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I should have been born a cat
Welcome to Working Title. This is a public journal, but old posts (and the rare new post) are friends-only.

Information about me can be found on my user page. New LiveJournal friends are welcome: feel free to friend me, but please do leave a note (here or otherwise) and introduce yourself if you would like to be friended in return.
Anime/Game
As I post more of these boys, it's getting harder for new readers to catch up on what's come before. So for everyone's ease, I finally offer:

PREVIEWb
Ghost and Aaron: A Sims 3 Story
Introduction and Master List

Aaron (with freckles and dyed black hair) is brash and rude, but behind his bravado is certain vulnerability. Ghost (with white hair and pale eyes) is inward-turned, expressing himself through the arts—but his passivity hides depth. They are cousins who, for most of their lives, were only casual acquaintances. Two years ago, Aaron moved in with Ghost and his mother, and the boys quickly became close friends. But one day, after they had moved into a filthy suburban home in Sunset Valley, Aaron kissed Ghost—changing their relationship forever, and beginning their chronicled story.

From their first spontaneous kiss onward, Ghost and Aaron's story has been almost entirely autonomous. I set up premises, and they provide plot—and the boys have a strange magic that makes it all possible. I post lightly annotated, image-heavy chronicles of their daily lives, supplemented with text-only, non-chronological storybits that fill in gaps in their daily developments and backstory. Storybits in particular may contain explicit sexual content, so consider yourself warned.

The list below contains every post where Aaron and Ghost appear, from cameos to major developments. The numbering system is completely meaningless (but keeps things in order); storybits are often non-chronological and tangentially related, but add significant depth. I have no posting schedule—updates come when they come. Comments and discussion are always welcome. Enjoy!

Master List — The time when...
001 They first appear.
002 Aaron kisses Ghost.
003 Aaron sets fire to the TV.
004 Their romantic relationship gets going.
005 Ghost quits his job.
006 They finally have sex.
          Bonus House tour.
007 They cameo during their honeymoon period.
008 The repoman comes.
          Bonus Family photos and Storybit 01: Aaron on the doorstep.
009 Ghost says "I love you."
           Bonus Storybit 02: Ghost dreams of death.
010 Ghost's dreams get worse.
          Bonus Storybit 03: Aaron says "I love you."
011 Storybit 04: The second round, while Ghost should be sleeping.
012 They have a surprising amount of sex.
          Bonus Storybit 05: Aaron picks Ghost up from work.
013 Ghost started to come to terms with Aaron's thievery.
          Bonus Storybit 06: Aaron questions Ghost's sexual history.
014 They cameo at the Silverman-Moore wedding.
015 Storybit 07: Aaron bottoms for the first time.
016 They visit Mouse.
          Bonus Storybit 08: The night with Nathan.
017 Everything's going well, so Aaron's parents show up.
          Bonus Storybit 09: The rings.
018 Things do not happen in France.
019 Aaron's parents visit.
          Bonus Storybit 10: What does not happen after Aaron's parents leave.
020 Previous update outtakes.
021 They spend a couple irresponsible days.


You can also browse my tags for Sims 3 and Sims 3: Ghost and Aaron for some supplemental discussion and photo logs of my other Sims. All my Sims photos are gathered in galleries on my Flickr.
I should have been born a cat
Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab Website.

bpal_feedback avaliable here.

BPAL I have up for swap (locked).

My BPAL wishlist

I'm always willing to try new BPAL scents or to stock up on my favorites, but there are some scents that I desire more than others. I generally collect imps/decants because I go through oils slowly. You can fund my BPAL obsession through Paypal (swiftskyes AT hotmail DOT com) or ship them to me directly (can't see my contact info? want to? just ask).

I've included information about my favorite scents and notes (to give you an idea of what I like) and my wishlist for both limited edition and general catalog imps. Asterisks denote my highest priorities.

My favorite scents, notes, and tastesCollapse )


Limited Edition/Retired/Unimpable/etc WishlistCollapse )


General Catalog WishlistCollapse )


Non-BPAL & Miscellaneous WishlistCollapse )
Books Once More
Title: The Lost Steersman (The Steerswoman Book 3)
Author: Rosemary Kirstein
Published: Smashwords, 2014 (2003)
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 420
Total Page Count: 198,385
Text Number: 585
Read Because: continuing the series, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: While searching the Steerswoman's archives for evidence of the wizard Slado, Rowan instead encounters an improbable influx of demons to the Inner Lands. The first two thirds of this installment make for a slow start—they contain information which is profound in hindsight, but their domestic scale and repetitive pacing slows a story that seemed like it was heading towards climax. But the final third is superb. It's a captivating, evocative, unremittingly logical journey into the unknown, grounded in punishing survivalism; it adds a new dimension to the fantasy meets science premise which more than keeps that premise alive—it redefines it. I feel like this particular installment could have been tightened or rebalanced, because, while successful, its pacing better suits a first book than a third. But that quibble is no roadblock to my ongoing satisfaction with this series, which continues to impress.

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Writing
Title: Conservation of Shadows
Author: Yoon Ha Lee
Published: Germantown: Prime Books, 2013
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 330
Total Page Count: 197,965
Text Number: 585
Read Because: personal enjoyment, paperback received in a Tor.com giveaway (multiple years ago, oops)
Review: Sixteen short stories, of magic systems based in music or math, of political intrigues and rebel battles, with diverse Asian influence, written a dense, stylized voice. All single author collections run the risk of repetition, but this especially so: there's a lot of overlap in plot structure, as well as worldbuilding technique. But taken individually, over half the stories are outright successes; the ones I remember best are those that deviate from convention, like the vignettes of "A Vector Alphabet of Interstellar Travel," the compelling character dynamic of "The Black Abacus" which is absent from most stories, the exaggerated style and second person address of "Conservation of Shadows," or simply length that develops "Iseul's Lexicon." I wasn't eager to pick this up between stories—I find Yoon Ha Lee's work distant and inscrutable; I like the concepts, but the human element sparks little investment. But while it may not have been to my taste, this was certainly an interesting read. I recommend it ambivalently.

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Writing
Title:You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)
Author: Felicia Day
Published: New York: Touchstone, 2015
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 300
Total Page Count: 197,295
Text Number: 583
Read Because: watching a Geek & Sundry show, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: In this memoir, internet phenomenon Felicia Day recounts her childhood, acting career, and the creation of webseries The Guild. She has a conversational, accessible voice (sometimes too accessible: the many pauses to overexplain aspects of nerd culture slow the pace) which makes this a quick, easy read. This is about what I expected, which doesn't mean it's boring. Day's self-deprecating nerdy persona is both natural and groomed for consumability, and as charming/relatable as always; she simultaneously demystifies her success and discusses the particular cultural phenomenon she's encountered, including (a mainstream, non-intersectional take on) misogyny within geek culture. This is engaging but not world-changing. I don't particularly recommend it, but if you're interested then it's harmless.

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Books Once More
Title: The Outskirter's Secret (The Steerswoman Book 2)
Author: Rosemary Kirstein
Published: Smashwords, 2014 (1992)
Rating: 5 of 5
Page Count: 340
Total Page Count: 197,635
Text Number: 584
Read Because: continuing the series, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: Rowan heads deep into the Outskirts in search of the fallen Guidestar. The series's fantasy-meets-science fiction premise doesn't grow tiresome, in large part because the major plot twist is unpredictable but logical—drawing the reader into the protagonist's limited PoV, while still allowing their wider knowledge to inform the worldbuilding. The strengths of the first book, the detailed, lived-in world and the compelling ways in which characters reason through the mysteries that surround them, persist. And the developments in this volume as significant enough that this doesn't feel like a middle or a filler book, despite two more sequels. I loved this, and can't wait to continue the series.

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Writing
Title: The Steerswoman (The Steerswoman Book 1)
Author: Rosemary Kirstein
Published: Smashwords, 2014 (1989)
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 280
Total Page Count: 196,995
Text Number: 582
Read Because: reviewed by Kalanadi, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: A Steerswoman's investigation into a collection of unusual gems puts her at odds with the nation's wizards. But the real plot here is "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic"—a clever thesis that makes for a somewhat one-note plot. Luckily, Kirstein has a strong grasp on the aspects that counterbalance it: the slow exploration and worldbuilding that establish the existent worldview, and the utterly convincing thought processes by which characters learn to question their status quo. There aren't any particularly interesting characters here (although it's great to see so many women), but the ways that they think, their bright minds encountering and exceeding the limitations of their experiences, is compelling. I hope the sequels complicate things, but look forward to finding out—this is a promising beginning.

The Steerswoman's interiority, fantasy-meets-science setting, and domestic detail remind me of Vonda N. McIntyre's Dreamsnake.

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Anime/Game
(CW for offhand discussion of mental health issues and suicidal ideation.)

At the risk of jinxing it, we've been having unseasonably cool weather these last few weeks. I hate summer but live seasonally, in particular organizing my media consumption around the seasons, so this deviation is disorientating but not unwelcome. And I've been finding a lot of media to fill the gap in my media consumption as I push some things back (like sports anime, which is uniquely suited to warm weather).

I discovered Critical Role only approximately an eon behind everyone else, and it's phenomenal and also a gigantic timesink. Halfway through the second episode I stopped to make sure it was safe to binge watch and I wouldn't run into a sudden end, but the joke was on me because it's 50+ 3 hour-long episodes. I've never participated in a tabletop RPG and always wanted to, but never been interested in D&D because of my hatred of high fantasy; I still don't care about the setting, but I had underestimated how engaging this sort of by-user for-user creation could be, even when the source material is as generic as imaginable. (It does make me wish I could play something similar, which then reminds me that a lot of things aren't accessible to me because of my crazy; I receive that reminder often, and it always manages to sap away some joy, but the show is still fun to watch.)

(See also: Pokemon GO, which I would love to play but can't b/c no cell phone b/c mental health reasons, so that's a fun phenomenon to be excluded from.)

I've also been reading significantly more book series in the last few years, which has increased by book consumption considerably and contributes to the number of books I've reviewed this year. I still dislike the time and energy demand of series, still think a lot of them would benefit from brevity, and always keep to my habit of alternating between series-book and non-series book to prevent fatigue—but there's something satisfying about chewing through a sequence of books instead of a slew of stand-alones, and it's opened up some authors (Octavia Butler, a lot of children's/MG/YA literature, and, goodness knows, a ton of SF/F) that I previously would have avoided.

This last week or so I've been having some abnormal pain problems (neck and upper back, approximately unrelated to my normal back pain) that are affecting my sleep, and some amorphous low blood pressure issues. Both are annoying but niether particularly awful; less sleep just means more time for stories, and, as established, feeling cold in the summer is A-ok with me.

My mental health issues mean that I have constant suicidal ideation, not often with any particular desire or intent but with unflagging consistency; I would always rather not be, even when various symptoms are in remission; I have never found anything that justifies the effort of being present. And these stories still don't, but the sheer number of them, that I'm timesharing episodes to watch against series installments to finish, means that—for a rare occasion—I feel like there's not enough time, not enough of being, for all these things. That's not exactly a counterbalance but it's pretty close, as these things go.

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Writing
Title: The Vegetarian
Author: Han Kang
Translator: Deborah Smith
Published: New York: Hogarth, 2016 (2007)
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 190
Total Page Count: 196,715
Text Number: 581
Read Because: personal enjoyment, used ARC found in a local Little Free Library (book donated: Bedbugs by Ben H. Winters)
Review: After a series of gruesome dreams, Yeong-hye refuses to consume meat—a change which spirals her apparently-normal marriage and family towards chaos. This is similar to Margaret Atwood's The Edible Woman, female food consumption as metaphor for the ways in which women's bodies and behaviors are policed, but the two books are hardly redundant. The Vegetarian is a fevered dream, impulsive, obsessive, grim. Claustrophobic point of view narration is balanced by a distance from the protagonist, who is seen almost exclusively through other characters's eyes. But it's not entirely successful, due in part to the slow start (blame that on a culture gap: vegetarianism is treated as wildly irregular, which inflates the action), the themes are grow heavy-handed, and the distance from the protagonist deadens the tone. (I'm also not fond of one character's mental illness functioning as another character's growth.) There's some evocative and confrontational themes at work here, but I never quite fell in love.


(Putting a "not recommended" on this but, honestly, I'm ambivalent. Great themes! intriguing atmosphere! PoC author, work in translation, also won the Man Booker Prize! But it was a little too literary fiction-y for me, so I got hung up on its flaws.)

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Books Once More
Title: The Lie Tree
Author: Frances Hardinge
Published: New York: Amulet Books, 2016 (2015)
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 380
Total Page Count: 196,525
Text Number: 580
Read Because: trying another book by the author, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: When her family flees to the island of Vane to escape rumors that her naturalist father is a fraud, Faith is drawn into a grave mystery. The titular plot point doesn't appear until a third of the way in, and what proceeds that is a hamfisted, draining reminder that sexism is bad and Victorian-era sexism was especially bad. But once it overcomes its slow start, this is compelling. The premise is unique and morally confrontational, and the murder mystery is just clever enough to counterbalance some predictable interpersonal arcs. Best of all is the way that the plot ties in to the ongoing feminist themes. Hardinge leaves no woman behind: the protagonist's growth occurs as she overcomes her internalized misogyny, everyone has agency, femininity is a performance but not villainized, and there's some hints of intersectionality. I wish this whole novel were as successful as its ending, but, flaws and all, I admire and recommend it.

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10th-Jul-2016 01:23 am - Book Review: Cam Girl by Leah Raeder
Books Once More
Title: Cam Girl
Author: Leah Raeder (Elliot Wake)
Published: New York: Atria Books, 2015
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 430
Total Page Count: 196,145
Text Number: 579
Read Because: fan of the author, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: After a car accident destroys her drawing hand and romantic relationship, Vada is drawn into the world of camming. Raeder/Elliot Wake's novels are compelling erotic thrillers, and at its height this is certainly that: sexually charged, intense, intimate, discomforting. But the drunken mistery of the first quarter of the book makes for a slow start, and when all is said and done the mystery here is more contrived than complex. On the other hand, the novel's themes of gender identity and sexual orientation (and disability, and chronic pain) are vital—sometimes preachy, but written from within, with valuable anger and compassion. I find I prefer Black Iris, which has a more robust plot to sustain its suspense, but I'm glad Cam Girl exists.

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Writing
Title: The End (A Series of Unfortunate Events Book 13)
Author: Lemony Snicket
Illustrator: Brett Helquist
Published: New York: HarperCollins, 2009 (2006)
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 340
Total Page Count: 195,715
Text Number: 578
Read Because: continuing the series, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: Olaf and the Baudelaires are stranded on an eerie island as this story comes to a close. The island is one of my favorite settings in the series; its social elements are predictable, but as a setting it's unique and evocative. The End is approximately the end I expected from this series. In keeping with tradition, it doesn't provide many solid answers. That's a cop-out (and imagine what the series could have been, if the overarching plot were as complex as allusions make it out to be!) but it works; the revelations which do occur are large enough, and, as always, the real payoff is catharsis. The last two chapters, refusing to make a tidy end but lingering on the siblings's dynamic, make for a satisfying, necessarily bittersweet conclusion.

My opinion of this series is unchanged: its aesthetic and gimmicks are engaging, but overstretched by the series's length. It could have been better if it were shorter or if the overarching plot were complex enough to sustain that length. What it is instead is mildly successful, fun but never great.

And I could really do without the tired, vaguely gross, friendzone/unrequited love/fridging Lemony/Beatrice dynamic that motivated the metaplot.

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Books
Title: Sorcerer to the Crown (Sorcerer Royal Book 1)
Author: Zen Cho
Published: New York: Ace, 2015
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 380
Total Page Count: 195,375
Text Number: 577
Read Because: PoC author, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: The first Black Sorcerer to the Crown, Zacharias must deal with the precarity of his position, foreign troubles, an unexpectedly powerful witch, and the slow loss of England's magic. This is a charming fantasy of manners, heavy on the fantasy, with a Regency setting and period-appropriate narrative voice. How historically accurate it is I have no idea, but it's a charming aesthetic. At the same time, it engages racism and sexism, writing from a marginalized perspective but maintaining a stubborn optimism and happy ending, which gives birth to the book's most subtle, effective moments. Sorcerer to the Crown is ultimately too frivolous for me—I want it to be more complex and realistic, or bigger and more playful; and I wish the magic system and fairies were more fantastic. Still, I value what it achieves and I think it's great fun.


It's hard to describe that thing that the book does best, not just to have PoC protagonists but to write from their perspective, but with ruthless narrative optimism. There's a fantastic scene near the end of the when Zacharias says goodbye to his mentor, where he simultaneously remembers, and continues to be affected by, the racism he's faced throughout his life, including from his mentor, and also experiences heartfelt love and loss. His history isn't swept away for the sake of an emotional farewell, it informs his experience, but the emotional farewell, with all its cathartic resolution, persists. Likewise, characters make witty remarks or cleverly problem-solve in the face of explicit prejudice—the thing is expressed, and/but the feel-good (power) fantasy works over it.

A lot of feminist speculative fiction is miserable to read, because in exploring sexism it forces the female readers to experience sexism by proxy—which is not without value, but is exhausting. Honest but uplifting representation is rare, and in keeping with this novel's charming tone. Marginalized representation is precious, but that this represents, engages, and doesn't punish a marginalized audience? I never fell in love with the aesthetic or plot, but that particular element I adore.

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Writing
Title: Alex + Ada Volume 1 (Issues #1-5)
Author and Illustrator: Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn
Published: Berkeley: Image Comics, 2015
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 130
Total Page Count: 194,730
Text Number: 574
Read Because: interested in the trope, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: When given an top of the line android, Alex names her Ada and is drawn into the underworld of android sentience. This first third of the story spends most of it time on worldbuilding; character development and interactions are limited as a result, and perhaps that's for the best as Ada is a non-character for most of this volume. The worldbuilding is what one would expect from the premise, the art is beyond bland, but the underlying concepts are interesting—especially the localized, personal focus on the creation of and interaction with sentience.


Title: Alex + Ada Volume 2 (Issues #6-10)
Author and Illustrator: Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn
Published: Berkeley: Image Comics, 2015
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 130
Total Page Count: 194,860
Text Number: 575
Read Because: continuing the series, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: An android's awakened sentience makes for a complicated relationship with her former owner. This continues to be surface-level good: it engages promising tropes and is nicely human—especially Ada's curiosity and burgeoning sense of self. I'm a sucker for sentient android narratives, and while this brings nothing new to the table it still satisfies those desires. But the interpersonal narrative is predictable and uninspired, and its heteronormativity is all the more disappointing for the diversity hinted at by background characters.


Title: Alex + Ada Volume 3 (Issues #11-15)
Author and Illustrator: Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn
Published: Berkeley: Image Comics, 2015
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 135
Total Page Count: 194,995
Text Number: 576
Read Because: continuing the series, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: Alex and Ada are thrust into a political battle over android rights. I appreciate the scope of this conclusion, but otherwise it continues as it began: engaging tropes with unimaginative exploration. I wish this series had more creative worldbuilding, exploring AI personality construction and otherwise bringing to the foreground the teasing bits of information that make up the background (a sentient robot shaped like an egg! androids defying human gender conventions! androids switching off parts of their brains!). I also wish that the foreground cast were as diverse as the background characters; a star-crossed straight white cis pairing renders predictable the romance that motivates the story in lieu of interesting worldbuilding. Alex + Ada is consistently readable, and I wanted to love it, but what it does has been done better elsewhere; this is only mediocre, and I don't recommend it.

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Books Once More
Title: Ancillary Mercy (Imperial Radch #3)
Author: Ann Leckie
Published: New York: Orbit, 2015
Rating: 5 of 5
Page Count: 330
Total Page Count: 194,600
Text Number: 573
Read Because: continuing the series, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: Breq's efforts to reestablish Athoek Station are complicated by the Presger, a peculiar Ship, and Anaander's ongoing war. This is phenomenal, a reaction which is cumulative, based more on three books's worth of investment rather than this single novel. But the series as a whole deserves that praise, and this is a cumulative book both emotionally and thematically. Watching the unlikely cast and Breq's unique point of view evolve continues to be a singular pleasure—a pleasure that this finale emphatically indulges. The ending isn't particularly complex or unexpected, but follows the series's tradition by extending speculative themes and complex worldbuilding to a brilliant, inevitable resolution. What a fantastic series, and such a strong way to end it. I can't wait to do a reread someday.


I am haunted by unwritten reviews for books I read in March.

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Writing
Title: The Penultimate Peril (A Series of Unfortunate Events Book 12)
Author: Lemony Snicket
Illustrator: Brett Helquist
Published: New York: HarperCollins, 2009 (2005)
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 350
Total Page Count: 194,270
Text Number: 572
Read Because: continuing the series, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: The Baudelaires go to the Hotel Denouement, the last safe space, there to spy on a gathering of volunteers and villains. For its obsession with denouements, precious little is explained in this book. Old characters reappear, and ongoing themes of moral complexity continue—and while it's interesting to revisit characters with new expectations, and while the siblings's character growth here is especially poignant, this merely reiterates previous books. Meanwhile, there's only one significant revelation and no denouement in sight. As impressed as I've been by the larger narrative in the second half of this series, it's come to feel stretched thin by the 13-book gimmick. I hope the final book is better!

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Anime/Game
Title: The Golden Day
Author: Ursula Dubosarsky
Published: Somerville: Candlewick Press, 2013 (2011)
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 160
Total Page Count: 193,920
Text Number: 571
Read Because: mentioned as similar to Picnic at Hanging Rock, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: In Melbourne in 1967, a group of schoolgirls accompany their teacher to a cave on the coastline—and their teacher disappears. This is an atmospheric novella inspired by Joan Lindsay's Picnic at Hanging Rock, almost stylized, certainly an homage: the intrusion of the unknown into Europeanized Australia. Picnic is the more transcendent and successful, and The Golden Day wears its inspirations on its sleeve—but it's delightful, with an authentic point of view, an ending which sidesteps simplicity, and most importantly an evocative, haunted, ambiguous atmosphere. If you liked Picnic, certainly check this out, and don't be put off by the middle grade label which is accurate but not restrictive.

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