Please Excuse Our Mess

So… yes. You might have noticed we’ve been pretty terrible about keeping up with the posts lately. Terribly unprofessional, I know. We promised you awesome content and then we go ahead and don’t deliver. What’s up with that?

Real life is what’s up with that. I’m in the process of writing two different projects and editing a third (Mercutio) as well as trying to find time to world build for Esmeihiri (that political map I mentioned months ago? Still not done) and The Lost City. Poor Fall the Gods has fallen by the wayside again, and I feel like I’ll be sixty by the time I get around to In Service, Chaos Serpent, Witch Hunt/Hammer of the Witches, Untitled Dream Story 2017, etc. Combine this with my new Get Healthy scheme (it takes a lot longer to walk the nearly two miles to Starbucks than it does to drive, guys) and all the cooking involved in that and my own need for lots of down time…

And that’s just me. A is re-doing her house, working an honest-to-god grown-up job, and tackling projects of her own. Frankly, it’s all a bit exhausting.

Oh, and I still haven’t mailed her her Christmas present. But that’s on me. I’m TERRIBLE about mailing things. (And it just occurred to me that my boyfriend had to pick something up from the post office today, which would have been the perfect occasion to have HIM mail it. Dammit.) She’ll probably get it when we see each other again IRL, and who knows when that’ll be?

Please forgive us. I find it easier to do the Muse, she finds it easier to do Boozy Books (it takes me a month to get through some of these classics), and the weekends are a crap shoot, but we are trying. We haven’t forgotten about you. It’s just real life has gotten in the way, and being grown-ups sucks.

At least we’re going to Stratford again this year. We’re always great at Stratford re-caps. And since we’re going in September instead of August this year, we can maybe do ALL the plays we’re seeing this year instead of just a couple of them.

Thank you for putting up with us, guys. We do love you. We just have to pay the bills, too.



Shakespeare Saturday: GOT vs. Shakespeare

Helloooooo! Happy Saturday, friends. I hope everyone had a wonderful day and the chance to see Black Panther, because it. Was. Awesome. If you haven’t seen it, do it. (After reading this post.)

Today, I’m sharing a few older posts, but they are worth revisiting. I’ve always thought that if Shakespeare were alive today he’d probably be writing something like Game of Thrones. I guess it’s probably because you can see his heroes and villains reflected in any/all of the GOT characters.

Here are a few that have struck me over the course of the last five seasons:

Dany = Tamora (Titus Andronicus)

Oberyn = Hamlet (Hamlet)

Catelyn Stark = a good deal Lady MacDuff (MacBeth)

Littlefinger = Iago (Othello)

Bran = The Witches (MacBeth)

Apparently I’m not the only one who has drawn these comparisons. Check out some of these fun posts that highlight the similarities between GOT and Shakespeare!

Here’s a “who would win” post from Barnes & Noble.

There’s also this super interesting post, which I’m sure C will appreciate. (Lots of historic parked parallels are explored here.)

And this reimagining of GOT characters in their Shakespearean roles.



Monday Muse: My New Mission

Hey, guys! Welcome to this week’s Muse. I’m C, writing to you from a much more crowded than usual local Starbucks. The only table left was the wobbly one, which is making this blog an adventure in holding the stable steady so I can hit the right keys as I type. It’s not that difficult, or anything, but it is something else to think about when I could otherwise be reveling in my usual stream-of-consciousness ramblings. Oh well.

So, some updates on writing. Particularly in the world of Killing Mercutio.

Now, many of you already know we haven’t queried this since last August, when we went up to Stratford the last time. So, yeah, it’s been on a six-month hiatus. That doesn’t mean we’ve given up on it. Absolutely not. I spent half my trip to NYC staring up at buildings I knew housed agencies and thinking positive thoughts. (Note to any agents who might read this: I did not attempt, in any way, to be disruptive. I mostly sang ‘You Can Fly’ in my head, and then forgot precisely where the building was located.) But, after almost forty rejections, most of which seemed to give us the feeling that it was good but not salable in this market, we decided it was time to regroup and think about where we are.

As such, the query has been redone (masterfully, I must say, by the wonderous A) and I am in the process of bringing the novel down from 120k to closer to 110k. It’s not easy since this is something like the fifth pass (our original draft was well over 150k), but sacrificing a little on the formality of the language and giving Benvolio a few more contractions (he’s one of the only characters who uses them regularly), I have cut quite a bit. My hope is that I can get close enough to 110k (the upper end of acceptable for this kind of book as far as I can tell) that there’s some sort of margin of error.

So, Mercutio is not shelved. He’s just going through a bit of a nip tuck.

Now, on to my current project. Not writing related. I’m going through and re-reading all the books I hated in school (except The Scarlet Letter, which was in a league of its own with regards to hatred). I got the idea when I had to re-read Wuthering Heights for the Brontë-off and… hated it exactly the same. I mean, I enjoyed the actual readability and obvious skill of the author (whom you’ll remember I crowned the best writer of the three sisters), but I still hate each and every character the same. Actually, I think I hate Catherine even more. But it made me think about whether or not I actually hated the books I read in school or if I just wasn’t ready for them. Or maybe my notorious loathing for anything I’m forced to do (nothing like 1000 pages of reading in three days to make you hate the American Civil War) got in the way.

So far, I have re-visited Thomas Hardy and Charles Dickens. One has improved in my eyes (Hardy) and the other remains mostly the same (I know Dickens was trying to get that money, but all I want to do is cross out, like, half of what he writes as interesting but irrelevant). Yes, I am aware that Dickens was all about exploring class and society and whatnot, but the man was verbose. It felt like reading every tangent his brain went off into as he wrote and because he wanted the money, he left it in. That being said, I never hated Dickens in the way I hated, say, Moby Dick. Oh, yeah… that’s another one I’m not entirely sure I want to give another chance to. My personal best is 50 pages. I might just let Melville win that battle.

Now, I admit to an obvious bias toward English lit (we mostly read Brit or Am Lit in school, with some forays into Dumas). Most of the books I couldn’t finish were furnished by my fellow countrymen (The Good EarthMoby Dick, etc), though I was one of the only people to really enjoy Fitzgerald and Alas, Babylon. I plan on giving Steinbeck another try, though his books are among those I ended up SparkNotes-ing. Holden Caulfield stays in purgatory, but Franny and Zooey will get a go (never read that one in school, but I hated Catcher in the Rye so much, I gave up on Salinger for years). Only the guys seemed to like Caulfield.

You’ll notice a distinct lack of women and POC here. That was because we read very few. My 10th grade English teacher recommended The Color Purple to me, but it wasn’t an assignment. I read Pride and Prejudice for a project because I knew the book so well, it was a chance to ease my workload. It wasn’t until college that I read anything resembling magical realism (real magical realism, not the fantasy-lite being passed off as M.R. these days). Hell, I was in my mid-twenties before I read Middlemarch for the first time, and that is my favorite book in the world (Will Ladislaw is ♥). And I am going to get to all the people I missed or my education decided not to introduce to me, but for now I’m focusing on the stuff I hated in school.

Again, except The Scarlet Letter. That book can continue to rot in hell. I’ll try Moby Dick again before I try that book. Hawthorne’s short stories will more than suffice for me.

So, be prepared for a lot of the classics in the coming weeks. And maybe some round-ups, since I’m starting with The Three Musketeers (which is the greatest travesty to me. How could I possibly hate anything involving Athos, Porthos, and Aramis? D’artagnan, I can take or leave, but Athos? No. High school me was a culture-less twit), and I think I… might have paired that one already? No? I’ll check.

I’ll be back on Friday with something that isn’t a classic. I have to break it up, you know, or I think I’ll go into classics fatigue.


Silly Sunday: Moving Furniture

Happy Sunday, friends! Sorry for the silence, but life has taken a hectic turn as of late. Among other things, I’m currently in the midst of “redecorating” my living room. It’s not nearly as fun as I thought it would be because a lot of the look and style is for business purposes. My SO is building out his home studio so we are working on finding a compromise between professional and “I actually live here.” It’s going well.

I don’t have a silly fact or tidbit or clip today, but I do have the story of four people trying to move a couch. I was one of those four people, and this story took place this very afternoon…

Allow me to supply you with a little backstory: The couch my SO and I inherited mere months ago has disintegrated. (Real leather my ass.) Because we don’t currently have room in our budget to buy a brand-new couch, we have pursued other methods. Namely, asking friends and family for hand-me-downs. (Which is how we got our last two couches.)

It just so happens that my SO’s brother has had a couch in storage for the last two or three years and we’re welcome to have it. Hooray!

Apparently it has minor dings from previous moving expeditions and a few scratches from the cat, but it’s in good condition. Also, there seems to have been a jalapeno popper incident, but we don’t need to worry about that. Cool. Free couch. Whatever.

Well, today was the day that we said goodbye to yet another couch that proved to be less trouble than it was worth and hauled this sucker in. It took my SO, his brother and father, and myself to finagle this thing into the house and along the way, we managed to rip up half a tree, break our screen door, and destroy the underside of the couch itself. But still, free couch.

Cut to a few hours later. We’ve cleaned our new used couch with leather cleaner and car interior cleaner and other cleaning chemicals, leaving the couch looking quite nice actually; not at all as though it’s been sitting in a glorified garage for the last few years.

So, we’ve rearranged the room and we’re ready to relax. We take a seat on the new old couch and we sink, and I do mean sink, to the floor. Some couches are soft and smushy, but something is very wrong.

After flipping the sofa on its side, we discover that the frame is broken and corroded… Oh, we also find a dead lizard and half of what I can only assume was once a jalapeno popper.

I think the moral of the story is this: there is no such thing as a used couch in good condition.

Also, anyone trying to get rid of a couch?


Boozy Books: Vinegar Girl

Heyo! Welcome to Boozy Books! Let’s get into this.

I haven’t had the opportunity to read many of the Hogarth Shakespeare books that came out in the last couple of years. Not because they’re not available, of course, but because most of them really aren’t my cup of tea. I’m not a literary fiction kinda gal, really; I much prefer genre, particularly speculative, stuff. But my love of Shakespeare is such–and my respect for many of the authors involved in the imprint, of course–that, when I had the chance to pick one up, I did it.

Everyone here knows how we at Nerd Cactus feel about Taming of the Shrew. We have a Boozy Plays: Taming of the Shrew and an entire Monday Muse dedicated to the play, as well. There’s probably more. We liked talking about it because it’s one of Shakespeare’s most problematic plays, but also one of his more interesting ones. It’s open to interpretation in so many ways. Is Petruchio a misogynist or just trying to help Kate navigate her way in a world that doesn’t want–or plan–to accept her? Which one of them is actually the shrew (yeah, we’ve seen that interpretation live). Does he enjoy visiting his tortures on Kate or are they a burden he has to force upon himself?

It’s a complex play, and because of that, it’s one of my favorites.

Which is probably why I didn’t like the book as much as I was hoping to. I feel like it took the Kate of the play and made her… not the Kate I love. And it took the Petruchio I loved and made him… a huge dick. I feel like there was an attempt to humanize Pyotr by making him a foreigner and giving him a language barrier, but that attempt comes so late in the book, it feels tacked on. The one character I really liked was Bunny, who had more agency in her few lines than Kate did in the whole damn book, which just felt wrong. Bianca isn’t the delicate flower most people think she is, but she shouldn’t be more active a character than Katherina.

Basically, the book is the play re-written with Kate’s scientist father asking her to marry his research assistant before his Visa expires. She eventually says yes because her life sucks and, hey, at least this is an opportunity to do something new and it can’t be worse than the stagnation of living in her parents’ house, right? And even though Pyotr never does anything to earn even a sliver of Kate’s respect, the book ends pretty much exactly like the play, right down to “Kiss me, Kate”. See, there are some pivotal scenes in the play that, if performed correctly, really show Kate and Petruchio coming to understand one another as equals, and I don’t think they’re there in this book.

It’s well-written. The familial relationships are amazing. There is a lot of humor, too, which I appreciate since the play is actually really damn funny. But the book takes the play at face value, and without the irony and wordplay of Shakespeare, the joy of Taming of the Shrew is lost. The play can be performed straight because doing so highlights the irony of Kate having the longest speech in the play while simultaneously saying women should shut the hell up. This book? It misses that irony in favor of the way families interact with one another. Which, in a book that wasn’t based on one of my favorite plays, would be a lot better.

Unfortunately for me (in this case), Vinegar Girl is based on Shrew, and I can’t agree with its interpretation of the play. Someone else might not have a problem with it.

Now, I suggest mead for this because it’s honey wine, and the title of the book comes from the idiom ‘you catch more flies with honey than you do vinegar’. Actually, it’s one of my favorite parts of the book because vinegar girl describes Kate really well. I just wish it described the Kate of the book more.


Monday Muse: Thoughts.

Heyo, guys! Welcome to the Muse!

OK, so… it’s obviously late in the day. My schedule is such that it’s easier for me to write now than earlier, but I’m not going to let that stop me from doing my duty and talking to y’all about writing things!

So, I have thoughts today. I wasn’t sure what they were until I started typing this, but now I know what those thoughts are. I was considering writing about my head canon that Mr. Darcy is actually autistic, which has come up again recently (I’m slowly amassing a number of fellow believers!), but then something else made me angry and I had to write about that instead.

I do not like the Captain America/Bucky Barnes ship. In fact, it and the Sherlock Holmes/Dr. Watson ship make me irrational.

Now, anyone who’s been with us for a while knows that neither A nor I are homophobic, so this has absolutely nothing to do with both of these pairings being gay. Now, they definitely have something to do with being two men, but it’s not the LGBT thing. I promise.

It’s the fact that both of these pairings represent something I think we need more of in literature: really strong, very intimate friendships. Especially between men. The idea that the strongest relationship two people can have is a romantic or sexual one infuriates me. That two characters like Cap and Bucky, who share an intimate friendship–who might very well be the most important two people in the world to one another–must also be romantic/sexual because OF COURSE a relationship that strong also involves sex.

Get this, people: the strongest relationship two people can share DOES NOT REQUIRE ROMANCE OR SEX.

Now, I understand that a lot of this comes from a place of LGBT people needing to see themselves more in popular culture. And, God, do I agree with that assessment. We need it so much, people have taken to creating elaborate–and unsupported–head canons in a desperate bid to see them.

But, you’ve got to admit that a lot of it comes from the fact that it’s two hot dudes and God knows we’d all love to see them make out. And, more importantly, it comes from the priority we have given romantic and sexual relationships. For some reason, we believe that–aside from parent/child bonds–the relationship we have with our romantic partner or spouse is the strongest relationship we can have. In the show Sherlock, it gets used as a joke (and, of course, people have run with that joke as thought it were real even though there’s no canonical evidence that either Holmes or Watson are even bisexual, let alone gay). Cap is not only with Bucky, he’s with Tony Stark (and, somehow, they’ve adopted Spider-man?) and pretty much any other dude with whom he’s super friendly or confrontational.

Don’t get me started on that stupid fucking “everyone who fights must want to fuck one another” thing. (See? Angry.)

I am not the kind of person who doesn’t have head canons (see the Darcy one mentioned above). I am, however, the kind of person who gives all deference to real canon and doesn’t develop a head canon on the basis of wishful thinking and “OMG, wouldn’t Cap and Bucky be so hot together”. We have two problems here: the lack of LGBT representation and the ridiculous belief that intimacy–especially between men–must be romantic or sexual in nature.

Sometimes the relationship between two people isn’t romantic, but it is the strongest, most important relationship they have. Yes, Bucky and Cap have that kind of relationship and, yes, so do Holmes and Watson (especially in the show). Now, does it hurt me to have these characters paired with one another? No. Of course not. And people are free to do what they want since they’re, of course, fictional, but…

Let’s maybe think what it says about our society that intimate male relationships are shipped so often and, even more often, the subject of gay jokes. What does it mean that guys who are intimate are assumed to be a couple? Because this does seem to happen with men more than women.

I don’t know. But I know it says something that people become convinced–convinced— that there is evidence for this romantic/sexual relationship when, really, all there is is an intimate friendship. And, frankly, I think we need to support these friendships more than we need the image of a couple hot guys making out.


Boozy Books: Behold the Dreamers

It’s Friday, y’all! Sit back, relax, grab a goblet, pull up a comfy chair, and snuggle into your weekly read: Imbolo Mbue’s Behold the Dreamers.

This. Book. Is. So. Poignant. Please, read it.

Mbue’s story follows the Jonga family, (Jende, Neni, and their two children) immigrants from Cameroon attempting to achieve a better life in New York City in the shadow of the 2007 recession.

You can almost feel the tales of countless dreamers that were compiled to create the suffering and struggles of Mbue’s characters. The deep sadness of this story lies in how truthful it is. It paints a picture of an America that does not live up to the dreams it once promised. In fact, it paints a picture of a country that does not have room for anyone that is not well-educated, wealthy, and white. It shows the cruelty of the immigration system and the wage gap and the country’s boundless ability to chew people up and spit them out again.

Over the course of this novel you watch characters you love undergo monstrous transformations, you watch characters you trust act in their own selfish interests, and you watch otherwise moral characters make unbelievable decisions to protect themselves and their family. The point is: America has the power to transform people. Whether as a result of fear, greed, desperation, rage, or love, every character undergoes drastic change at the hands of the “American Dream.”

I found the ending particularly compelling, because (to me, at least) the final line of dialogue is so nuanced and open to interpretation. No spoilers, of course, but look out for that final question and just try to tell me there aren’t a hundred different ways to interpret it.

Now, let’s get to the pairing. This one is kind of hard to pair because the spirit of Cameroon is such a huge character in this story but so is America. So, do I pair with Budweiser? Or do I pair with Castel beer? I think we can all agree that Budweiser sucks ass, but it was definitely the most prominent American beer featured in the story. So, reader’s choice! (Though personally, I’m going Castel.)