Poem: H.M.S. Overly Verbose

So, it’s another poem, instead of that whole short story thing I promised. Trouble is, the short story just won’t stay short. Maybe this will give you some idea of what I’m talking about.

It is, of course, the longest poem I’ve ever written.

*~*~*

H.M.S. Overly Verbose

*~*~*

It’s less than true to say I’m schooled in ship-building, I know;

But there are ports I’d like to show you. So here goes.

First we pick our starting point–or in my case,

Don’t. Begin at the beginning with our metal, cloth and wood,

Strewn all over; one titanium beam for the base,

is gilt with copper for a glowing finish. If I could,

I’d shove a pole of iron all the way throughout its core;

To prove I work in layers. But I’ll restrain myself.

(don’t get too comfortable; you can be assured–

this ship will prove most hazardous to your health!)

The hull we’ll build with tungsten plate glued on to tungsten plate;

I’m sure it will suffice for this creation.

Until we have to patch the ensuing leaks–but wait:

Try not to overwrite the decoration.

Fine flowers; stencilled, cut and blowtorched on to link

One mismatched bit of steel to fine ceramics.

And if, by chance, en route to this my Frankenstein ship sinks,

You’ll be too mesmerised by it to panic.

We’ll make the deck five miles long, so to incorporate;

Every bit of timber jigsaw we can find.

And fit them all together with smooth marble counterweight,

To fill the gaps between oak, maple, ash and pine.

And cherry, silver birch and lime–the best of woods for carving,

So I’ve heard: so that one’s for the figures.

(all nine thousand) with live trees too to stop us starving,

if it doesn’t work we’ll have to build it bigger.

A cathedral of the sea, although we’ll invert the fan vaulting;

Add some buttresses and blow them out of glass.

The angel-demon-griffins on that edge will prove most halting,

Should our questionable voyage come to pass.

Now for the masts; we’ll weld a million lightning rods together,

For the first, and next a million spears.

And if you fear the rest will attract equally bad weather–

Don’t worry. It won’t be done for years.

I want to build a ship that has a piece for all occasions,

And force it out into uncharted slaughter;

Decked with anything that’s caught my eye: the magpie consecration,

My pretty fish to blow out of the water;

With the super-laser-cannons I have armed with brazen swords

I brought to gun fights (true, to some exasperation)

And moon-rock enjoined catapults to face oncoming hordes,

Of better-made ships bound for devastation.

To keep the sails working in the face of this onslaught;

I suggest we take what we’ve already got,

And weave it through with spider’s silk; admire what we’ve wrought,

And fly them every time we have the shot.

But one restraint I’ll put here before people get excited;

That silk and sack, that satin suede and skin–

Will bear no message sewn on them until we’ve all alighted,

Or else I’ll have to sink it for its sins.

I guess we’ll have a colour-scheme: for I’ll not have a rainbow,

Spoil the twilight horizon with bad taste.

But we’ll embroider every metaphor with silver, like a halo;

always one more adjective to stall our haste.

And let’s erect a tower with a turret at the helm;

Like the writer in the berth that’s next to mine.

It’s not a rip-off; mine is knitted, hers is made of elm,

Homages honour these ships ‘of the line’.

And wool from every corner of the world will make the cables;

Even if exceeding three will weigh it down.

We’ll change it later if we have to. First–we’ll draw on Aesop’s fables,

One more homage won’t run us into ground.

As for the ridiculous amount of decks below;

Eventually there’ll be some theme in their style.

I swear the trip will go too fast, even if the ship is slow,

And stern to bow can be measured in miles.

I realise it’s not the ideal vessel for the task;

The monstrosity upon the wine-dark sea.

But skill in this and every art can only come to pass,

With time. (yes, that’s an allegory).

There are so many islands that I want to take you to,

That cannot wait. So while some might use a raft,

I’ll throw everything I know together; conjure up a crew

Of characters who’ll help us in this craft.

So the ship is both built and edited as we go;

Which of my many tales would you know?

H. M. S. Overly Verbose

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The Knowledge of Socrates: A Warning

Socratic Method

Yes, that’s me in the cartoon. As I’m sure the world was dying to know what I looked like I finally decided to utilise my considerable self-portrait skills to–What? My beard? No, you idiot, I’m supposed to be the one in black!

Anyway, the knowledge of Socrates. Those of you in the know will know that by his own estimation that amounted to precisely nothing, but he was willing to accept the Oracle of Delphi’s word that there was no man wiser than he because so many people thought they knew something… and it tuned out they didn’t. So in knowing that he knew nothing Socrates at least knew one thing, while no one else knew anything. Simple, really.

How that fits in with my little whine for today is that it seems I too know nothing, and here I like to assume anyone reading this is too torn over whether to mock me by saying how obvious that was from the beginning, or to make a Game of Thrones reference to end up doing either.

Instead, let me tell you my story. When I was a tween, my aunt sent me many historical novels set in her distant home of America. A very popular setting for an American tween historical novel is that of the pioneers travelling west in the mid-nineteenth century–a dangerous journey that typically took the better part of a year. I can remember three such books that I read off the top of my head right now.

Fast-forward to 2013 when I had the idea for ‘The Ritual of DUELS‘, a story involving as many mythologies as I could squeeze in there (too many, as it turned out; the book has since had to be divided into three parts). I decided early on that one of the main characters would be based in California, part of a family whose job it was to monitor supernatural activity in the south-western US, who work with local legendary creatures and had native blood in their veins themselves.

So of course the first question that comes to mind is ‘which Native American tribe/tribes lived/live in that area?’

But of course, I didn’t have to look up the answer to that question, because I already “knew” it. I’d read historical novels ten years prior in which American pioneers on their way to California were constantly running into the Sioux people. Therefore, the Sioux lived outside California, so the character would be part Sioux.

Yes, I know, I know, you’ve already figured it out. After I took the time to research Sioux folklore (not where they actually lived, keep in mind, just their folklore) and writing thousands of words of the book with that research in mind, it turns out the Sioux DON’T live just outside California. No, they live considerably further north-east. Like, thousands of miles north-east.

I know it’s hard to believe, but my trusting an inference I made based on ten-year-old memories of some children’s fiction I once read… was a BAD idea!

Sigh. Well, since the whole book needs to be massively re-written to deal with the pacing and consistency issues anyway it’s not a book-ruiner, and that part of the character was mostly for world-building anyway. I’ve changed the tribe the family is related to to the Hopi (they’re not from California either, but they are within the territory the family monitors). You might think it would have been easier to shift the family’s location, but that actually makes things more complicated for reasons, so Hopi it is.

I don’t know how common it is that idiots like me write their books thinking they know something and don’t have to look it up while actually being completely wrong about what they know. I don’t really do writing-advice pieces either, I mean, I think this is my only one. But if the only thing you can know is that you know nothing, I guess this is the only advice I can give.

So remember, kids, IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU!

*~*~*

[Socrates’ first uncomfortable and unwelcome question to this know-nothing author:

What happened to his nipple in the cartoon?]

Things Are Over-Thinked Apart

Wow.

I think before yesterday the highest number of views my blog had ever had in one day was 20, and I’m pretty sure that was the day my brother found out I had a blog.

Yesterday I posted my thoughts, plus outlined a new little research project I intended to start, concerning the Hugo Awards. Today my blog was viewed almost 200 times, mostly (it seems) thanks to my last post somehow ending up mentioned in a Hugo Awards News Round-up post written on ‘File770‘; an online fanzine written by a Hugo-winning fan-writer. It probably sounds stupid when I say my heart skipped a beat looking at all those little lines on my ‘views in the last 48 hours’ counter, but it did.

Didn’t get many likes out of it–I guess the post sucked. Oh well. You can’t win ’em all!

Not to mention a whole two random people dropped by to correct one of my careless mistakes–it was horrible! Horrible, I tell you!

But, that’s not what I wanted this post to be about when I thought about writing a post this evening–no, the actual subject of this post was supposed to be my complaining about the decision that I’ve come to recently.

It’s been on my mind for a while now, but I kept telling myself no, everything’s fine the way it is, you don’t have to go to all the effort it would involve just to make your book–

*Sigh*

I can’t deny it anymore. ‘The Ritual of DUELS’ is going to have to be split into three books.

Brevity may be the soul of wit, but it’s not my strong suit, and as I’ve gone through chapters of ‘DUELS’ over the past year and a half, since I first conceived of it back for the NaNoWriMo of 2013, continually having to cut stuff out to keep it within an acceptable length for a YA book, I’ve kept saying to myself: “Oh, I’ll just mention that bit of world-building in the next one, I’m sure I’ll want to do a sequel.”

However, there’s just too much going on in the book. It’s not just the world-building, I don’t have the time or space to develop the themes or the character relationships the way I want–I’m going to end up with the ‘Ah, they’ve had three conversations so I guess they’re in love now!’ trope I’m always complaining about, ironically showing up in my own work (not exactly, but it’s in the same spirit), and there are too many instance where I just ‘cut-to’ a different scene and expect the reader can fill in the gap for themselves. I truly believe that even though the reader could fill in the gaps I’ve left, the story would be better with those parts filled in, and I’ve decided to make the attempt for that better story.

It’s annoying, because as I’ve said before, ‘DUELS’ was almost finished. But the more I think about it, the more I think splitting the book into a trilogy–allowing more time for the characters to develop, the world to become real, and the story to flow–this is the right way to go.

*Looks out at the hard road ahead, to the bright future of a book that was given the attention it deserved*

Ugh.

The Great Schism

[In this picture, the 1st protagonist of ‘DUELS’, Xiang, tries to catch some of the pages of their book that the 2nd protagonist, Tarquin, has chopped up with his sword of ink, but accidentally sets them on fire with his pyrokinesis, while the 3rd protagonist, Elodie, dubiously regards the guys she has to share co-main character status with. There’s no caption, because they’re all too awkward to speak to each other].

Bad Lip-Reading

So, you know when your main character has traded their voice for a cybernetic eye but then has their holographic word-display device shot off their wrist when a hostage negotiation goes south and has to try to get people to read their lips in order to understand what they’re saying?

I mean, I’m sure us authors have all been there at some point, right?

Well, what happens when the rag-tag team of plucky revolutionaries finds they’ve neglected to bring a lip-reader along on their mission to blow up an alien prince?

That’s right, Bad Lip-Reading!

(Not the YouTube channel, though if you don’t know that one you should really look for it sometime. Hilarity ensues)

It’s fun for the whole family, or in this case for me and my Mum anyway, as I mouthed some words at her today and she tried to guess what I was trying to say so I could write a scene where people are trying to guess what someone who has no voice is trying to say about a bloodthirsty alien who had infiltrated their ranks in order to bring down an Empire.

First word, ‘Blight’ [what the alien menace is known as to… pretty much everyone but themselves]

My Mum: … Blood?

Second word: ‘Parasite’ [the nature of the Blight, as our ‘hero’ is trying to explain to the other Humans]

My Mum: … Marrow Sats? Barrow Sats?

Third word/phrase: ‘You were being used’ [further attempt to explain the Blight’s agenda]

My Mum: You are mean toast?

Final word: ‘Fuck!’ [expletive]

My Mum: Oh, well I definitely understood that one!

And then the geniuses realised they had a pen and paper the whole time. Surely they will save the world!

Lost in Translation

[CAPTION] 2nd piece of Toast: “Why must you be so mean, Phil?

A Plot of Sand

Sand because it’s unstable–because of being a rough draft and all, and it sounds like ‘plot of land’, which is a different kind of plot… look, it makes sense to me!

Anyway, we all write differently, and one of the things I don’t like doing is spending too much time on preparation before I start out, because you can always go back and change your writing later, but it’s not good for me to keep putting off and putting off this stuff to do more planning. Best strike while the iron’s hot. At the same time, it’s important to me to organise my ideas into chapters before I write; as when I didn’t do this back in the old days things tended to get messy.

But you need some idea of at least what the first chapter’s going to be like before you start to write it, so here we go. This was actually scribbled just before I decided on the character’s names so remember–MC=Amy, Lancer=Jericho, Big Guy=Harbinger, Smart Guy=Tessa, Chick=Hannah, Big Bad=Cheviot, Dragon=Adrian, Brute=Winnie, Mad Scientist=Twist, Dark Chick=Mercedes. Refer to TV Tropes for much of the terminology if confused.

Troped 3

So, Chapter 1 and 2 have switched places, making Chapter 1 read: ‘It’s an everyday day at Ordinary High! MC [Main Character] is super-ordinary, and Lancer clashes with Big Guy’. This is a typical opening to any YA Paranormal book; high school kids at high school. It’s used in Evermore, The Wicked Woods, Marked, Hush Hush, and in those it isn’t the high school usually shows up in Chapter 2 or 3, if there’s going to be a high school at all. Starcrossed, for example, (which will be coming to these pages soon enough) should have started there but had a chapter of bullshit padding first, to no purpose but to establish that certain characters existed who we were going to meet in the next chapter anyway.

Actually, I take that back. Starcrossed shouldn’t have started. At all.

This opening lets me introduce Hannah, Mercedes and Cheviot as well, and we’ll get to see some of the latter’s teaching skills. Ironically, Cheviot is one of the best teachers at Ordinary High; so at least his students will die intellectually fulfilled when he murders them. Also he’s British. Because evil. I was thinking that we’d start in his class, talking about books (of course), then have a scene in which Mercedes tries to extort a better grade from him through sex; maybe harrasses Amy and her friends a little before she leaves. Then they’ll run into Harbinger (literally, although in this case he’s the clumsy one) and Jericho will yell at him for a bit.

I decided that Jericho should also have a crush on Amy; maybe not at first, but definitely becoming more apparent as the story develops. As for Chapter 2, I’m not really sure how meeting the Mysterious Stranger is going to go, but I figure it will come to me. As I wrote more down the page, I did decide that ‘epic destiny of destiny’ was more for high fantasy than for Space Opera, so the Mysterious Stranger will likely not be a Mentor or anything. Still, right now Chapter 1 is the more important matter.

As for the other chapters, Chapter 3 will be ‘Doomed Hometown’–this is a trope satire after all, not a YA Romance satire, though YA will influence it heavily, and I say that because you don’t get a lot of ‘Doomed Hometown’ in YA Romance, but you sure as hell get a lot of it elsewhere. Tropes Are Not Bad, by any stretch of the imagination, it’s just that I thought it would be fun to have as many trope cliches as possible.

For instance, we now know that the 5BB are genetic experiments of some sort, which fits the Anti Villain tropes I wanted. All except Winnie, who’s a robot. And Mercedes, who I don’t want to give an angsty backstory to–she’s too much fun for angst! I guess she just kind of showed up and they decided to let her join their evil schemes. I’ve also decided that Cheviot will be with the 5MB in the ship in Chapter 4, wounded by Mercedes as a gambit to gain the heroes’ trust… for… some reason.

In Chapter 5 we get our Villain POV chapter, Chapter 6 we do some worldbuilding, flesh out the cast, probably meet ‘Da Chief’ character, and show off some of Amy’s… skills. Chapter 7 we meet our 5 BB again, Chapter 8, Cheviot is exposed. that was as much as I could bear to plan ahead for now. I do know where the novel will eventually end up, of course, but that’s spoiler territory right now. Anyone interested will have to wait and see how we get there. That’s right, all minus four of you!

Next time, I post the first part of the first chapter. Ooooooooooh…

A Rose by Any Other…

What are we talking about today? Well if you don’t get the reference in the title… you’re probably a time traveller from before the 16th centruy. Welcome to 2014; expect less plague, and more hashtags.

Incidentally, the main character for Troped! was almost called Rose.

So, naming your characters. For me, there are a few methods of doing this–Rooks went mostly with theme naming because Arthurian mythology was important to the society in the story. In novels where there’s a made up world, I can make up any names I want. Funnily enough, naming characters closer to home is trickier. Here are a few things we can do:

1. Pick a letter of the alphabet and run through all the names you can think of beginning with that letter. If you’re anything like me, something will jump out at you. This can cause problems if the letter that jumps out at you is ‘Z’, and you already have a character in another novel called ‘Zack’, as has happened to me. I ended up going with ‘Zeal’, and as the character’s mother was psychotic, it ended up working.

2. I have a t-shirt I got when I graduated uni that lists all the people who graduated with me on the back. Sometimes I’ll just pick a name from there, and you can do this looking at names on books in a bookstore, names from a bibliography, names at the end credits of a movie, anywhere you find a list of names, really.

3. Picking a name that means something to the character, which is what we’re looking at today. I don’t normally do this, but I felt it worked well for Troped! because of the satirical nature of the book.

Here are some names I prepared earlier:

Troped Names

Enjoy the doodle of my Five Bad Band at the top.

As you can see from the scribbling, I changed three names. This is something I usually don’t like doing, as once a name pops into my head, I tend to stick with thinking of a character that way, but the big reason I usually have for changing them is that they evoke thoughts of another character (usually from another creator) too strongly. The reason I didn’t call the Hero ‘Rose’, for example, is because I considered it too likely to be compared to Rose Tyler from Dr. Who. The same reason I wouldn’t call a hero ‘Harry’ or ‘Bella’; at least, not for a few decades. I don’t mind doing this when I want to make a reference to another character, but when I don’t it bugs me.

HERO: Other names I rejected for the Hero were Danielle and Katerina–the latter of which you can see crossed out on the page. Why were these rejected? Because the diminutive forms are ‘Dani’ and ‘Kat’, as in Dany from Game of Thrones and Katniss from Hunger Games. Boy, this Hero really wanted an unintentionally derivative name! I wanted something modern, ordinary and…. I think ‘humble’ is what I was going for. Amy came to my head when I started going through the names of people I’d gone to primary school with and in this case is not short for anything. ‘Turner’ is a word that features in with both her and her brother’s characters.

LANCER: Jericho because I wanted a ‘J’ name for him, and because of the fall of the walls, as our Jerry experiences his own ‘fall’ in the story. ‘Solus’ because of the isolation that will happen once he Heel-Face Turns and becomes [more or less] alone, solus or something close to it being ‘alone’ or something close to it in Latin, from which the words sole and solitary come.

BIG GUY: I definitely wanted a character called ‘Adrian’, but decided it would fit the Dragon better so he and his sister would have alliterative names; you can see it crossed out there. Joan should also be crossed out at this point. I’d decided this character was to be a font of bad luck, or at least be seen as such, and didn’t want his nickname to be ‘Omen’… because I thought it would be too evokative of the movie. ‘Joan’ was supposed to be short for ‘Jonah’, but I didn’t like it because it seemed to reach a bit… and I’ve ended up going with ‘Harbinger’. His real name, meanwhile, is ‘Heath’ for Heathcliffe from Wuthering Heights, because he’s the one who’s inspired all these Stepford Brooders, and ‘St. Kilda’, after the island of St. Kilda where no one lives anymore, because as a character Harbinger is pretty much empty inside.

SMART GUY: ‘Tessa’ because it sounded light and bouncy. ‘Lovelace’ as a reference to Ada Lovelace, because she was involved with the first computer design and Tessa is a hacker.

CHICK: ‘Hannah’ because she has long blonde hair, and I used to know a girl called Hannah who’s the first person that pops into my head when I think ‘long blonde hair’. ‘Wright’, as a homonym of ‘right’ because she’s so kind and charming, and everything is ‘right’ with her. I think I’m going to enjoy killing her off…

BIG BAD: ‘Niccolo’, as an obvious reference to Machiavelli. ‘Cheviot’ is a breed of sheep, used partially for my mum, who loves sheep, but mostly because it’s a fake name, and his real name is Nick Mackenzie. Mackenzie is a reference to a specific subspecies of wolf, so Nick is a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’–if you remember from last post, he starts off masquerading as a teacher at the high school. Marvel at the in-joke at the bottom of the page, wherein I asked my mum ‘what’s a good sheep name for a person?’ and she replied ‘California Variant Mutant’.

DRAGON: As explained above.

BRUTE: Both of her names are famously the names of brands of guns, and the character was designed as a living weapon. I was a little afraid  that both of these had too much connection to the TV show ‘Supernatural’ to not be taken as a reference, but in this case the name simply fit so well, and she’ll be called ‘Winnie’ in the text anyway.

MAD SCIENTIST: ‘Lucifer’, because evil, but also because of his extremely light colouring, and ‘Twist’ for his twisted personality.

DARK CHICK: I was trying to think of something really preppy for my DC (sorry, Mercedeses of the world) and ‘Mercedes’ was what came to mind. Then Talbot, after Dawn Talbot from ‘Verity’, who those of you who read my book commentaries will know is the standard to which I hold all Mean Girl characters in fiction. (the entertainment factor standard, that is). It’s also a reference to the original ‘Wolfman’, which compliments the Big Bad nicely.

The Colony they live on: Rhea. It was… the first word that came to mind.

The Spaceship they later end up on: Mondegreen. It’s a trope on TV Tropes I happened to come across and thought it would be a good name for a ship. I can’t actually tell what it was called before, but I think it was a distaff counterpart to–

The Bad Guy’s Spacehip: Parhelion. An atmospheric anomaly in which it appears there are three suns. Because it was a word I’d just learned, and it sounded cool.

That’s all for this page, tune in next time for a doodle of the Five Man Band, and the draft outline of the first few chapters!

 

Humble Beginnings

Yeah, so ‘a few days’ is nearly a week according to Rachelloon time. It means my life span will be almost twice that of a regular human’s, don’t judge me!

Anyway, time for the beginning of a new novel. How do you start a novel? Well, a novel is a thing in which people do things at places and then go to other places to do other things, or sometimes stay in the same place and monologue. The point is, people. In my last post I talked about how the main characters in the novel, in order to fit as many tropes as possible, would be comprised of a Five Man Band and a Five Bad Band.

I like these tropes, personally–I think five can make for an interesting group and still give you a lot of time to focus on each of the five–and I think they can be done pretty well without falling into cliches and stereotypes, which it may seem as though I’m doing on purpose for this novel, but we’ll see how that goes… Incidentally, if you’re unfamiliar with the terms I’m using, justpop them into the search engine at TV Tropes and enjoy the rest of your life on that site, because it will suck you in like a whirlpool from which you will not return.

So without further ado, let’s create our bands, starting with the heroes, because I guess that’s the done thing, however much you’d rather be writing about the villains. First we’ll take a look at my initial scribblings regarding the main characters of my novel…

Troped 1a

As you can see, various tropes have been written around the page, vague unsubstantiated ideas for what might be to come. There was a whole page of these before this page, which won’t be posted because that would be pointless. Enjoy my super-vague idea for a pun based on the ‘Bury Your Gays’ trope.

What isn’t pointless are my Five Men. Three of whom are women. Certain facts about the Hero and Lancer have been obscured due to spoilers–I’ll be writing the whole book on the blog, but I do want to give you something to look forward to 😉 Otherwise, I decided on the sexes of the group (Hero–female, Lancer–male, Big Guy–male, Smart Guy–female, Chick–female), I have no plans for a Sixth Ranger at present, but that could all change in the second half of the book.

You’ve also got one plot point attached to each of the characters. The Lancer will betray his comrades at some point; kind of typical of a Lancer, but that will have a lampshade hung on it when the time comes. The ‘Big Guy’ is a Designated Love Interest (my favourite!), so you can expect him to be beautiful and mysterious… and not much else. A kind of Stepford Brooder, if you will. The Smart Guy is a Twofer Token Minority; black and gay, that’ll get the SJWs on my side! (Lol, no) And the Chick will be Fridged, because if you are a Chick, and you’re not going to go through any development in the usefulness department, then getting Fridged is the best thing you can do for your story,

Thus the plot begins to spin a few of its threads directly from the characters. Of course, in any story the heroes are merely the re-actors, it it the Villains who are the true actors! Let’s take a look at the next page…

Troped 2a

You can probably guess from the tropes describing him that I’m crafting my Big Bad to appeal to all my personal tastes. Just adding an ‘anti’ to the front of the ‘villain’ means, almost without a doubt, they’re an author favourite. Among us authors it is generally thought the right thing to kill such characters off before they become too insufferable, but for this BB we’ll see how it goes. Also, he’s an English teacher, because that way we can reference a lot of Classic Lit.

Again, the sexes are decided (although one of them is a robot, so I suppose they don’t really have a sex), and though it is not made clear, the Dragon’s ‘Aloof Older Brother’-ing refers to the Hero, i.e. he is her brother. (search your feelings; you know it to be true!) You can never get enough evil brothers. Other tropes such as those attached to the Brute and Mad Scientist speak to their motivations, and I think it was about this time that I decided that villains would be convicts who had been experimented on by [Insert Evil Here] to be given super-powers.

As for the Dark Chick, she will be the character I’ve wanted to write ever since I read Hush, Hush. That’s right–the Mean Girl character! I am shivering with anticipation…

Speaking of, the next Troped! post will be about naming these characters, but before that we’ll have another Book Commentary Lite, featuring… hmm, let me check my Goodreads reviews… Oh. Oh my god, not that… !