A Year Before My Eyes

Give or take.

For the first time I have a rough ghost of an outline for the remainder of The Storm Cycle’s four book core set.  Presuming everything goes anything like according to plan. No-less than 30 new chapters, and likely more. A bullet pointed list of events, moments, and cause and effect that have built up over the years. Continue reading “A Year Before My Eyes”

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Arcana: The Seven Rivers

TheSevenRivers.png
Shown also reversed for symbolism.

The Seven Rivers, Pinnacle of the House of Paths (The Counts). As discussed elsewhere the House of Paths is weighted traditionally in reverse order with the 7th card as the Pinnacle, though some consider the tradition to weight this house both ways. That is with each card the ultimate doom, and apex of the House.

The Seven Rivers (Styx) are an iconic mysticism found through many parts of Thaea. Often depicted as flowing out of the Sun and into the Void or Abyss. Shown here as seven tributaries to feed seven rivers, which become seven deltas. Convergence, and divergence, and the endlessly complex branching paths of knowing.†

While the singular Coin represents chance, and simplicity. The Seven Rivers represents the paralysis of absolute freedom, and the lack of control in manifold possibilities. Which does indeed still sound very much like a traditional doom. If one steps back from the word freedom.

Reversed we find the Moon as a reflection of the sun, in another literal sense, standing opposite, and guarding over the maw of the Abyss. Reversed The Seven Rivers is a card of protection, and defiance of complex perils. The possible paths narrowed by wisdom, and due caution. We move towards balance, and harmony somewhere in the living world between extremes.

As in many cards that depict the sun Rhan, we see the morning star Vhale, here also mirrored in reverse. The companion and the rival, the heir and the failure. The Seven Rivers is often a card about our surroundings, and our place in the scheme of things. It tells us our choices are our own, but our outcomes not always in our control.

 

I saw there a river. There flowed from burning aether on into darkest oblivion. There offered I might give chase to the eternal sun, and defy all mortal condition. That I might follow the path of Ascension to all natural conclusion.

There in the heavens, at Rhan’s left hand stood Vhale, Light-bearer. Who took but a portion of his father’s might, and did burn for all the ages. In doubt I did turn. In fear look away. I was not so great as he. That what destroyed the mighty sun’s heir, would surely undo all I could ever be.

From atop a great mountain saw down upon seven tributaries that fed the greatest of all streams. The Styx they were, and they were life, and they were death. Seven became one, and one became seven. Seven, by seven, seven times were their number. There in multitudes became the uncountable sea.

A reflection stared back, and I thought her the Abyss, but she was a mirror that stood guard between the lands of living, and the dark one, the hunger. An order so ordained by the sun. An order so commanded. This was the nature of things. I turned back towards the sun.

Saint Darius

To rational scholars The Seven Rivers are a quite literal depiction of Entropy, and even the contest with Order. The dissolution, and convergence of power. The material and gifted forces of nature.


†Some attest the historic significance of the number Seven to the river’s myth, while others claim that the Styx are a more modern idea tacked onto the seven tradition. Again one easily looks to pre-ascension lands, and Ascension Numerals for clues based in the likely origins of the Arcana practice.

Ascension numerals do appear by record to predate the Arcana, but also arguably are not strictly Seven based, given 8 has it’s own representation of S.  Which curiously overlaps with the standard sign for Entropy in a system.  Other strange artifacts arise such as the SI ligature $ for 9. All meaningful evidence breaks down, as both traditions predate reliably recorded history.

Some even argue that the Seven tradition is Osyrean in origin, and perhaps represent the six children of Osir. Two daughters who betrayed him to protect, and join the Maji. Three sons who governed remote colonies along the North Sea, and an elder son and daughter who stayed ever at his side. Often also attested as the Six Stars of The Crown.

All of which becomes very interesting given it was the youngest son who governed the City of the Sun in pre-ascension lands, and did not return to join the contest for the throne upon his father’s death. He is credited with ultimately bringing the tradition of the Arcana back to Osyrae after peace had been restored under his eldest brother.  Also fleeing increasing instability in his province, and marking the final decline of the Osyrean imperial period.

Tonight I Learned…

WordPress definitely did not like what I was doing with the menu system previously.  Had some wild wooly times starting the teardown of the old Book Menus.  Links insisting they were in the root category, or in a different category than where they were placed.  The database wigging out I’m guessing, or the CSS structure failing, hard to be sure.

Then things got really fun as I hit publish on my changes.  First off it sat there and spun for like three minutes.  So I decided to check if maybe the changes were committed, and the page just broke.  Well…  Sort of, on both counts.

I got to watch some deeply fascinating (concerning, worrisome) insights into how WordPress actually handles this stuff.  Yes, the menu is stored in some kind of database presumably as separate entries.  Further rather than pushing up a blob, placing the new menu, then clearing out the old, instead it does incremental changes.  At least so I surmise based on the following observations:

The first time I loaded the site in a separate window Book 1 had successfully been removed, Book 2 was still there, and the new Books menu was kind of an incomplete mess. Yet the spinner was still going on the update in the other tab, so out of curiosity I hit reload.

Now there was a scattering of stray chapters wrapping onto a new line, I think mostly from Book 2, that had lost the parent menu in the meantime.  Whee.  Sure was hoping it would sort itself out.

Reload again.

Fewer stray chapters.  That’s good.  Books menu still incomplete.  So it does the changes in order?  Some of the last changes I made to the new menu showed up last, even though it is earliest in the menu structure.  Fascinating.

Reload again.

Stray chapters gone.  Books menu still missing one entry.  Ok not so bad but to be sure lets try one more time.

Reload again.

Sure enough everything is almost fine.  Check the spinner, it’s done.  The “Continuous Scroll” entry for Book II however was in Extras, or maybe Arcana, in spite of having been left in the correct location.  Well, not too bad.

Ah the magic of ancient codebases that have accrued strange structural dependancies on dubious structures.  WordPress has been ok for exposure (not great, but ok,) and free hosting, but it was not meant for publishing books.  If I ever make the leap to paying for web hosting I will have to think long and hard if I want to roll my own solution (I used to web dev, do database stuff, all of that) to unshackle myself from the monolithic underpinnings of this system.  Hard call.  There are a lot of nice things about it, but the fancier I get in even the most rudimentary ways, the more punishing it can be.

For instance when I was playing around with adding decorative images in sidebars I had to jump through a lot of hoops to override table styling.  Which I had previously experimented with for the Arcana Overview table.  That was a pain.  I also lost work multiple times because when you are switching between HTML view and WYSIWYG mode WP can freak out and take huge bites out of your code, and scramble the pieces if it does not like the code.  Not just rendering errors, it obliterates the local data.

Any way, rolling updates will continue.  Need to figure out what I’m doing with the Extras, Arcana, and About menus.  Also Book III.  I do like the immediacy on desktop of the rollover drop downs, but more and more people are reading on mobile, so I need to be mindful of my mobile users. Speaking of which:

If I’ve gotten too fancy any where and made things unpleasant on mobile please, give me a shout out with problems the update have introduce.  Then again if everything is worlds better, feel free to tell me that too.  I’d love to hear more from my readers.

Now, shameless call out.  If you all want to know how exclusive a club you are in, I have 24 official followers as of right now.  I think maybe 5-10 other readers who come back by means outside WP’s systems.  So lets say 32.  I’m not looking for money, or much but there are some things you all could do to help:

  • Tell your friends who might like it about O&E.
  • Consider rating or even reviewing O&E on Web Fiction Guide.
  • Like and-or Share the O&E Facebook Page:
  • Anything else you can think of to help point others this way.
  • Make suggestions on other avenues of promotion in the comments!

So far I’ve even thrown a little money behind Google and Facebook ads to effectively 0 results.  Near or actually 100% bail on all clickthroughs from paid promotions on those platforms.  Where as Web Fiction Guide has something like a 90% read through rate, but exposure is next to none on that site without reviews.

I’d like to make the leap to e-reader platforms like Kindle and iBooks which are easier to promote for, but I’d rather get a professional editing pass done first.  Do some polish, and abridging text, generally get the book all the way up to snuff.  The most uncomfortable part on that is really the professional editing.  I’m not going to throw out numbers here, but if you are curious enough go research editing costs on a 135k fantasy novel.  It gets steep.  I will make a stab at a Kickstarter before footing the bill out of pocket, but I’m not going to launch one of those till I have more like 200 or 300 followers.

Any way, I’ve gone on long enough.  To anyone who has read this far, and well, those who read half way through but never see this.  Thank You all for reading.  That’s what it’s about for me.  Have a good night all.

Reconstruction & Indexing

The volume of content on the site was becoming a bit unwieldily, so I am making some navigation changes.  Hopefully it won’t be too disruptive.  The Book menus that I have been manually maintaining are challenging how WordPress was designed to work now that there are:

  • 50 chapters
  • 8 Extras
  • 8+ World Building Assides
  • A growing number of Arcana pages

As such I have decided to move to using Index pages for better navigation, and easier upkeep.  I am however experimenting to see if by any chance the “Complete Indexes” draw any new readers through the WordPress reader system.  So I am going to stagger the creation of these pages over a couple days, then restructure the menus accordingly.  I hope this will be better for everyone.

The plan is to have a Books menu under which the index pages will live, and a similar arrangement for Extras and About.  I’m still experimenting a bit with the limitations I have under the free WP system.

1-21b: The Dragon – 2005

A few things I must preface with:

This is not a part of O&E.  So far from cannon it’s laughable, and yet deeply relevant to the world that came to pass.  This occurs in a hevily polished idea of a MMO world I once took part in through my late teens and early twenties.  That said this is best read after finishing the first book of The Storm Cycle.

I cannot say when this was written exactly.  The file claims it was created early in 2005.  This means it is likely a rewrite/edit in the wake of late 2003 first drafts of what would now be Book III’s opening.  The original may be forever lost.  Regardless, dates or drafts aside this is how it all began.  With a girl, a dragon, and a plan so crazy it just might work.

I have done some very minor editing, but this will show some evolution of my writing over the years since it was written nearly 13 years ago.


I shall tell you now a tale from when I was a young wizardess, seeking adventure and fame amidst the lands of the first world.  I have always been a proponent of seeking advantage in a fight, for there are only two kinds of fight in this world, the ones that you must win, or escape, and the ones that could have been avoided but for pride, ego, or a simple lack of skill.  My mentor oft joked that perhaps I missed my true calling in life as a rogue, regardless this was a fight of ego, to which I am no more immune than any.

Now I mention this for it is at the heart of my tale, in every age there has always been one great and defining legendary deed.  The slaying of a great and powerful dragon without assistance.  I was young, impetuous, and determined to do what was claimed by any sane minded person impossible, to slay a dragon with nothing but wit, magic, and potions if need be, at a point in my training where even a fine magical robe could not save me from one slight nip by the fierce breed I had set my sights upon slaying.

I studied long and hard, every text, every tome on dragons which I could find.  I traveled with many brave bands of adventurers seeking the glory of a group kill of the mighty beasts, some tales of which I might tell another time.  All of it came to not, there was no protection great enough but one’s own training, strength, or the fine armor of a warrior to save one from the might of an angered red dragon.

It had been a late night reading on the steps of the great central bank, with foreigners about speaking in broken common of the age, and their own native tongues.  My dear sister K’ia herself had slipped into a slumber amidst her night’s practice in the art of alchemy, and dear sweet K’it had long since sauntered off with some other young woman to discuss the finer points of the less applied uses of healing magics.  I was feeling disheartened, I was a daft fool but by no means suicidal. I was not going into a fight I knew I could not win.

As I plucked a freshly corked bottle of some potion from beside my sister’s sleeping form, I gazed at the blue green liquid within and turned it contemplatively.  It was labeled invisibility, and for a moment I simply stared through it at the moon, bits and pieces of thought slowly congealing into a mad plan, something no one had ever been so daft as to try, and I knew in a heart beat I must do it.

I quickly realized that while I might worm a few potions out of my dear sister without suspicion, to get as many as I needed I would have to turn else where, for I knew she would not approve.  I believe it was a colleague of hers, well practiced and recently mastered in his arts of alchemy that provided a generous quantity of the potions, and for a few coins extra asked no questions, and told no tales.

My supplies gathered my plan was all but complete, but ambitious as my primary undertaking was, a single great beast is perhaps less dangerous than the darkness that may lurk about their lair.  In those days the most reliable place to find dragons was deep within winding dank passages found to the east, infested with undead horrors and wild elementals.  What gave rise to the twisted pit of hell known to some as the bone dungeon was a mystery, no doubt it had once been a dark shrine of ill worship and blackest magery, but it’s masters were long since walking dead, if not simply dust.

After their passing though, and this was more well documented, the main hall of the deepest levels – which opened through caves inaccessible to man in high mountains above – became nest to a red dragon and her children.  To reach the main hall was no small feet but it had been done many a times, and many of her eldest children had fallen to groups of brave adventurers in the past.  Yet there seemed no end to the progeny of the red dragon, so gathering by my side two fellow wizardesses, and a young rogue, who thought me daft, but  was more than ready to amuse them self with my demise, I set forth to brave the forsaken depths.

We had reached the anti-chamber of that great hall that had been nicknamed the red dragon pit, and it was now that I set my plans into action.  Knowing that nothing would protect me from one mistake I striped bare.  It seemed a logical thing to do, if armor interferes with magic, then surely to be completely naked would only strengthen my magic.  The rogue was most amused, and his stares a bit to appreciative for my taste, I considered frying him then and there, but I still needed him for my plan.

The idea was simple enough, the rogue would run in, nab some treasure, his payment for his services, and the dragon who’s attention was caught would be distracted by me, allowing him to slip away and count his cheaply gotten gold.  That part went without a hitch, the rogue slipping into the shadows as I paralyzed then afflicted the dragon with a poison spell, and chugged the ready potion of invisibility, and sank to the floor next to my bag of potions and regents, careful not to jostle the bottles for fear of making a sound.

While dragons are intelligent you see, they are not geniuses, and most red dragons, it is my opinion, at their best barely give dogs a run for their money.  A dragon’s greatest weakness is its temper, they are all as fiery in spirit as they are in breath, and red are by far the worst when it comes to this.  To have been paralyzed, and then stung so impertently angered the beast beyond words, and it bellowed and belched small puffs of smoke.  My plan had worked, the beast was too enraged to focus clearly, its enemy had simply disappeared, had I drawn the mother of the brood I wondered if I would have been so lucky.

Little damage as I had done it worked, time and again having rested to pool my magical energies I would paralyze then strike the beast, little by little weakening it.  I could see the great beast begin to stager after nearly an hour of this trickery, once blinded by rage it was now badly staggering.  Little did I know as I crouched, invisible and slick with sweat from my efforts, fearful that my fragrance would overpower the smell of sulfur in the air and give the stupid beast a clue, that my normal companions were no longer the only ones watching my fool stunt.

For another party of adventurers had come to seek fame for them selves, and having stumbled upon my friends joined them in quiet observation.  In their number was a cleric, who’s name escapes me now, perhaps began with T, and far be it from me to speak ill of the dead, but I do still question if he truly sought a better view of the fight, or my unclad body.

Regardless it all went quite awry, the dragon, though half dead heard the cleric’s footsteps and caught sight of him.   Realizing his mistake he fled, and I, not yet composed for my next strike could do nothing to save him as the dragon crashed through the old weak wall and made short work of the poor man.  Though revenge was taken upon the beast in due course, it was not to be by me alone for my stocks had run too short, and my body too weary to start from scratch, for the beast had replenished it’s health from the cleric’s own life.

By the time all parties could regroup, word it seemed had spread amongst the red dragons, and such trickery never worked again, for even they can learn a lesson aptly now and then.  To you though I offer these lessons, the best laid plans of mortals and wizards may be set asunder by one fool, and no mater how attractive, a better view of a naked woman is not worth your life.

– a tale of K’at, Mage of Entropy

Content Guidelines

The Storm Cycle was not written specifically for a YA audience, but if the shoe fits…

O&E as a rule but specifically The Storm Cycle will generally not be a “graphic” work.  That is there will not be a significant prevalence of blood and certainly not gore, nor detailed prose about sex acts.  Even as such events are implied (sometimes clearly) by subtext and surrounding conversation.  There will be battles, their natural consequences, and a great deal of exploration around romantic themes as the characters themselves mature.  The Storm Cycle will cover over twenty years through childhood, and into adulthood.

This is far from an antiseptic tale, but I aim to make it a fairly safe one.  That said themes of coming to terms with sexuality will be prevalent through Book II.  Fidelity, jealousy, desire, rejection, betrayal, social prejudice (make of that what you will), and the vast array of emotions involved will at times take center stage.  Even as a great deal occurs off page to extents that will not always be clear.

I think of far greater concern should be the gradual escalation towards war.  That by the end of Book IV there will be blood on the hands of all central characters, however justified it may seem.  Dealing with the very aspect of if violence can be justified will also be a theme, as well as having killed someone who likely or certainly would have killed others.  That even justified force can be deadly force.

There will be little in the way of harsh language, and that which occurs will normally be for specific purpose, or social/linguistic commentary.  On the other side there may be big words, complex turns of phrase, metaphysical and existential quandaries, strange explorations of magical physics, and concepts of all things, tied to order & entropy.  It can be mature and challenging as such in a very intellectual sense that alone should rule out the particularly young.

Parental Guidance is recommended – and that means if you really care, read it yourself, and then decide.  That said, here are my rough guidelines.

Book I: Recommended 13+

Focal Characters: 4-14
Violence: Infrequent but moderate in intensity, several minor battles.
Sexuality: Primarily subtext, but descriptions of strong youthful desire near the end.

Death and Loss are notable themes.  Political and religious strife apparent.

Book II: Recommended 15+

Focal Characters: 15-18
Violence: Moderate in both frequency and intensity.
Trauma: Dealing with the consequences of ones actions in battle.
Sexuality: A central theme for one character, as are social rejection, heartbreak, and complex ideas about fidelity, and identity.  Multiple frank conversations occur.

Book II is very much about the line between responsibility to oneself and to others.  About doing what is necessary, even if one is rejected for who they are.

Book III: Recommended 16+

Focal Characters: 18-20s
Violence: Moderate in both frequency and intensity.
Sexuality: Prevalent as a background element, but generally off page, and unspecific.

Book III is a tale about leaving home, and finding a place in an uncertain world.  It was the first book started in the series, all the way back in 2004, but floundered without building the history that fell out of Book I & II.

Book IV: Recommended 16+

Focal Characters: Mid 20s
Violence: Notable.  There will be a war, and quite a lot of death.
Sexuality: Likely muted due to the urgency of events.

Book IV is a story about facing what one has been running from, and standing up in time of need, even knowing it could cost one everything.


As a closing thought, I will switch from the difficult case to make for why content may not be appropriate for a given audience, to the even more trecherous case to be made for why it might be.

The human experience, is the human experience.  Though it varies by circumstance, social pressures, and prejudices.  Being gay for instance can be much harder than being straight, and that can be hard enough.  Being cheated on, or for that matter cheating.  Even harder ideas like arrangements that aren’t cheated, but can still be painful.

The shadows of adult troubles are present throughout every child’s life.  They can be missed or noticed in the actions and words of adults, but eventually they become the troubles of a young adult, and at last an adult.  We can pretend they do not happen, but I think often such pretense exists only in the minds of adults, and to blatantly quote myself: “Seeing the stones before us, is not what makes us stumble.”

The value of YA fiction is often considered to be the chance to provide context for the experiences they face, and while I will proudly say I have not written a message work, it does contain a lot of incidental messages that I think are both positive, and measured.  Ideas about the nature of knowledge, questioning preconceived notions, and the dangers of unexamined beliefs.  Dealing with being rejected for being different, or being hated for things that are beyond ones control.

The Creative Process & Young Love

The core story of O&E has been settled for about six years now, but they say the Abyss is in the details.  When Cassandra first uttered her prophetic ramblings in the streets of Brokhal, was when I first truly grasped the underpinnings of the tale I was weaving.  All at once I would argue my interest has always been in the simple humanity of my star crossed heroes.  Destined to uncommon deeds, and troubling ends.

The whole of the first draft for the original Book 1 (now Book 1 & 2) was a “mere” 135k words.  Each of the halves I split the tale into are now as long, or longer than the original manuscript, and sometimes I still feel that I am rushing things.  Telling a story woven across decades, following the course of my heroes from practically birth to their prophesied fates has certainly proven a challenge to balance.  I may one day do yet another pass, adding more abridging text to the longer stretches of skipped time, or where dates alone do not convey the break between events.  Evening out my mysterious narrator, who usually does a good job of staying neutral.  If anything I long to show some more subtle cracks in that facade, than clean up the ones that appear.

There have been many changes along the way, but as the analogy occurs for poor old Ezik, all has been in service of cutting the course deeper, and defying the rains to change a thing.  That said, Book 1 got far more love than Book 2 in the years I sat, and noodled with the manuscript and dates (I trimmed 400 years off the calendar at some point.)  Book 2 I have found around the middle, and into the latter half developed some problems.  Logistical miss matches of time.  While I am excited about the content that is filling the gaps, and think with some confidence that I am telling an even more compelling story, and will hopefully meet my deadlines, I do worry.

I am currently racing the clock, and trying to complete Book 2 by adding roughly two chapters worth of content, maybe a little more, into the middle.  Hopefully without dropping publishing cadence.  All in an effort to smooth out time, and make the twins years apart feel more substantial, and meaningful.  I do worry though that this fresh content, however compelling, may show some seams.  It will not have the years of editing passes behind it that earlier content has.

This further puts at risk Book III’s time table, since all my free time and energy is going into Book II currently, when I had hoped to perhaps finish Book III while I was publishing Book II.  A task that looks less, and less likely, but a bridge I will just have to cross when I come to it.

At any rate, I hope you will all indulge me some failures, and please, offer critique where something seems confusing, or out of place.  I really do want to hear what my readers think, and get this right.  So let me tackle some things that are troubling me:

Spoiler Warning: Discussing content for readers up to Book II: Chapter 8, slight allusions to future content without specifics.

I particularly hesitate around some moments that make me as an author uncomfortable.  I honestly get angry that they make me uncomfortable.

From such things as daring to even allude to menstruation, and there will be one more mention that naturally falls out of dialogue in Chapter 11.  This shouldn’t bother me, it actually doesn’t bother me, but it does make me self-conscious.  It actually makes me very mad that it does.  I fret, and worry about making silly squeamish male readers cringe, and on the other side that where it occurs in The Winter Frost is meant to be a painfully awkward, touching, and yes intimate moment between two friends who wind up (later) lovers.  This all gets inextricably tied up with so many hangups in our society, and I grudgingly embrace that all the more means it needs to be there.

I am literally playing here with the fantasy for many women of being rid of this nuisance in their lives (which in our world can sometimes be done with alternative versions of birth control – oh wait, relevant…) all the while shifting the trouble onto something that requires time, and attention.  While I totally romanticize this scene, I do so more as a stumbling block, because dear fates how ever much Celia is more certain at the end she loves Katrisha, and however little shame has been put on her over the topic, she just can’t bring herself to reveal her heart under the circumstances.  Which makes it harder over all.

If anyone noticed, yes I am intentionally playing with seasons and cycles here.  With winter ending, spring coming, and “skipping the fall.”  I also very much wanted to explore the mechanics of how people use their gift having subtle effects.  From mage blood poisoning screwing up Katrisha’s health, and delaying development, to Wren developing very early, to Celia being ahead of Katrisha even though she was behind Wren.

Now – onto the other side here.  Yes, lesbian (or should I say Lycian) romance.  I am apparently intent on making this labor of love as niche as I can.  I do not want to spoil anything, but I will be plain.  It is going to get so much more complicated than that, and I will be dodging around the minefield of dealing with complex sexuality in what is arguably (if accidentally) young adult fiction.  While moralizing far more ambiguously about society than about the actions of individuals.

I cringe half as much for what I will be cutting out, as for what I will leave in.  So many things that are tempting to lay out flatly, and challengingly, and all at once I am unwilling to derail my content rating on.  I will leave a great deal to the imagination where it belongs, and on the topic of things Katrisha will learn from Celia, I will suffice with the railings of a young Sylvia Grey, some centuries before:

“To think I had imagined not knowing a word for a part of my own body.  I should almost find this preferable to the realization that I knew full well at least three expressions for parts of a boy, and could not say from whence exactly I learned them.  No, worse, was the fact that I did – without context – know a word for my own anatomy.  A word that was a favored slur on my father’s lips for women and men alike.  That so plainly highlighted his innate hatred for women, to at last attach proper definition.  I rail between spite for the abusive misuse, and a wish to scream it from the rooftops until there is no power left but to describe simple fact.  All at once I am bereft of specifics, on the parts, the complexity, of an organ that even the most detailed medical texts reduce inaccurately to a vessel for other things, and not as I have found, a source of joy, particularly in aspects they have willfully forgone to even mention the existence of.”

Fates I love writing in the voice of Sylvia.  So delightfully and justifiably angry that one.