Top surgery – 3 weeks prior

I mentioned parents in my last trans-related post. One question I always get except from the rare person who also has a fucked-up family is, “How is your family taking it?”

And my answer is, “Well…they’re not.”

My crazy abusive father is dead. Saturday is the third anniversary of his death. In order to explain what that means, I’ll give some background:

My parents split up when I was sixteen. They waffled back and forth about whether they’d get back together for a couple of years. They finally did when we discovered he’d been faking cancer for a year. In 2003 or 2004, he disappeared. I heard neither hide nor hair of him for seven years.

Now you have to understand that this man was the boogeyman to me. I grew up afraid of him, afraid of his emotional manipulation and abuse. I lived in fear that he’d find me. Every once in a while, he’d send me a letter via my mother, begging my forgiveness. I was thankfully grown up enough to recognize it for the manipulative ploy it was. I always wondered what I would do if I heard from him again.

Then, toward the end of July in 2011 six or seven days before I was scheduled to move to Seattle, my older brother called me and told me our father had turned up again, and he was dying. Of cancer. I had to ask if he was fucking joking. Apparently, he was not.

I drove from Minnesota to the hospice center in Kansas to confront him. That was a bizarre, absurd trip that I’ll get to sometime. I went with Tiger and my best friend at the time. I yelled at him and told him I hated him and how he’d manage to ruin so many parts of my life. I told him he’d never done anything for me. All the while I was watching his face and started to feel guilt creeping in. I was yelling at a dying man.

Then he said, “What did you ever do for me?”

No more guilt.

I managed not to spit on him and walked out with a free conscience. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I don’t regret doing it. I don’t regret what I said. I’m really, really glad he’s dead. But even so, this time of year is hard. The day after we got back to Minnesota, I finished packing and we left again bound for Seattle. I arrived on the first of August; he died on the second. It was an indescribably stressful time, and that has left its mark on me. I guess that’s why I’ve been thinking so much about parents lately.

What would he have thought of me now? I don’t know. I don’t know what he really, honestly thought of me when I was still alive. It’s an uncomfortable thing to be at least partially masculine identified but have no masculine role model. My brothers decided to identify with him after he died, and I didn’t. I want no part in that shit.

So where does that leave me? With my mother, I suppose, though that relationship is just as fucked up in its own way.

My mother rediscovered Jesus some years back and is extremely sheltered. We didn’t speak for almost two years, in part for this reason, but about a month and a half ago, as surgery drew nearer, I decided I wanted to contact her. I knew the risk that I would regret it immediately (which is kind of true), but I just felt like I needed to finally come out to her. I didn’t really have anything to lose. I wrote her a letter.

Her response was no more and no less than expected. “I’m sad you’re turning into a different person, this isn’t God’s plan for you,” blah blah. It was still hurtful, though, and I had to take a step back and figure out how to respond to that. She literally did not even know what transgender was until I told her a few years ago in a different context. How the fuck does she think she can pass judgment on something she knows absolutely nothing about? I had read plenty of parent rhetoric from other trans folks, but somehow, naively never expected it from my own mother.

My mother and I have a lot of issues, primarily having to do with my father, and I’m sure the coming-out process is going to bring every single one of those up. Maybe it was a boneheaded move to kick off the process right before surgery; her next letter is apparently in the mail, and I’m considering not reading it until after surgery. I really don’t want to go into it feeling insecure and negative. This is the one thing in my life I haven’t once had second thoughts about. I’ve second-guessed life choices, career moves, life moves, relationships, my own creative work, posting this damn blog. I’m an anxious person, so I question everything. But I have never wondered whether surgery was the right way to go. I don’t need her doing it for me.

Yet somehow I think it was the right time. For one thing, I was able to be realistic about what to expect. I knew I could handle whatever came, even if it would be hard. I am in a much better place than I was two years ago regarding my own identity and mental state. I have wonderful, wonderful friends and a wonderful partner who have gone out of their way to support and encourage me. I don’t need her support.

But I do. She’s my mother.

My parents failed me my entire life. In some ways, this goes especially for my mother. I don’t think I’m being melodramatic. My parents weren’t violent drug addicts, nobody ever spent time in prison, there was no physical abuse, but our household was filled with quiet desperation and anxiety. My father was emotionally abusive and my mother did nothing to stop him. I grew up learning to take care of myself (or not) in every way. But I never stopped wanting my parents to just fucking get it right for once. Get your shit together and be my parent when I really could use one.

You’d think I would stop wishing for that eventually.

 

Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Conflict, Chapter 32

So now we’re going to hang with Aleksei.

oh boy

Of course, Aleksei promptly reminds us that Gillian is oh so itty bitty and blonde and “too delicate looking to be a soldier” Jesus Christ. If I went around informing every small woman I know how delicate she was all the time, I would get throat punched to death. I expect no less from this asshole.

Aleksei apparently has amazing “legendary” powers now that Dracula’s shields have been destroyed, so he’s basically a walking  talking deus ex machina sex behemoth. Honestly, how do you move forward with a story like that? Characters who are immensely powerful right off the bat leave no room for growth or challenge or development…which I guess means this entire series will be a long trail of Gillian doing idiotic shit and the author constructing reasons why she succeeds or fails according to the phrase of the moon and the direction of the midnight wind.

We’re given some information about vampire masters, which is not only boring, it’s completely misplaced, not that that should be any surprise by now. 92% of the way through the book, your world building should be more or less complete and whole so you can actually use the shit you set up, not pull more shit out of your slippery asshole as it occurs to you.

Here’s a good paragraph:

Then there were a few…a very, very few, that [were] blessed with almost godlike power. Those gifts took time to manifest over the centuries. The rottweiler would suddenly evolve into a Tyrannosaurus Rex, becoming a true Vampire Lord.

unstoppable

As far as actual action goes, Aleksei gets on the plane and thinks about Gillian and then falls asleep. Sounds like every plane ride I’ve ever taken: shuffle on, be annoyed by some screeching mouth-breather, then eventually drift off.

Cut to Gillian et. al, who are…fuck, they’re going to talk about the pile of bodies they found. You know. The “tranny hookers.” Give me a minute to breathe deeply before I continue reading. I really wish I had a print copy to set on fire right now.

“He’s targeting what in his mind is worse than a woman selling her body. A lot of those bodies were trannies. He must have a real beef against men masquerading as women.”

rage bird

An open letter to Talia Gryphon’s editor

Dear editor,

WHY THE FUCK DID YOU LET THIS BLATANTLY TRANSPHOBIC BULLSHIT GET PAST YOU?

Love,

Avery.

Please. Tell. Me. This. Is not. Going. To. Become. An actual. Plot point. My blood pressure is just fine the way it is, thank you.

On the other hand, I’m not sure it’s any better if it were a throwaway point. Ugh.

Their conversation about Jack limps to a close, Kimber and Pavel go off to fuck or something, leaving Trocar laying on Gillian’s bed. He keeps watching her like a creeper. There’s some stupid back and forth about whether she’s going to fuck him, but of course she doesn’t because she’s only allowed to fuck Aleksei now.

She checks her email, which apparently she’s been neglecting again like a responsible special forces operative. Her friend-mentor-whatever fills her (and ostensibly the reader) in on what’s happening.

look at all the fucks i give

This would actually be somewhat interesting if I weren’t counting the minutes until this goddamn book is over. It would have been really interesting way earlier in the book. This kind of world building is the only thing that has genuine potential: the conflict between human and paranormal law enforcement agencies and how that makes it difficult to solve crimes.

Gerhardt, the mentor-friend-whatever, tells Gillian to be careful blah blah and reminds her she’s a soldier and “not a police officer.” He’s absolutely right, though I’m honestly not sure why that matters here. It seems like this particular situation actually does warrant a soldier. What could a cop do differently or better?

They talk about Jack’s sexual sadism and whatnot because they’re both psychologists. I assume this is Gryphon’s effort toward showing off that professional knowledge of mental health she apparently has (*sob*), though it really reads more like a scene from Criminal Minds, slapped with some long “as you know Bob” monologues.

JESUS CHRIST it is 94% of the way through the book and THIS is what is going on?

what kind of bullshit is this

Now they’re talking about the paper she’s going to write when this is all over. Holy fuck, I’m going to write a paper after this is over about the repulsive sexual politics in PNR as illustrated in Gillian Fucking Key.

Gillian goes back into the room and Trocar is still hitting on her. He tells her in depth why she’s so attractive, namely because “Human females generally manage to become simpering, clinging fools around an Elf’s beauty. That you do not, makes you particularly attractive.” See, y’all, Gillian is SO STRONG-WILLED AND AMAZING, that’s why everybody shatters their kneecaps to lick her asshole. She puts him off and he reminds her that he’s lawful evil (close paraphrase, ain’t even making that up). Oh my god. I’ve never read a book that was this boring this close to the end.

She falls asleep and he wakes her up hugging her oh my god

no darth vader

NOT THIS AGAIN OMG

Oh. Apparently he’s just going to hold her?

ugh bored

She wakes up and Aleksei is standing in her hotel room. Apparently this cuddling Trocar thing is a weak-ass attempt to fabricate more personal tension, because obvs Aleksei is jealous about the mostly-naked elf in her bed. SIGH.

Gillian rightly tells him it’s none of his damn business what she was doing and he’s making “fuckwitted assumptions.” In this case, she’s absolutely right. While Gillian is in the bathroom, Kimber makes fun of Aleksei: “You’ve been cut off at the knees just like the rest of them.” I have no idea what the fuck this is supposed to mean.

Aleksei is a jealous dick. Gillian for once is completely in the right because she doesn’t want to get distracted with his bullshit. That doesn’t mean this isn’t some fuckery, though. The “man is an unreasonable green-eyed dick-swinging monster” trope is just as fucking tiresome as the bitchy jealous female trope. Aleksei apparently gives no fucks about his own brother because Gillian was sleeping in the same bed as someone else and he doesn’t want to believe her when she says nothing happened. In what fucking universe is this attractive in a potential mate? To ANYBODY?

inquiring minds

They all go downstairs and there are detectives waiting for Gillian. Gerhardt sent them to help and to give them leads on Jack’s murder victims or something. Gillian says she doesn’t have anything for them, but the detectives try to insist that they can detain her. There’s some back and forth about whether Gillian will give up information or not, blah blah. I’m starting to see where Gillian got her certified incompetence from, if this is Gerhardt’s version of help.

96% OF THE WAY THROUGH THE BOOK YOU GUYS

back and forth

The detectives decide to detain Kimber and Pavel while Gillian, Aleksei, and Trocar go off to fetch Tanis. Oh, good! Maybe everyone else will die and the only two intelligent characters will be left!

Fin.

Takeaways

Oh my god, are we fucking serious right now?

Seriously serious?

Jesus Christ.

Chapter 31 here. Chapter 32 coming soon.

Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Conflict, Chapter 31

First things first! I’m 90% of the way through the book (HALLELUJAH) and I’m looking for my next hateread. I’ll probably review the next Gillian book at some point, but I might need a break before I beat my head against that wall some more. Want to see me get angry on the internet for something new? Leave me a comment with your suggestions.

Now back to the cesspit of Gillian.


 

I’ll start the way the chapter starts:

Rule number one in the United States Marine Corps was that you left no one behind.”

And then I’d like to point out this exchange, two flips of my Kindle pages back:

Tanis’s skeletal hand on her arm stopped her. “They have another, Gillian. I heard his screams.” [….]

 

“Well, that’s great. Look, we are not stopping to rescue everyone that could possibly be held captive in this palatial shit-hole.”

rdj shrug

I’ma just leave that there. I think it speaks for itself.

They decide to go off and rescue Luis, with the critically injured Tanis along, for whatever reason. Tanis doesn’t want to leave Grace, the ghost. Apparently she was his…lover? Or something? I don’t know. Grace says she can’t leave, but Trocar comes up with the idea of Grace possessing the dead Fey’s body. OH MY GOD WHO CARES.

i don't give a shit

Blah blah, Grace has a body now, they finally start moving. They find Luis unguarded, and the rest of their weapons are also in the same room. Jesus CHRIST can we have ONE obstacle or inconvenience here other than stumbling over pointless exchanges and awkward diction?

Tanis is so weak he doesn’t react to Luis’s blood, except he does, and he fights Pavel and Trocar. So Gillian and Kimber, objectively the weakest people in the room, drag him out. I don’t fucking know.

Trocar and Pavel offer to cart the vampires into the forest to hide them. Trocar feeds Tanis some blood, which is apparently a surprise because Grael always have “ulterior motives.” It would be more meaningful if I knew more than the BAREST information about the Tolkien/Forgotten Realms-esque elves, for fuck’s sake.

The vampires have to be buried and there’s some dumb exchange about who gets buried and how the others will come back to them blah blah. Tanis wants to know why Gillian came after him because “I cannot imagine Aleksei allowing such a thing, piccola.” Because every action a woman makes in this goddamn book is either by permission of a man or in defiance of his displeasure, like it’s the fucking nineteenth century. Tanis informs them that Aleksei is on his way to rescue her, and they wonder why Dracula et. al decided to let them escape.

good question

Trocar goes off to find Tanis “prey,” not a “victim,” as Tanis helpfully informs us, because victim is apparently an offensive word dear god is this over yet. “He melted into the trees. No small trick for a six-foot, two-inch Elf wearing a red leather slutsuit.” Oh yeah, I forgot Trocar is all goth-bondaged out and Pavel is wearing his porn extra loincloth and Gillian and Kimber are still Lisa Frank characters covered in gore. This image has potential as grotesque and kind of darkly funny, which means of course it’s not mentioned.

Kimber points out that Dracula probably let them escape because “they knew we’d take a spy with us,” which of course means Grace. Smart Kimber for pointing that out. Why oh why isn’t SHE the protagonist? She thinks it must be either Grace or Luis, the latter of which isn’t likely. Gillian doesn’t think it’s Grace because that’s “too obvious.”

The discussion never gets finished because Trocar comes back with two joggers who are apparently “Elfstruck,” whatever that means. We’re given a paragraph of the feeding ritual and habits of vampires that belonged at least 15 chapters ago.

So Tanis is apparently going to be fine, much to my grievous disappointment.

disappointed gordon ramsay

Gillian turns right around and it’s all of a sudden assumed that Kimber is, in fact, correct, despite Gillian dismissing that idea two seconds before.

Grace is in love with Tanis. Apparently she’s into hideous Misogyny Monsters, too. She promised Dracula she would help Tanis stay alive “so he wouldn’t despair and Face the Sun” before Aleksei showed up to rescue him. I guess that’s…kind of clever? Anyway, she’s doing it because the person who killed her is Dracula’s servant and Dracula said he’d kill the servant in exchange for her help, which seems needlessly complicated.

Gillian is pissed and she holds Grace over a pile of dog shit to torment her. Grace is basically Tinkerbell at this point, remember, and is apparently so horrified by the idea of being covered in dog shit that she starts wailing. Gillian tells her to change back to human size and she can’t figure out how to. Trocar binds Grace blah blah and now they’re going back to the hotel to figure out what to do next. Pavel “lead the group of Daywalkers back to their temporary digs.” Wait, what? Isn’t a Daywalker a type of vampire? CONSISTENCY WTF

Takeaways

This is a necessary chapter, I suppose, but because it’s this book, it’s fucking boring. I don’t care about the squeaking, fluttering throwaway character Grace, I don’t care that Luis needed rescuing too because I don’t know him as a character at all, Tanis is a smug asshole even now, Trocar is just as bad, Pavel says nothing, and Gillian is…Gillian. The only intelligent thinker in this group is Kimber, and her idea is dismissed out of hand for some dumbfuck reason and then when she’s proved right, Gillian acts like it was her idea all along.

But at least there’s no transphobic bullshit?

That’s the level of discourse here. At least there’s no transphobia.

Chapter 30 here. Chapter 32 here.

Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Conflict, Chapter 30

When last we left our dear Gillian, she was about to get killed by Jack the Ripper.

i wish

At least she has the sense to be scared, but it takes her like six pages to realize he’s Jack the Ripper. Not the sharpest tool in the shed, this one. He helpfully informs her, and the reader, of his “conventional” name after she’s already figured it out, just in case the reader is as dumb as Gillian is.

And there’s a little head-hop paragraph wherein Jack is an even bigger straw misogynist than the others:

They were all the same no matter what century they were in. All of them were in need of guidance and purification from a strong men, especially these modern ones who dressed and acted like men. Sluts.

Three things here. First, I fail to see how dressing and acting masculine = slut. I suppose it’s just a straw misogynist insult that makes him Baddy McBadderson. Second, I’m pretty sure they’re actually not dressed “like men,” unless they’ve changed from their Lycra leopard print marabou feather Lisa Frank outfits from before. Third, why the actual fuck is every male vampire in this book hopelessly entrenched in the era in which they were born? Is part of being a vampire the complete inability to adapt to new situations? I hate this trope. If anything, a vampire ought to be highly adaptable, or they wouldn’t survive for centuries.

don't make sense make dollars

Gillian opens her mouth again because she possesses not an ounce of fucking sense but a very heavy suit of Plot Armor. Jack points out that he’s a sexual sadist and not just a serial killer, and he knows this phrase because he “keep[s] up with [the] world’s current events and terms.” But not its views on gender, I suppose.

Jack has been twirling a scalpel this entire time to threaten them, but then he goes to leave the room without touching them because that scalpel isn’t enough to cut through all that Plot Armor. Gillian decides to kick Jack and there’s an awkward fighting scene that ends in “her alarmed eyes meeting a pair of rust-brown orbs.” Jesus Christ, did the author not get the memo that using the word “orbs” for eyes went out with junior high fanfic? And it gets even better because his “fangs [slam] down.”

body slam

This is a slam.

This is a slam.

This is a slam.

These do not slam.

These do not slam.

frustrated tim gunn

Gillian keeps calling him a “sick twist,” a phrase I’ve never heard used in reference to a person before. This book is certainly a sick twist on someone’s idea of a vampire book.

Jack doesn’t even hurt her, though, because Dracula doesn’t want her to. Fucking punch her in the face for me, Jack. JUST DO IT.

He’s dropped his scalpel and Gillian nabs it as he skips out of the room.

Kimber asks whether that’s really Jack the Ripper and Gillian says,

“I think so […] His clothing was not quite period, but close enough to the nineteenth century.”

Because apparently Gillian is a historical fashion expert and Jack has owned the same clothes for two hundred years.

“Did you notice how unobtrusive he was? Even now I can’t remember what the hell he looked like.”

Well, I can’t say someone who threatened you with a scalpel and “slammed” his fangs and his “orbs” on you is unobtrusive, but okay.

Gillian and Kimber have a calm little chat on how his general unobtrusiveness made him a good serial killer, and they get out of the ropes. The vampires are apparently hilariously incompetent and neglected to strip them of their guns, so they’re armed now and they’re going to try to escape.

And here’s Kimber, who’s now my hero, coming in to say,

“Some fucking therapist you are, pissing off a sick bastard like that. As an operative, you know better than that! What the hell is wrong with you?”

hat-toss

praise the lord

Gillian admits that was stupid, but we’ve seen this before and we know she never goddamn learns, probably because there’s never any goddamn consequences for her stupidity. I’m all for characters making mistakes, even stupid ones. I have a character who is belligerent and has a hard time shutting his mouth when he needs to, but it’s not a good thing, the reader is not meant to appreciate his pluckiness, and he isn’t universally adored and admired for it.

Gillian is forgiven, of course, and she and “Kimmy” have a semi-genuine friendship moment that I’d appreciate if I didn’t think Kimmy was just as much an idiot for following Gillian around.

Gillian spots a false wall…

deus ex machina

…and somehow Kimber produces a mini crossbow from her cleavage.

Now, I have a lot of cleavage. I mean like, a lot. But I know for a fact I could not conceal six inches of crossbow in it without it a) being monumentally uncomfortable and b) painfully obvious, especially if I was hauled around and tied up for who knows how long.

God. Whatever.

They open the hidden door, walk out, and there’s a bunch of

oh my god

…………………………………..

Transvestite streetwalkers. Some looked as though they had been very feminine looking in life. There must have been fifty or more slaughtered bodies in that room. There were indeed a number of female bodies as well, but the ones with the most damage to them, however, were the males. Wondering who had a beef with the local tranny hookers, Gill jumped when Kimber poked her and looked up.

Tranny hookers.

TRANNY HOOKERS.

TRANNY. HOOKERS.

OH BOY NOW LET’S HAVE SOME INTENSELY TRANSPHOBIC SHIT THIS IS MY FAVORITE BOOK IN THE WHOLE WORLD

rage flame

sobbing

You know what will make this really grotesque? If there’s a bunch of dead hookers, only they’re really men ISN’T THAT GROSS ICKY BAD?!

I’ll assume you’ll all be familiar with the many reasons why that paragraph is unbelievably fucked up.

but wait there's more

  Gillian and Kimber climb out through a basement window and are found by Trocar and Pavel, who remarks that they smell icky. Gillian points out that there are a bunch of “male transvestites” down there and it

“probably pissed [Jack] off to no end to find some of them were not of the correct gender; that’s why their bodies are so much more mutilated than the females.”

I know I said I wouldn’t resort to ad hominem attacks on the author, but Dear Ms. Gryphon, THIS IS SOME ILL-INFORMED TRANSPHOBIC SHIT. If this is your fumbling way of representing trans violence (the notion that trans women are trying to “trick” cis dudes into fucking them), I have this to say to you:

stop sign

The fucking idea that “male transvestites” (how do you know they aren’t trans women?) are “not of the correct gender” is some basic How Not to Talk About Trans People 101. Though I suppose I should know better than to expect sensitive treatment of gender variance from a book that oozes misogyny like the world’s worst jelly donut.

(PS, don’t ever google “oozing.” Just don’t.)

I’m absolutely sure all these bodies are meaningless to the plot and are used purely for sensationalist gross-out value, too, which, you know, for trans people, feels JUST AWESOME.

Fuck.

Anyway. I’m going to try not to become entrenched in rage and just go back to rolling my eyes and scoffing.

A Revenant (still don’t know what that is) comes shuffling toward them and Gillian shoots its head off, because blasting a gun while trying to escape quietly is a fantastic idea. Pavel smells something not human back inside, and they all head back down.

To no one’s surprise, they find Tanis. He’s been “nearly drained dry” but is apparently still alive. The narrative tells us that Gillian is horrified, but only in like three sentences, and everything else remains in the same goddamn monotone it’s been for the past like fifteen chapters.

Then a ghost shows up (??) and starts screaming at them to get away from Tanis and stop hurting them. What the fuck? Gillian manages to calm the ghost (Grace) down, and yet another side character shows up: a tiny little fairy telling them to step away from Tanis. Gillian is getting on my last fucking nerve at her complete inability to be anything but utterly rude and disrespectful, and she says, “We’re a little busy here and I’m not going to debate what we should do with a being the size of Peter Pan’s wiener.”

jesus you are a fucking idiot

The Fey turns full size and attacks Gillian, which she completely fucking deserves. She chops Gillian in the throat and moves toward her again, but the rest of her Plot Armor Posse take the Fey down.

Blah blah, let’s finally get the fuck out of here.

But oh, Dracula has Luis too.

Sigh.

Takeaways

This chapter could actually be decent in concept, but as usual, the execution turns it into a giant pile of shit crowned in a frosting of offensive throwaway sensationalism. Not to mention the constant punch-pulling. Yeah, let’s throw Celebrity Vampire at them only so he can scuttle off without touching them. Let’s throw some random bad guys at them next, but they don’t actually pose any threat other than causing Gillian some momentary discomfort. (This is the first actual combat injury she’s received, by the way, 90% of the way through the book.)

Gillian has faced absolutely no consequences for her bullshit. This is nonsense. Your protagonist ought to have a giant target painted on their back just because they’re the protagonist. They’ve got to suffer. They’ve at least got to earn what they achieve. She’s had to make no sacrifices whatsoever. I’m just waiting for the Anita Blake style climax scene where she gets knocked out and other people handle her shit for her.

I HATE YOU GILLIAN.

Chapter 29 here. Chapter 31 here.

Top surgery – one month prior

I originally meant this blog to be sort of a live blog of my transition plus some writing/academic stuff thrown in, and then Gillian took it over. You’ll probably see some of all of those things sprinkled in with hatereads from here on out.

In less than a month, I’ll be having top surgery, which is the first major step in my transition. While this is a positive step toward reducing my body dysphoria, it’s a huge step, a huge physical change, and it brings up a lot of anxious thoughts. As I’m already an anxious person, they’ve been weighing extra heavy on me lately. I don’t say the following to complain or as a bid for comfort or attention, just to articulate my thoughts and maybe let someone else know that they’re not the only person to ever have them.

I’ve had surgery before–an appendectomy in 2005–and I was completely alone through most of the process. I was 19, away at school, and it was emergency surgery. My recovery was mostly alone, too. Now is completely different. I have Tiger, I have lots of friends and support. What I don’t have are parents, which is a different post altogether, but on the whole, I’m in a much better place in just about every sense. This surgery is my choice. I’m medicated. I’m more mature. But, unfortunately, more scared than before.

Part of it is that my appendectomy happened so quickly that I didn’t have time to be anything other than violently ill before I had surgery. I’ve had several months to dwell on this. The bigger part, of course, is the fact that not only is this a much bigger surgery, it signals a huge change in my life, and I have a lot of worries about it.

How long will it take me to recover? How out of it will I be? I got shit to do before my school year starts in September.

What if I have a medical emergency after surgery? Will my insurance pay for it even though they don’t pay for trans-related care?

I really really hate narcotic painkillers. Will I have to dope myself up to deal with the pain?

Will the anesthesia fuck with my mood disorder?

Will I look weird without tits?

Will people react to me differently? Even if they say they won’t, will they do it anyway? Could they even help it?

Will my actual physical transition interfere with my getting tenure at my job? Most of my coworkers know I’m trans, but thus far I haven’t challenged them with any physical changes.

Should I do a living will, just in case?

I’ll be completely broke for a month just after surgery. What if I didn’t plan well enough and I can’t afford to pay bills or get necessary medications?

How will this change my view of myself? I know I can expect some highs and lows, but what if it fucks me up? I’ve worked so hard over the past few years to get better. What if this sets me back?

Anxiety has steadily become less a problem in my life in the past year, and you can’t even know what a blessing that has been unless you’ve suffered from anxiety for a long period of time. Over the past several days, though, since I discovered it’s less than a month until surgery, it’s been with me almost constantly. Christ, is this the way it’s going to be for the next 27 days? I’ve got a book to finish editing, an article to write for publication, a class to finish teaching. I can’t be constantly crippled with anxiety so all I can manage while I’m home is sitting around watching my Sims make out with each other.

What will my mother say?

Ugh.

Part of me can’t get the next 27 days over with fast enough. Part of me is panicked because that would be 27 fewer coherent days to get responsible shit done. If you’ll excuse me, I’ll be torn between five things I need to do and end up doing none of them.

Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Conflict, Chapter 29

Before we get back to the thrilling non-action, I have an offer of relief!

My publisher is offering my book, The Wicked Instead, and Tiger Gray‘s book, No Deadly Thingfor free this week! You can download the Kindle .mobi version or Nook ePub version (or both, ain’t nobody stopping you) from the links above. These books were written separately but are in a shared world, and even better, THEY’RE NOT GILLIAN KEY.

For more info on both, check out my Twisted Tree Universe page.


 

Now, brace yourselves, because it’s back to our favorite heroine.

The first words of this chapter are:

The darkly handsome Vampire surveyed his prey with eyes of glacial pale green, crystalline and icy.

For a second I thought this was Aleksei, since he and Tanis are the only “darkly handsome vampires” we’ve met thus far, and I wondered when his eyes turned green. But then I realized she meant Dracula. Holy shit, are we finally getting to meet him?

Apparently Gillian and Kimber (oh, there’s Kimber) are both trussed up “like a Christmas goose.”

roasted christmas goose with stuffing

Does she have herbs in her ass, too?

Blah blah blah, Dracula wants Aleksei out of the way. Apparently Aleksei is “powerful enough to challenge him for control.” We’ve seen no indication of this, since Aleksei has done nothing but panic and flutter around or six months, but okay. Dracula is actually kind of clever in that he

had made sure Aleksei was at all times surrounded by those who could dampen his powers. Some of the Dark Fey had been allied to the voldevode and had blanketed Aleksei’s lands with spells to ensure that he did not come to full power while Dracula was indisposed.

If only I knew what the fuck this actually means. For one, does anybody remember what the fuck voldevode means? I sure don’t and I can’t be arsed to find out. Second, did the fey just now do this or has Aleksei been bound by these spells for a long time? How is Dracula indisposed, exactly?

i dunno

Blah blah blah, Dracula fey whatever, oh, apparently Aleksei has been bound all this time and “[his] world suddenly began to hum with ancient magic once again.”

isnt-that-convenient

Osiris pops in like the Voice of the author God to inform Aleksei that yes indeedy, he’s more powerful. Tanis conveniently pops in too, to tell Aleksei he’s in England.

Tanis was near death. The fact that he had managed contact with Aleksei, via the newfound powers, was nothing short of miraculous.

deus ex machina

Aleksei decides to run off to England to fetch Tanis and Gillian. He talks to Sekhmet and Anubis, and they decide that yes, Gillian is very brave and yes, they’re proud of her and yes, she needs saving now. Sekhmet and Anubis note privately that the no-touchy timeframe of one year between Gillian and Aleksei is over now.

Wait, what? Gillian dicked around Aleksei’s place for only six months. How has it been another six months since she fucked off with Pavel? Did the stupid plane to Finland hit a gap in the space-time continuum?

THROW ME A BONE HERE FOR FUCK’S SAKE

Fade out to Trocar and Pavel hanging in the hotel room. Gillian, Kimber, and apparently Luis are missing. Pavel is cranky about his loincloth being small even though presumably he could fucking change if he wanted to. Pavel is jelly because Trocar likes Kimber, but no worries, he isn’t banging her anymore. Pavel can apparently track Gillian and Kimber, so, for whatever completely bizarre reason, they leave the hotel with Pavel still looking like that Ancient Roman porn extra on a leash.

And then, for some other incomprehensible reason, we’re given a treatise on Dracula, meaning the legends surrounding Vlad Tepes. Blah blah he’s really bad yo. Oh, apparently the whiplash-worthy switch in topic is meant to indicate a scene change.

Cats-watching-tennis

Dracula is apparently hanging out with Oscar Gray, aka Oscar Wilde. Oh Jesus fuck. Just in case you’ve never read Dorian Gray, there’s a nice summary right there for you, too, along with some pointless description of Oscar’s character and his general usefulness.

And now we’re going to meet someone else? We get lots of “he so pretty and deadly” description but no name. Let’s pile some more shit into this book and call it tension!

Gillian and Kimber wake up to find Mr. Nameless creeping on them. He and Gillian have a “hey who are you, I’m Nameless Creepy Guy, fuck off Nameless Creepy Guy” exchange that is seriously not even worth reading.

Oh.

Jesus.

Fuck.

The vampire is Jack the Ripper.

eyeroll cersei lannister

Gillian is her usual sparkling self and taunts him because she’s a complete fucking idiot. Kimber helpfully points that out because everyone in this book is smarter than the protagonist. Fuck.

Takeaways

Another very short chapter, but as I’m working on another blog post, I’ll leave it here for today. Wow, what a shitshow. I feel like a hypocrite, since I kind of have celebrity supernaturals (though significantly more obscure on the whole), but I hate the way celebrity vampires are used here, mostly because it’s so trite. Hurr durr, Jack the Ripper is a vampire hurr. The more this book wears on, the more gimicky it becomes, as if it weren’t horrendously gimicky to begin with. This book cannot end soon enough. I might have to go find a copy at Half Price Books or something so I can rip it apart and feed it to my cat.

horatio

Mr. Big hates this book too.

Chapters 27-28 here. Chapter 30 here.

Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Conflict, Chapter 27-28

Chapter 27

After Maeti’s brush with death, she and Dionysus decide to jump ship.

That seems…rude.

Okay, so Maeti got mauled, whatever. There’s nothing saying she’s still grievously injured, just that Dionysus got “spooked” and needs to Protect His Woman, Y’all.

“Maeti wanted to stay with Gillian, but realized that she needed Dionysus as much as he needed her. She couldn’t bear to see the fear in the eyes of her mate.”

Whatever, I guess I could buy such lameness if it weren’t, you know, this dire rescue mission that the entire “plot” hinges on. Why bring these two along in the first place? It’s not like they’ve actually done anything of significance except Dionysus set people on fire, which Kimber could apparently also do with her flamethrower.

totally pointless

Here’s a telling quote for you.

“She had known that Dionysus was reporting back to the Romanian Count, and didn’t relish the thought of either Aleksei’s worry or his anger.”

So Maeti can’t stand Dionysus’s upset, and Gillian is scared of Aleksei’s. Seriously and sincerely, what kind of backward bullshit is this?

Their human pilot is black HOLY FUCK IT’S A BLACK PERSON IN THIS MONOCHROMATIC BOOK oh wait just like every other brown person (which is like two), he’s acceptably light-skinned.

There’s some needless description of their trip to England aboard the cargo plane, and when they get there, Trocar has to tell her what to do to locate Tanis. She claims she’s “not thinking clearly,” but given her behavior so far, all I can think of is this:

derpina

Kimber says, “Whatever it is, Cap’n, you need to snap out of it and get your shit together before we walk into something we can’t handle.”

audrey hepbern smile

Oh, Kimber! For the moment, I sure do like you.

We’re given a review of Gillian’s accomplishments again with a mishmash of information that would have been more relevant at the beginning (like the fact that she’s retired–up until now I thought she was active duty). She essentially does a Google search to look for “any establishments in London and the surrounding areas that might be Vampire-owned or at least affiliated.” How does one know if a place is vampire-owned? Is there some kind of hint or registration system? This might actually be interesting to know, so of course it’s not explained.

And then we’re told over the course of a full page how this paranormal war could be bad because reasons.

Chapter…ends? wat?

Okay, so I guess I’ll be doing two chapters today.

Chapter 28

Blah blah blah, she checks the news and finds out there are more vampire attacks, and the human media is starting to pick up on the fact that some paranormal shit is going on. They think it’s werebeasts and blandly assure the perpetrators will be caught and dealt with. Meanwhile, Dracula is creeping up on people still. See, this I like. It creates tension (actual real tension, for once!) when the protagonist knows or realizes something that most people don’t.

The plan is for the group of faceless side characters to split up. Apparently they’re going somewhere with a dress code, so Gillian and Kimber have to dress up “as something from Dial-a-Slut and Tawdry Togs for Tasty Trollops.” They’re wearing shit I don’t think I’d associate with sluts OR trollops, including marabou feathers, sequins, and leopard print, and they’re both packing more gear than a fully-outfitted soldier in a combat zone. Between them, they have an uzi, a sawed-off shotgun, two crossbows, grenades, a dartgun, and three handguns. Jesus Christ, they must have Mary Poppins bags. Who needs all this shit, and exactly how does this make them s00p3r s3kr1t operatives? I’m sure this is some kind of show of badass sexiness that they can dress up like “sluts” and still be awesome because they can handle all these weapons, y’all.

The guys show up dressed as Jean-Claude from Anita Blake, someone’s goth-convention idea of a bondage outfit, and an extra from a porn set in Ancient Rome.

Trocar and Pavel (goth bondage and porn extra) are apparently going to a bondage club, and Jean-Claude Luis is going to a nicer part of town. Let me just pause and wonder what the fuck kind of party in a “classier neighborhood” would welcome someone wearing “a black silk shirt laced at his chest and wrists, very tight black linen pants, boots and a black cape lined with emerald green silk.”

sale at hot topic

Here’s more thrilling description of what’s happening:

Trocar promised to make arrangements at the Park International Hotel near Knightsbridge for the next few days . If they found Tanis they could always check out early; if not, they’d have to adjust their strategy. They’d all meet there at dawn. All except Luis. He’d find a place to rest in one of the many parks around the city. Vampires didn’t need coffins to sleep if earth itself was available.

how interesting

Aren’t you glad to know they could check out early? And what a shame they’d apparently have to make other arrangements if their hotel reservation ran out. I HAVE SUCH EXCITE

Gillian and Kimber go to the Tower of London, and mysteriously Gillian’s empathy, which was apparently unfazed by watching vampires get torched earlier, is now making her hesitate because of the Tower’s violent history. She acts as a tourist and asks one of the guards to explain the whole fucking place to her, just in case you were wondering. One wonders what the guards think of two women dressed like they’re going to an anime convention showing up with giant lumpy bags that couldn’t possibly contain weapons.

ShootSelf

They go into a chapel to summon a ghost. Gillian, for some reason, isn’t particular about which one. Given the Tower’s history, I’m just certain that’s a wonderful idea. As much as I would dearly love for, say, an enraged Anne Boleyn to sweep in and kill them both, the best we get is Margaret Pole and Walter Raleigh, who give them no useful information. Christ, now I’m convinced Gryphon is just dumping words into the word bucket to make it weigh heavier.

bucket

They go to Highgate Cemetery blah blah. “The cabbie’s accent was of the lower class but he’d been friendly and polite.” Because why not a little classism while we’re at it?

why the fuck not

And now they’re in the cemetery, because heaven forbid there’s a modicum of originality in this gigantic pile of horseshit. They come across a gang of vampires who are tormenting a human, one of whom is wearing some kind of faux-Satanic outfit. Because of course he is. Gillian informs us of who/what the Horned God actually is and then proceeds to talk about religion and supernatural people for four paragraphs before returning to the action. Remember the vampire who was tormenting the human? Every time this happens, I always picture everyone stopping completely and staring at each other while the protagonist monologues in her own head.

The vampire is a combination of 21st century goth and Victorian here:

“Bitch.” The Vampire hissed again. “I shall feast on your sweet blood, then tear out your throat.”

Aren’t you glad he’s informing her what he’s going to do? God, this shit is getting so I don’t even have to make fun of it anymore.

So Gillian and Kimber beat the shit out of the vampire and Gillian utters these sparkling lines:

“Let me tell you something, asshole. I am your worst fucking nightmare. I have contacts all over the city and I will be all over your ass like the black plague if you abuse another Human.”

 

“You tell your master to tell his master , that I am gunning for all of you.”

Seriously! I don’t even have to try!

 you're making this too easy

Gillian continues torturing the vampire in a way that I’m sure is supposed to seem badass but does absolutely nothing but halfway convince me she actually is a sociopath.

They don’t get anything from Vampire Lackey either. Suddenly “there was an immense whirring overhead as though a plague of locusts was descending upon them.” Ooohh, I wonder who’s going to show up to the Pop Culture Supernatural Party next.

There’s like two paragraphs of some halfway decent action where she’s running from this locust cloud, which, as you can probably guess by now, falls utterly flat when she realizes they’re pixies.

PS, where the fuck did Kimber go?

Action stops again so she can tell us about pixies. They’re “the cannon fodder of the Fey world,” which means we’re going to have yet another talky scene that will be pointless.

filler

Oh, well, maybe not. One pixie bites her–apparently they’re poisonous–and they carry her off like a crowd of lavender Ewoks.

Takeaways

Well, I wanted something to happen, but now that it’s happening, it’s even more stupid and boring holy fuck. This is like an endless pod racing scene.

We jump from pointless descriptions of travel to pointless descriptions of London to pointless encounters with throwaway characters that show off some basic knowledge of British history to motherfucking pixies, which are only half a hair more palatable than the fucking mummy. I don’t even know why Gillian and Kimber are here or what the fuck they’re trying to do other than poking around trying to see what shit they can stir up. Instead of pixies, I sincerely wish she actually had been mobbed by locusts, or, even better, by wasps. The poor stunted plot has wandered off to find someplace dark and cool to die a lonely, agonizing death.

Chapter 26 here. Chapter 29 here.