye, was limited to touch range, and her big special attack? Touching people on the shoulder and putting them to sleep.  Yes; I crossed the streams. But I digress).

A few years later, I got the chance to play the D20 version of Star Wars RPG, and this time, Jedi were included. So I rolled up a Consular, thinking that I'd make her a Jedi Healer. Just for kicks and giggles, though, I took a couple of skill ranks in pick lock, because you know... sometimes, evil hides behind locked doors. Thus Sorrow was born. She was a four-lekku blue Twi'lek who had been orphaned as a small child and taken to the Jedi Temple. She couldn't remember her name, and the Jedi who found her nicknamed her Sorrow because of her woeful countenance. Over time, it stopped being a nick-name and became her name.  In honor of a great Jedi of the past, she eventually appropriated the family name Sunrider.

Well, the campaign went on, and at a key point, Sorrow saved the party by using the Force with her lock picking skill to open a door and an avenue of escape. (I rolled a natural 20, and the GM gave it to me). This led to joking that I should cross-class into a less upright profession, and I started thinking about Jedi Sentinel. Sorrow turned away from healing and toward investigation.  The campaign ended before I could get the pre-reqs together, but I went on thinking about her, and in my mind, she went on to become a Sentinel. She retained her original lightsaber, though, so hers has a cyan blade (reflecting her path between Guardian and Consular) instead of the more common golden blade of the Sentinels. (Aside from which, if you light up a gold-blade lightsaber, you're pretty much flashing a badge, and Sorrow works more in the shadows than that).

So when I started building my own lightsaber, I decided I wanted to start with Sorrow's. Because it's a saber from the height of the Jedi Order's power and influence, it's more refined and finished than the later-era sabers.

Why did it take me so long to start working on building my own saber? Because I was a nurse, working 12-hour shifts and taking care of my Uncle's wife's parents on my days off, so I had no time. Then I was diagnosed with a chronic, and couldn't work, so I had no money. But now, finally, I have some money and some time, so I'm starting work. I do, of course, still have a chronic illness, so I don't do very much at a time, and my income is based on disability, so it's not very much money. Both of which mean that this will probably be one of the slower build threads -- it may take me six months or a year to get everything together.

But it promises to be a heck of a ride, and I'd like to share it as I learn things and approach my dream. I hope you'll find something of interest as we go forward.

Stand by for picspam!

Here we have the emitter and pommel. The taller one is MHSv1 Blade Holder style 7; the shorter one is MHSv1 pommel style 8. The emitter has been media blasted -- my initial idea was that I wanted it to look as though the emitter had discolored over time due to the tremendous energy of the blade. I'm not sure it accomplishes that, but it does look nice! The media turned the normal glossy silver into a fascinating matte gray, slightly pearlescent. It picks up schmutz like whoa... I think I'm going to need to find a nice matte clear-coat to put over it, if I don't decide to color it.

My previous saber was made by a machinist who boasted that no two of his sabers were exactly alike. I forget if I found him on eBay or his own website, but I bought the saber below and, though I had dreams of lighting it, I've actually just put a polycarbonate rod in it and used it as a bokken for a number of years. It's pretty, and I might still electrify it, but it taught me that I wanted a longer hilt, because my training is in a two-hand style, and this one? Definitely a single-hand hilt.

So I also ordered a choke style 3 long. Here you can see it with the emitter screwed in, which shows nicely the difference between the plain aluminium and the media-blasted, I believe.

I don't have a double-female piece at the moment, so I removed the emitter and screwed the pommel in.

Someone else made a comment that, with a double-female adapter, the choke 3 long would make a decent shoto all by itself. I am kind of interested in making a matching shoto for my daito, but that's down the road... and I'm kind of thinking that maybe an MHSv2 hilt would be better, if Tim ever makes any of those again.

Anyway, the last bit of fun was the pommel insert. I'm waffling about this -- I want to keep the lines of the saber as clean as possible, and my initial thought was to put an activation button and recharge port in a box 9, and use the pommel insert to hang the saber from a hook on my belt. But Sorrow was a pre-fall Jedi, and the D-rings are sort of a New Jedi Order look. In our game, Sorrow's lightsaber had an internal, force-activated switch, so no one who wasn't force-sensitive could turn it on. I don't at the moment know how to do that (though I am tossing around some thoughts regarding RFID chips) so it has to have a switch. I'm waffling between having a 16 mm AV switch in a recessed hole on the side, with the recharge port in the pommel insert; or putting the switch in the pommel insert and having the recharge port on the side.

I guess it's going to come down to whether the covertec kill-switch that fits in the recharge port is strictly cosmetic, or if it's got enough friction to actually hold a saber in a clip.  Or maybe I'll just shove the saber through wraps on my belt like a katana through an obi. I dunno.