talkstowolves: I speak with wolves and other wicked creatures. (talks to wolves)

The time has come for all good women and men to become wicked creatures of sensual scent and the mythic dark. Persephone is sashaying back to her crown and her love, scattering dried petals and dying leaves behind her with every deliberate step. Hades has opened up his door, and soon it’ll close behind her.

Nothing to fear awaits you in these dark passages, so long as you’re a friend to Furies.


If any of that resonated with you – and you like perfume oils – you’re a BPAL fan. You just might not know it yet. Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab are great people with a great company, and they’ve been helping us smell amazing for more than a decade. They revel in the beautifully macabre, and also partner up to feed our geeky hearts with perfume oils inspired by Neil Gaiman‘s words and worlds, Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak, Lovecraftian lore, fairy tales, and so much more.

This year, they decided to start a series of contests inspired by the Seven Deadly Sins. “Seduce us in 7!” they cried, and threw open their email box and social media accounts to receive stories of seven words inspired by the designated sin. Their very first sin was LUST, and I had the honor of being the very first winner – that’s my micro story above, beautifully rendered by the BPAL folks. As I put it when I found out:


It’s been over 6 months, but still? I’M SO EXCITED.

You should also all read the honorable mentions and check out the hashtag on Twitter (though you’d have to scroll back a fair bit for the Lust edition entries). There is some truly beautiful and evocative work there.

And now? I want to tell you about the perfume oil they created.

bpal-sws-lust3As a winner, I received a bottle of the final scent. In the bottle, the pomegranate is strong and lush – to my nose, it almost trips over into cherry. The end of the inhale pulls the smoke into play. On my skin, wet: the smoke emerges first, tickling my nose until the pomegranate rose up behind it. And, at last, on my skin, dry: the two distinct notes I picked out at first fully merge into a complicated and heady interplay that draws the nose closer. A perfect match for my sentence! BPAL’s artistry is stunning, and I’m delighted all over again that my story inspired them.

Since the Lust edition of the contest, they’ve also hosted one for Sloth and then Wrath. There are four more sins to go – make sure you’re following BPAL on Twitter (or Facebook!) so you can participate in the next ones. Even if you’re just reading, you’re in for a real treat.

And don’t forget to enjoy the Autumnal equinox – the Seven Word Story: Lust perfume oil would be a perfect complement to your dying year festivities.

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talkstowolves: I speak with wolves and other wicked creatures. (talks to wolves)

So many things to share this week, and I’m excited about all of them! Let’s jump right in.

Things that I wrote:

A review of Roses and Rot by Kat Howard, featured over at the SurLaLune Fairy Tales blog.
A review of the Stranger Things soundtrack, over at Nerdspan.
Great Cats of History, Part 2, over at Front Page Meews.

Things that I read:

Salvador Dali and Walt Disney: A Forgotten Collaboration That Will Leave You Breathless,” being exactly what it says on the tin.
Delightful Ways We Refer to Groups of Animals in English,” being full of great collective nouns.
In Defense of Villainesses” by Sarah Gailey at will make you cackle with understanding.

Things that I made:

This be a preview of the banner.

This deliciously creepy wallpaper can be YOURS when you back the Kickstarter for Wine, which I told you about yesterday! Let me know when you’re a backer, and I’ll send you a download link for this wallpaper in a variety of sizes (including those perfect for Twitter and Facebook banners).


This week’s Whiteboard Weirdness is in honor of Seanan McGuire‘s October Daye urban fantasy series! The 10th book just came out last week, so a rose goblin seemed appropriate. This drawing is inspired by kadharonon’s cute illustration on DeviantArt.

Things that I’m excited about:







Click the pics if you fancy purchasing any of the above! I get a modest kickback from Amazon if you do.

And, of course, I’m terribly excited about the Wine Kickstarter! Back it here: 


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talkstowolves: I speak with wolves and other wicked creatures. (talks to wolves)

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have heard me mention a new venture once or twice – Poppy Games, a vibrant and idea-rich game company launched by my brother, Joseph Brannon. He and his creative partners have been developing games collectively for a decade, and are at last ready to share them with the world. He’s got five beautiful and fun card and board games in the pipeline, and he’s just launched a Kickstarter for the first of them: the micro card game Wine.

wine-logoWine is an elegantly simple game, easy to learn, and takes minutes to play. All you have to do is avoid the chalice with the palace… I mean the flagon with the dragon… wait… ahem. Just avoid the glass with the poison in it! Of course, to do that, you have to outwit your friends.

Wine is also a visual treat, with lush art created by Sabrina Abrego. Poppy Games is committed to visual and tactile delight as well as good games. The basic game comes in a linen drawstring bag, and the collector’s edition in a handmade bag with a nice box.

So, what are you waiting for? Do you like games? Go back it! The basic game is only $10 – and, if you back it, come back and let me know. (Or just tweet me @geekdame.) I’ll give you a download link for a deliciously creepy wallpaper I made in honor of the game! You’ll get it in a range of wallpaper sizes, as well as sizes perfect for Facebook or Twitter banners:

This be a preview of the banner.

And don’t forget to share the Kickstarter with your friends! Poppy Games is rich in potential, and y’all can help them realize that.

Full disclosure: I already identified that my brother founded Poppy Games; I am also serving as their Media Relations Consultant.

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talkstowolves: I speak with wolves and other wicked creatures. (talks to wolves)


Some years back, I discovered a little book called Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner. I immediately drowned in that novel, and wouldn’t have noticed a life preserver if one was thrown at me. The irascible scholar Alec, the graceful swordsman Richard St. Vier, their difficult romance, the deadly and colorful Riverside and the cutthroat yet elegant politics of the greater city completely ensnared my attention. Not to mention the swordplay! Honestly, I was intoxicated. I tasted blood and wanted more.

More, more, more.

Fast forward to last autumn, when I discovered my well-loved Riverside had exploded into serial fiction. With Serial Box, an exciting and clever new publisher, Kushner and a host of other excellent authors – Alaya Dawn Johnson, Malinda Lo, Joel Derfner, and more – had created a 13-story “season” of a new series set in Riverside and the nameless city surrounding it. I was hooked from the word Tremontaine, but I don’t know how anyone could resist once Serial Box executed their coup de grâce: a furious and playful commercial.

Season 1 of Tremontaine lived up to every expectation I had – and exceeded them. The world grew, and Riverside’s diversity with it. Most of the major players are women, including women of color. We met Micah, one of the best characters in the series, who is on the autism spectrum – something that is acknowledged, but NOT presented as a handicap. We have bisexual recognition, queer relationships of many stripes, and villains who pluck our heartstrings as much as do our heroes. Gender and cultural politics are interrogated. Power dynamics constantly shift, political as well as deadly intrigue abound, and swordplay is – of course – represented with heart-pounding vigor. Tremontaine is a feast for the senses and the mind; it’ll also make you crave chocolate like anything.

No, seriously, most of my Tremontaine nights were spent with a steaming cup of cocoa to hand. Pro tip: lay in a supply of hot chocolate.

This year, in anticipation of Season 2, I’m a delighted member of #TemonTEAM – bringing you the good word, as it were, of Our Series of Swords and Sin. Sometimes, this means I get sneak peeks and Serial Box outdid themselves with this week’s. Because. Y’all.


I GOT TO READ THE FIRST EPISODE! Even if you were in the room with me right now, you would not be able to hear me say how excited I am, mostly because your eardrums would be recovering from the high-pitched noises of delight I am helpless to restrain.

Ellen Kushner introduces us once more to the intrigues of Tremontaine with “Convocation,” inviting us into post-summer languor giving way to a new season of sensual deviltry and political jockeying. Duchess Tremontaine, Kaab, and Rafe Fenton are all there – as are new players, complicating the playing board and the world in ever more beautiful and delicious ways. Cleverness is your best friend in this world, and the wisdom to wield it – while the best lover is power and the will to resist (just enough) its many charms. I can’t wait for you all to read this episode; I can’t wait to talk about it in more detail. (WHERE ARE MY VIRAGO GRISELDA FANS AT?!) For now, though, I’ve made you a little something – a visual taste of our Grande Dame of Desperation and Ambition’s Season 2 debut:


The Duchess Tremontaine’s back! We’re all gonna be in trouble.

(The image above features an altered close-up of a portrait of Empress Maria Feodorovna, painted by Konstantin Makovsky. Words are by Ellen Kushner, from “Convocation,” the first episode of Tremontaine Season 2. I altered the image in Pixlr.)

P.S. I didn’t even mention the GORGEOUS paper-cutout art for each episode created by Kathleen Jennings! That’s on me because, seriously, the art is a remarkable distillation of each episode and a core part of the story that is Tremontaine.

P.P.S. I feel bad for not mentioning the other authors of Season 1 on account of fine-tuned sentence flow. So, here we go: the other excellent authors of Tremontaine Season 1 were Racheline Maltese, Patty Bryant, and Paul Witcover. Oh, and Jaida Jones & Danielle Bennett who snuck in a cat-and-burglar-filled freebie with “Willie Be Nimble.

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talkstowolves: I speak with wolves and other wicked creatures. (talks to wolves)

Welcome to the weekly round-up! Mind your tongues and elbows, Ps and Qs, and whatever other things that might stick out or get you in trouble. Oh yeah, and enjoy all these things what I assembled for you.

Things that I wrote:

Pro Tips for the Great Hairstylist Quest, at ISA Professional’s blog.
Great Cats of History, Part 1, at Front Page Meews.

Things that I read:

Tove Jansson’s Rare Vintage Illustrations for Alice in Wonderland” over at Brain Pickings is full of marvels to behold.
Get in the Ring: Vintage Images of Female Bodybuilders and ‘Strong Women’ Showing Off,” being full of lady badasses to admire.
This GREAT post at Over the Effing Rainbow in honor of #TremonTEAM: “Everyone Loves Turnips!: A Micah Heslop Appreciation Post.”

Things that I made:


I finally achieved a day off this week and spent it catching up on Dragon Age: Inquisition, which made drawing a chibi Varric snuggling with Bianca a natural choice for this week’s Whiteboard Weirdness. For some definitions of natural, anyway. My reference illustration was the adorable “Varric Chibi” by RedPawDesigns at DeviantArt.

Things that I’m excited about: 








Click the pics to purchase if you’re likewise excited about any of the featured items above! I get a modest kickback from Amazon if you do.


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talkstowolves: I speak with wolves and other wicked creatures. (talks to wolves)

sandtroutsurprise-debsIt’s been a minute since we’ve had a sci-fi geek recipe around here! So, when I asked my mom what she’d like me to bake for her birthday – and she hit the CINNAMON ROLLS button – I knew what I had to do. It was time to break out Sandtrout Surprise, my very decadent and dramatically spiced special cinnamon rolls. Oh yes, my friends. Put down your Dune novels, pick up your aprons, and let’s get messy. It’s time to bake!

geekdame-alchemyPresents! Sandtrout Surprise
(Cinnamon Rolls)
3/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup butter
3 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 package instant yeast (.25 oz)
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup water
1 extra large egg

1 cup packed brown sugar
2 tbsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup butter (softened)

Heat the milk in a small saucepan. When it just starts foaming or bubbling, remove it from the heat and add 1/4 cup butter. Stir until the butter has melted, and then allow the mixture to sit until it’s lukewarm.

Meanwhile, combine 2 1/4 cup flour with the yeast, white sugar, and salt. Whisk so it’s well-mixed. Add the water, egg, and buttery milk mixture. Beat well – I used my Kitchenaid hand mixer until it was mostly a sticky mass with flour around the edges of the bowl. At this point, I hand-stirred in the rest of the flour, adding 1/2 cup at a time. Once the dough has pulled together (add flour if you need to in tablespoon increments), turn it out onto a floured board and knead it about 5 minutes. I kept adding flour to my hands of the board as needed to make the dough less sticky and leave it smooth.

Put the dough in a bowl, cover it with a damp cloth, and let it sit for 10 minutes. Spend your time contemplating the Litany Against Fear or arguing the ethical merits of Leto II’s reign.

Or you can put the filling together! Mix together the brown sugar, cinnamon, and 1/2 cup of softened butter in a separate bowl. You can just mash it all together with a fork until you’ve got a chunky, dark, fragrant mixture.


Once 10 minutes have passed, roll out your dough with a rolling pin. I rolled mine into a roughly 12×9 inches oval shape. Dump the cinnamon and sugar mixture on top of the rolled-out dough, and spread it out as evenly as possible to cover most of the dough. Then roll the dough up into a tube and pinch the ends shut.

Now you’ve got a fat sandtrout of delicious spice.

Slice the roll into equal parts. You can get 8 enormous cinnamon rolls out of this, or go for a more modest 12. I recommend using the dental floss method to divide it up as knifework on raw dough can get a bit tricky.


Place the sliced rolls into a greased pan – I generally use a 13×9 inch casserole dish. Cover them with a cloth and let them sit for 35 minutes while they rise. The dough should increase in size, but probably won’t double. That’s okay.


(Top picture: before rising. Bottom picture: after rising 35 minutes.)

The last few minutes of this period is the best time to preheat your oven to 375 F. Then slide your cinnamon rolls into the oven for 25 minutes. Check them and, if they’re golden brown, take them out! If not, keep a close eye on them until they turn golden.

sandtroutsurprise-doneThe cinnamon-sugar mixture should be bubbling and frothing, and the rolls should be enormous. Let them sit for at least 5 minutes, then transfer them to another container or a serving dish. Or transfer them directly to your mouth. Spice is good for you, and there’s no judging here.

These cinnamon rolls microwave well. You can slather them with any glaze or frosting of your choice. (I like mine plain.) They should last a few days on the counter, or up to a week in the refrigerator – as if you’ll ever have to worry about that. (Seriously, you won’t. THESE ARE ARRAKEEN DELICIOUS.)


(“Arrakeen delicious” means “addictingly delicious” because spice.)

Nutritional info: LOL.

Now that you have a geek treat in hand, allow me to introduce some more treats! Mainly, Geek Dame’s Alchemical Delights stuff for you and your home. That’s right! I’ve put my Alchemical Delights logo (pictured above and designed by the brilliant Lorraine Schleter) onto a few made-to-order products over at my Zazzle shop and my RedBubble shop. Check out the list below – I’m especially excited by the spiral-bound notebook, which would be great for writing down recipes!

On Zazzle:

Refrigerator Magnet.
Small button.

On Redbubble:

Spiral Notebook.
Travel mug.
Tote bag.

I take requests – if there’s something you’d like but don’t see, just drop me a note and I’ll see what I can do.

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talkstowolves: I speak with wolves and other wicked creatures. (talks to wolves)

I was, perhaps, raised on a very strange comedy diet – for a child of the 80’s, anyway. (Thanks, mom!) As a kid under 12, my comedic friends were Jerry Lewis, Danny Kaye, George Burns, the Marx Brothers, Peter Sellers, Peter Cook – and, of course, Mel Brooks with his whole band of merry friends: Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman, Harvey Korman, Cloris Leachman, Gene Wilder.

Gene Wilder. Gene Wilder is dead.

Gene-WilderHis name encompassed his mad whimsy, y’know? Gene Wilder. I spent sick afternoons with him and Richard Pryor thwarting wiles while blind and deaf. I played with Gene a thousand times in his chocolate factory, with his deceptive limp, terrifying about-faces, spooky whimsy, and whimsical danger – and his warmth, generosity, and enchanting genius. I hung out playing chess with him and Cleavon Little at the town jail rather more often than a child should, but I turned out alright. And I cackled with mad glee right alongside him as he succumbed to his heritage and his genius in a Transylvanian castle.

I loved Gene Wilder the way a child loves their heroes. I’ve lived with him all my life. His films have been boon companions, always there to get me through – whether I needed to laugh just because or to creep back from some edge. I know his movies’ shapes, and how they fit inside me – and the space they fit into is labeled delight.

He lived a long and fruitful life, well-loved and well-celebrated. I’ll miss him – I know I didn’t know him as a person, but I knew him in the present tense.

Though I cannot begrudge him leaving us, I absolutely can mourn the disease that shadowed his last years. The same disease that robbed the world of Terry Pratchett much too soon. Gene Wilder died from complications due to Alzheimer’s. Can no one rid us of this troublesome disease? There have been some breakthroughs – and I encourage everyone who wishes to make a donation in Wilder’s memory, to do so to a charity targeting Alzheimer’s research, e.g. Cure Alzheimer’s Fund. Let’s science Alzheimer’s to death.

And let’s remember Gene Wilder as a man about whom his family could sincerely say: “He simply couldn’t bear the idea of one less smile in the world.” Well. He doesn’t have to worry about that. He’ll always help so many of us smile.

Thank you, Gene.

Note: Photo above by Steve Wood.

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talkstowolves: I speak with wolves and other wicked creatures. (talks to wolves)

This week, my nephew came into the world! Also, I wrote stuff that’s not due to be published for a little while. That means no links to other sites featuring my work today, but there’s still a few things to share.

Things that I read: 

Thing that I made: 


This week’s Whiteboard Weirdness celebrates my aforementioned nephew! He’s been here four days now, and came into the world both screaming and a Leo – which makes the mighty lion a fitting welcome beast indeed. The cuddly lion reference came from a Google Image search.

Things that I’m excited about: 








Click the pics if you fancy purchasing any of the above! I get a modest kick-back from Amazon, if you do.

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talkstowolves: I speak with wolves and other wicked creatures. (talks to wolves)

Just like virtually everyone else I know, Andy and I fell into the Stranger Things hole a few weeks ago. It was sorta like visiting the Upside Down, but with much better food and not having to worry about what the hell I was breathing. So nothing like the Upside Down then, but we did live day-to-day in a creeping mist of questions and concern and admiration for Eleven and her bevy of adventurers, not to mention the hapless adults stumbling into national security black ops. And by day-to-day, I mean like the three days it took us to watch.

Ever since, I’ve been lurking for a good time to watch it again (my brother hasn’t seen it yet, LET ME CHANGE THAT), making my own Christmas lights message, and getting way too excited about Funko’s prototype rendering of an Eleven Pop!. (MAKE IT SO, FUNKO; TAKE MY MONEY.) And now I’ve decided to lob a 10 Things list at YOU, dear reader, so here we go!

(This is not a Top Ten list, and not in any particular order.)


1) 80’s Nostalgic, But Not Derivative!

It seems like Hollywood is constantly trying to package 80’s nostalgia and sell it to us these days – except they’re doing it by shitty remakes of everything from Transformers to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. (No, I will not apologize for both of those examples being Baystrosities.) Of course, they tend to get everything wrong – these franchises were products of their time (and our youth), and they’re being remade by people who arguably never cared about them – so they end up being neither genuine nor revolutionary.

Stranger Things doesn’t do that. Stranger Things is set in a very specific place – smalltown, heartland America in 1983. It is a science fiction story and a coming-of-age story and a mystery and a thriller. It loves Stephen King and Steven Spielberg and John Carpenter and so much more – but it does not want to be them. It wants to remind you of that intense wonder with an edge of fear in which you met E.T. or quailed from Carrie or cheered for the Goonies.

Stranger Things wraps you in atmosphere, and you breathe nostalgia in. And it is something special.

2) Hard Science Fiction of Unintended Consequences!

One of the best aspects of the mad science storyline in Stranger Things is that it’s so rooted in history – the USSR was actually investigating telepathy and more during the Cold War. As were we: the US did indeed have their own answering research team. So we have the set-up of a secret facility fostering ESP in an attempt to undermine the State’s enemies. But then everything goes wrong – instead of tapping only into info we wanted, we stumble sideways into an adjoining plane of existence… and the things there are hungry. It’s a simple skeleton to hang a story on, but supports oh such juicy meat being layered atop it. Er. I am not actually an untold horror from the Upside Down typing this, promise. I am human. So human. Now…come closer.

3) Eleven.

Eleven grew up in a lab as a science experiment, with a cold scientist who wore fatherhood like a labcoat – thin and easily discarded if it gets too messy. She can kill things with her brain. She still managed to retain a core of humanity and vulnerability that left her open to friendship and soft things. She knew that killing was wrong, and protection something she could offer her best and only friends. Eleven was a goddamn delight, and deserves ALL the Eggo Waffles. ALL OF THEM, BOB, YOU LEGGO ELEVEN’S EGGO RIGHT THIS INSTANT.


(See Ms Manatee’s post on Binge Whale for more boss Eleven moments.)

4) Joyce Byers.

I read Joyce has gotten some shit because she just acted crazy and screamed about her missing boy all season. That she is NOT FEMINIST. To which I ask: do you have a heart? Is it an empty hole? Is your last name Grinch?

Yeah, Joyce spends most of the season focused on her son Will Byers. He is TWELVE and GOES MISSING, so most people would understand why Joyce found herself so absorbed with her son. But far from turning into a helpless wreck of a person, she turns into a PROACTIVE wreck of a person. (There is nothing bad or weak about being a wreck of a person when a child you love and who depends on you goes missing over night. Just FYI.)  She seeks allies. She follows every lead. She does it alone when required. Joyce Byers is a woman who understands the truth is out there, and she’s going to find it come hell or high water, Upside Downs or a POS shaped like an ex-husband. Joyce Byers should be celebrated, and I say that as a feminist. The end.


5) Nancy Wheeler.

Nancy is our third female protagonist in Stranger Things, if you’ve been keeping count. THIRD. And she’s a teenage girl, which is prime territory for her just being THE WORST because 80’s nostalgia and sexism. Except she’s not THE WORST. She’s a complicated, real person who gets to make her own decisions and also make mistakes. She reconnects with her little brother, sees to the heart of many things, and doesn’t shrink from fighting in the dark for her lost best friend. She’s tough, dedicated, and smart – and she has one of the best lines in the entire series.

“What you kids doin’ with all this?” asks the hardware fella.


“Monster hunting.” Nancy tells it like it is.

(Check Jen Juneau’s post over on Yahoo! on “Why Nancy Wheeler from ‘Stranger Things’ isn’t getting the credit she deserves.” I don’t agree with parts of her argument, but she makes some good points.)

6) It Eats Teenage Stereotypes for Breakfast.

So there’s Cool Guy Steve, and he’s just a Grade A Jerk with no redeeming qualities and not worth dating, right? Except he stands up to his crappy friends, apologizes and atones for his mistakes, and, yeah, runs away from the Terrifying Horror from Beyond  – but then comes back to fight next to the girl he cares about.

And then there’s Tortured Soul Jonathan, who’s just misunderstood at school because he’s poor and likes to listen to The Clash or whatever, right? Well, no – he is awkward around people, but he also can be a creeper and sometimes takes pictures of topless women without their consent. That’s not okay – the show doesn’t say it is, nor does it use Nancy as a Reward for either boy in a sexist value system.

Stranger Things also doesn’t portray teenage sexuality as a bad thing in itself. Barb is taken by the Demogorgon while sadly sitting outside after Nancy decides to stay the night with her boyfriend – but sex is not the bad thing. That sex is not what threatens Nancy’s relationship with Steve, nor does it horribly impact her life afterward. She’s not pregnant, socially outcast, or spurned. Teenage sex is treated as a natural progression in a human’s life, and that’s notable in 80’s nostalgia fiction.

7) The Acting.

Okay, the acting is really top notch in this series. Wynona Ryder is amazing – at first, I kept pushing back against it, exclaiming all aghast that “Wynona is someone’s mom!” Which I know makes no sense, except she’s always first Lydia Deetz in my mind. But I soon forgot to see Wynona and just saw Joyce. The other adult actors are all really great as well, but I have to focus on the children now: I don’t even understand how Millie Bobby Brown was able to portray Eleven as she did. What dark intensity is this child mining to be so terrifying and deep? Then there’s the delightful Gaten Matarazzo (Dustin), fierce Caleb McLaughlin (Lucas), earnest Finn Wolfhard (Mike), and fragile Noah Schnapp (Will)… what talent Stranger Things‘ casting director found! This calls for a group hug.


8) Complete Story with Room to Grow!

Stranger Things had the good grace and the good sense to tell a complete story in their first season. They didn’t bank on getting more time, and end with some absurd cliffhanger. They also didn’t act without confidence and sew up every little thread. They told a well-balanced story – with a beginning, middle, and end – and told it in just enough episodes to keep it taut while still allowing it room to build. They satisfied the viewer, and did it while still scattering a few disturbing seeds that can blossom into strange and terrifying new tales in the next season.

Luckily, there’s going to be another season. And I can’t wait. No, seriously, guys, I can’t wait. START FILMING NOW, I WILL PAY YOU IN EGGOS AND ADMIRATION.

9) Dustin Henderson.

Y’all know I love Eleven. Lucas is the fierce warrior who won’t sacrifice common sense, and he’s amazing too. Mike’s the voice of the group, and Will is their Dude in Distress. But, y’all, Dustin – Dustin is the real MVP of their party. Any dude who shows up for the quest with the food – sugar AND protein – is the guy you don’t want to lose. He knows an army marches on its stomach, and he’s ready. He’s also their heart: he brokers peace, calls everyone on their shit, stands up for himself, but also knows when it’s time to cut and run.


Every party needs a Dustin Henderson. Don’t RP (or real life adventure) without one.

10) The Demogorgon.

Stranger Things dipped into their Lovecraftian Gigeresque nightmares for the Demogorgon and came up aces. Terrifying, spine-shuddering aces with slimy bits and a penchant for fresh blood. Not giving it a face was an inspired choice, and letting it be both the monster in the walls and the monster from beyond was another. The Demogorgon was so effective, in fact, that it terrified the youngest members of the cast (the two actresses who jointly played little Holly Wheeler) and the crew had to liken it to Sully from Monsters, Inc. to help calm them. (Thanks for the trivia, Movie Pilot!) A+ monster, y’all! Now I’m going back to NOT thinking about it for a while. All the shudders.


(For more GIFs of the show’s creepiest moments, check out Ms Manatee’s round-up on Binge Whale.)

And I’m gonna stop with 10, even though there is so much more to talk about.

Honorable mentions go to:
Barb, and there are plenty of great posts out there about her already.
The Christmas Lights Wall, and the great fanart it’s inspired (like Paul Tinker’s GIF).
The titles, which are so excellent they’ve inspired multiple articles (check out the A.V. Club’s breakdown).
And the perfectly atmospheric music, which I’ll be talking about on Nerdspan soon.

You also should all check out this round-up of brilliant Stranger Things fanart on Vox. Then drop into the comments and tell me what YOU love about Stranger Things!

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talkstowolves: I speak with wolves and other wicked creatures. (talks to wolves)

I did things this week! I also enjoyed things. Here are things I did and also enjoyed:

Things that I wrote:

Things that I read: 

Thing that I made:


I’m not a good visual artist, but I practice anyway – mainly on the family whiteboard, using dry erase markers (and liquid chalk markers, more recently). Above, we have Elliot from Pete’s Dragon – created with the help of this DragoArt tutorial.

And finally, things that I’m excited about: 

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talkstowolves: I speak with wolves and other wicked creatures. (talks to wolves)

Being a family of gamers who recently relocated, one of our priorities was in setting up a Game Room in our new space. Luckily, we were able to do just that – a disused dining room makes the perfect venue. Large table? CHECK. Space for at least 6 people around it? CHECK. Shelves to display minis and action figures; bookcases for RPG manuals? DOUBLE CHECK.


So now we have the dedicated space for weekly Dune and Star Wars roleplaying games.


Guess what our giant orange mackerel tabby Tiger Jack thinks of all this?




He thinks it’s ALL FOR HIM. “What?” He seems to say. “I’m a gamer. I play games.”




Tiger Jack is a cat who particularly enjoys attention. Why else would all these people, who clearly want to pet him, be gathered in one place? And why would they be throwing little balls, if not for him to bat at?


Above, he conspires with another player. Below, he is become Tiger Jackhulud, great Sandcat of Dune:




And so now? Now, we have #RPGCat:




The party’s doomed.


(You can see more of #RPGCat over on my Instagram feed; I tend to post there first.)


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talkstowolves: I speak with wolves and other wicked creatures. (talks to wolves)

Pokemon Go symbol with a red X sign over the O in Go.

Just like everyone else, I jumped on the cute monster-catching bandwagon the minute it became available. I crowed with delight at the Charmander appearing in my bedroom when I started Pokémon GO, and had an early fondness for Rattatas and Pidgeys infesting my house… at least until I caught enough of them to stage two full teams in a home football league.

Car rides with my husband became full of good-natured complaints as I asked to pull over for PokéStops, or started excitedly babbling about turning toward some Pokémon I’d never seen before. I made sure to take my phone with me and use some in-game incense on short backyard walks, and even moped on rainy days like one of the kids in The Cat in the Hat.

I even, like the kids in The Cat in the Hat, ended up having a bit of an adventure:

Real life Pokémon are hard, y’all.

And yet… I have not opened the game app in over two weeks now.

You see, I am a gamer with disabilities. I have a serious hip injury that prevents walking any significant distance, and I also suffer from fibromyalgia and traumatic arthritis. The days I am able to leave the house are a vanishing pleasure, inconsistently available and therefore reserved for important errands.

Niantic and Pokémon GO apparently don’t care about gamers like me.

I can’t walk miles to hatch eggs, which is something that gets you some rare Pokémon and helps you level. I can’t hare off on adventure when I spot a Pokémon nearby on the map. I can’t nip up to a gym to battle or defend it at a moment’s notice like my brother can. I can’t even spend time down at the hottest Pokémon spots in my city, where I might actually get to meet new people and socialize as well as keep my Poké Balls topped off and catch new Pokémon. I also can’t spend tons of money on gas, so riding around at 20 MPH to hatch eggs or catch Pokémon near roadways are not viable hacks for me. (Nor are those environmentally-friendly choices.)

I’m not the only gamer so badly disappointed, though you wouldn’t know it from the mainstream.

The Daily Dot wrote about Pokemon GO‘s barriers to players with disabilities a month ago, particularly citing the experience of Alyx, posting on the Tumblr Disability Health. Kotaku covered it, as did Emily Coday at The Mighty (from personal experience) and Julia Alexander at Polygon. Many of these articles feature comments from Steve Spohn of AbleGamers (an excellent charity and advocacy organization for gamers with disabilities).

Brian Conklin over at Unstoppable Gamer made the best of a bad lot, writing about ways gamers with disabilities could improve their Pokémon GO experience with the tools at hand. Then there was a series of unfortunately-titled articles like this one: “People Have Already Figured Out How To Cheat at Pokémon GO.” Well, Mr. Hale, you say “cheat,” I say “a creative way for gamers with disabilities to maybe play more effectively.” We can’t all be able-bodied.

Niantic has not responded to any of the points raised regarding Pokémon GO‘s accessibility trouble – not on their blog, nor in other responses outlined at Touch Arcade. Gamers with disabilities are not a priority, and our voices are not loud enough to garner even a harried “we’re working on it” throwaway comment.

What Niantic has done is go after tracking services that made it easier for gamers with disabilities to zero in on Pokémon, and introduce lifetime bans for those caught “cheating.” (Thanks for the coverage, TechCrunch.)

To say I’m disappointed is an understatement. Those early days of Pokémon GO brought a flash of joy and whimsy to days so often spent in pain and relative isolation. I’ve considered uninstalling Pokémon GO from my phone, but I’m hanging on to hope still – despite its accessibility flaws, despite its game flaws (more on that another time), I still had fun with it. Maybe giving up on a game that never had time for you is the best choice, but I’m going to give Niantic a little more time to not be gigantic jerks.

If you are a gamer with disabilities, or a person who cares about an accessible world – and, really, that should be all of you – please take a moment and contact Niantic about making Pokémon GO a more accessible game for everyone. Do this even if you don’t play Pokémon GO. You can contact Niantic publicly the following ways:

On Facebook at PokemonGo or NianticLabs.
On Twitter @PokemonGoApp or @NianticLabs.

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talkstowolves: I speak with wolves and other wicked creatures. (talks to wolves)

You may have noticed that I am… a bit of a cat geek. If you haven’t, you probably haven’t seen my Twitter or Instagram feeds, and I invite you to correct that little oversight. ALL SHALL FOLLOW ME AND DESPAIR ENJOY CAT PICS.

Daenerys demands tribute before video games.

Daenerys: “Tribute before video games.”

Am I the Queen of Cat Geeks? Probably not. I mean, there’s Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter – she may be a reprehensible moldwarp, but she also decorated in cats. Also, there are those people who hoard cats, but I’d call that super unhealthy, no crowns allowed. Then there’s Jackson Galaxy, who could probably pull off a crown pretty well.

Tiger Jack to GM: "Do your worst."

Tiger Jack to GM: “Do your worst.”

But! I’m at least a Duchess of Cat Geeks, for sure, and I’ve been sharing my enthusiasm and knowledge over at Front Page Meews for a few months now. This means a bunch of links for you, which you may choose to follow for fun and edification:

Outdoor Cats Put the Hurt on Local Wildlife
Harness Training: So You Want to Walk Your Cat
The Houses of Game of Thrones as Cat Breeds
Understanding Cat Body Language: An Introduction
How to Get Your Cats Party Ready
Catnip and Your Cats: Everything You Need to Know
Busting Three Big Myths About Cats

There’ll be more to come! And while we’re on the topic of cats, hit the comments with your favorite cat GIFs!

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talkstowolves: I speak with wolves and other wicked creatures. (talks to wolves)

Civil War. You might have heard of it. No, not the baseline divisive and horribly costly war that fractured the United States of America in the late 19th century. The Marvel one where a bunch of superpowered people came to blows on account of the Superhero Registration Act – I mean, the Sokovia Accords – that sought to restrain their actions. The Russo brothers took an epic and sprawling comic book storyline and tried to turn it into a two and a half-hour film.

Like this:


It went about as well as could be expected. The problem with Captain America: Civil War is that…

[Click through to BuzzyMag to read my review!]

 Note: The image from marvelfactpage above is used with permission.

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Say Yeah!

Mar. 17th, 2016 09:59 am
talkstowolves: I speak with wolves and other wicked creatures. (talks to wolves)

It’s St. Patrick’s Day! I hope you have a good one. Here’s my home state’s arguably greatest contribution to the day.

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talkstowolves: I speak with wolves and other wicked creatures. (talks to wolves)

Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath has come and gon–no, wait, actually it remains for you to purchase at any bookseller you fancy. I mean, probably. Unless the bookseller specializes only in Cheesemaker Biopics Prior to 1900, or Ball Joint Enthusiast tracts. Still, my point stands! Aftermath, the first post-Return of the Jedi novel is out there, and now you can also read my review at Buzzy Mag.

Spoiler: I liked it, but it was a bit of a mess.

Do you know what the most notable aspect of Chuck Wendig’s Star Wars: Aftermath has been? Not that it’s the first post-Return of the Jedi story given to the galaxy. Not that it’s a gripping and fast-paced yarn. Nope. The most notable aspect per the Internet is that it has several gay characters. And space diapers.

I wish I could say I was kidding, but I’m not. I wish I could Jedi mind trick the Internet into being a less bigoted place, but I can’t. What I can do, however, is tell you that Star Wars: Aftermath is a flawed book, but it’s fun, and a worthy addition to the Star Wars we know.

It’s an incredibly busy and diverse galaxy out there, and Wendig’s got that covered in spades. We get a wide view of multitudinous worlds reacting to the news of the Emperor and Vader’s defeat, the exploding of the Death Star, and how the Empire does not shatter. Instead, it crumbles at the edges and the Rebellion victory seeps in as smuggled propaganda, sowing hope with one secretly-watched holomessage at a time.

Read the rest of the review over at Buzzy Mag.

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talkstowolves: I speak with wolves and other wicked creatures. (talks to wolves)

Galactic Hitman, y’all. It’s… not a good game. Or even a working game, necessarily. Andy and I gave a go at playing it to amuse ourselves and experiment with a new format of Let’s Play. This video is the result.

Watch! Laugh with us! Marvel at our many CTD’s and first-time use of Steam’s new refund policy.

Also, THE SCREEN WAS TOTALLY FLICKERING, although Fraps didn’t capture that detail in the recording. We weren’t tripping, unless Galactic Hitman is so bad it threw us into identical seizure states.

If you’d like to learn more about Galactic Hitman, check it out on the Steam store.

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talkstowolves: I speak with wolves and other wicked creatures. (talks to wolves)

Y’all know I miss The Clone Wars. I make absolutely no bones or Force ghosts about it. Rebels is showing promise, sure, and I’m starved for episodes on this hiatus, but The Clone Wars was where I lived.

Happily for me, an eight-part arc of The Clone Wars – scripted, but never produced – was considered ripe for novelization. Christie Golden took those scripts, and she forged them into one hell of an adventure. Check out my thoughts, fully published at BuzzyMAG:


The story follows Asajj Ventress and fan-favorite Quinlan Vos as they work together to achieve a necessary, yet deplorable goal: the assassination of Count Dooku. The Jedi Council sends Vos on this path, valuing his ability to adapt to deep cover and thus court Ventress’ assistance without her knowing he’s a Jedi. Of course, anyone who spent more than a few minutes considering this plan would realize that even the most serene Jedi might have a little trouble hiding their Force affinity in front of a Nightsister of Dathomir and former Sith acolyte. (Someone as swashbuckling as Quinlan Vos, ever skating along the edges of strict Jedi practice, had no chance.) Also, there’s the little problem that you probably need at least two Force-users working together to take on a Sith Lord of Count Dooku’s caliber.

Honestly. The Jedi Council is often very, very dumb.

(Yeah, yeah, Anakin was but one man. THE CHOSEN ONE, MAN.)

[Click here for the full review at BuzzyMAG!]

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talkstowolves: I speak with wolves and other wicked creatures. (talks to wolves)

You want it, don’t you? My review of Lords of the Sith by Paul S. Kemp? Well, you can have it! It’s up at BuzzyMAG. To prepare yourselves, though, you need to pay homage to Sith Girl.

Take a load off, grab a cup of blue milk or whatever, and give this video a watch:

Ah, good times, kickin' it and deciding to swear allegiance to the Dark Lord. And now you're ready to read my review. Read it now.

Lords of the Sith promised me a rollicking, bloody adventure best thought of as the PALPATINE AND VADER MURDERBUDDIES ROADSHOW. (In my mind. It’s a twisted place.) This is the sort of gleeful, anticipatory state in which I sat down to read the novel.

And, well, I wasn’t given what I expected. It wasn’t the MURDERBUDDIES ROADSHOW of my dreams. In fact, it’s honestly a testament to how well the book worked that I’m not horribly disappointed.

While the novel opens with a brief stint in Vader’s head, all crippled pain and cybernetics and the Dark Side of the Force, the narrative perspective soon shifts to the actual focus of the story: Twi’lek Cham Syndulla and his freedom fighters, smuggling weapons and plotting for the realization of a free Ryloth.

Click here to find the full review at BuzzyMAG.

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talkstowolves: I speak with wolves and other wicked creatures. (talks to wolves)

Look, people, never question how much affection I hold for you. I read Heir to the Jedi. I read the whole damn thing, and I DID IT FOR US.

Don’t you walk away from me! Don’t you leave this thing we have together. If I’m bitter now, you only have yourselves to blame! Yourselves, and Kevin Hearne.

Seriously, though, I did read Kevin Hearne’s Heir to the Jedi, and it was not a very good novel. It’s unfortunate that this was my introduction to Hearne’s work, as many of you have told me of the excellence to be found in his The Iron Druid Chronicles. I promise you I will give them a try, because no one should be judged based on this recent Star Wars novel that reads like nothing so much as a defeated author’s scribblings after being henpecked by a boardroom-based canon council.

Y’all should probably just read the review I wrote for you now, kindly published over at BuzzyMAG:


Heir to the Jedi, by Kevin Hearne, is one of our latest forays into a galaxy far, far away. It promises us mystery revealed, seems poised to take us into the daily life of a certain young Skywalker as he grows from the whiny punk of Star Wars into the more sober, experienced man of The Empire Strikes Back. The foreword promises as much from an evidently keen fan of the franchise. And yet, Heir to the Jedi is the worst of the new canon novels.

From its early pages of reported events to Luke’s frankly crappy reasoning skills, this novel commits the cardinal sin of being boring…

Click this link to read the rest over at BuzzyMAG!

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September 2016

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Other Social Platforms

Reading Challenges

2/4 Novels Read
37/58 Short Stories Read
1/41 Television Episodes Watched

December 31st, 2011
Art by Ivan Griscenko.

0/3 Novels Read

December 31st, 2011
Original post at the McKillip community.


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