It's challenge time!
Comment with Just One Thing you've accomplished in the last 24 hours or so. It doesn't have to be a hard thing, or even a thing that you think is particularly awesome. Just a thing that you did.
Feel free to share more than one thing if you're feeling particularly accomplished!
Extra credit: find someone in the comments and give them props for what they achieved!
Nothing is too big, too small, too strange or too cryptic. And in case you'd rather do this in private, anonymous comments are screened. I will only unscreen if you ask me to.
In that time, 17 copies have sold: 3 to me (for technical reasons) and 14 to other people.
Somewhere on YouTube, I watched a vid of a panel of authors talking about self publishing, and one of them said that even when you get published via the traditional route (unless you're a Big Name Author that the publishing house is actively promoting), selling 200 copies a year is par for the course.
Considering that she was talking about prose books, and (if I recall correctly) her own work was of a traditional fiction sub-genre, and my book is poetry and it has an esoteric focus (unlike, say love poetry, or straight-up autobiography/confessional/abuse survival), I'm rather pleased to be within sight of 10% of that.*
Anyway, yesterday, I got it into head to try and convert my book from ink-and-paper to pixel-and-silicon by August 4, this year. ...
And this was after the computer I composed the book on died, so I had to re-download the PDF Lulu.com has on file, and go through the whole thing and rework the format to make it ebook compatible. ... My Inner Critic is fretting and chewing her fingernails, 'cause whoever first composed ebook algorithms didn't take the requirements of poetry into account at all (like allowing extra lines between stanzas).
So wish me luck.
*(shameless plug) If you'd like to help me get to a full 10% of Par For the Course, you can buy the book either at Lulu.com (where there's a 20% discount, and I earn $1.69):
or on Amazon (where there is no discount, and I earn $0.03 from the U.S., and $0.33 from the UK [no, I have no idea why I get more money from a foreign-to-me seller])
The Bourbon Kings
The Bourbon Kings by J.R. Ward is $1.99! This book is more of a dysfunctional family saga than a romance, and it was also the inspiration for my first Covers & Cocktails post! Redheadedgirl gave this book a B:
As a novel where there’s a bunch of crazysauce, I appreciated it. I do think the current trend in romance is lacking in crazysauce. There’s a lot that happens!
For generations, the Bradford family has worn the mantle of kings of the bourbon capital of the world. Their sustained wealth has afforded them prestige and privilege—as well as a hard-won division of class on their sprawling estate, Easterly. Upstairs, a dynasty that by all appearances plays by the rules of good fortune and good taste. Downstairs, the staff who work tirelessly to maintain the impeccable Bradford facade. And never the twain shall meet.
For Lizzie King, Easterly’s head gardener, crossing that divide nearly ruined her life. Falling in love with Tulane, the prodigal son of the bourbon dynasty, was nothing that she intended or wanted—and their bitter breakup only served to prove her instincts were right. Now, after two years of staying away, Tulane is finally coming home again, and he is bringing the past with him. No one will be left unmarked: not Tulane’s beautiful and ruthless wife; not his older brother, whose bitterness and bad blood know no bounds; and especially not the ironfisted Bradford patriarch, a man with few morals, fewer scruples, and many, many terrible secrets.
As family tensions—professional and intimately private—ignite, Easterly and all its inhabitants are thrown into the grips of an irrevocable transformation, and only the cunning will survive.
Make Me by Tessa Bailey is 99c! This contemporary romance has come up in a couple Rec Leagues: He’s Not Worthy and He’s Always Loved Her. Reader Katie C. and I talked about this book in line while at RT17. She loved it! (Maybe she can pop into the comments and share her thoughts.) Meanwhile, I was really anticipating this book and felt disappointed by the pacing.
Construction worker Russell Hart has been head-over-work boots for Abby Sullivan since the moment he laid eyes on her. But he knows a classy, uptown virgin like her could never be truly happy with a rough, blue-collar guy like him. If only she’d stop treating him like her personal hero—a role he craves more than oxygen—maybe he could accept it.
With the future of her family’s hedge fund on her shoulders, Abby barely has time to sleep, let alone find love. And her best friend Russell acting like a sexy, overprotective hulk any time their Super Group goes out in public definitely isn’t helping her single status. But after a near-tragedy lands Russell in her bed for the night, Abby’s suddenly fantasizing about what he looks like shirtless. Chest hair and tattoos—who knew?
As Russell struggles to keep Abby at a safe distance, she begins to see through his tough-talking exterior—and acknowledge her own feelings. Now she’s ready to turn the friend-zone into foreplay…and make him lose control.
Luke by Barbara Freethy is 99c at Amazon! This is the first book in the 7 Brides for 7 Brothers series, which caught my eye because the movie (of the same name) was part of my childhood. This is a second chance romance. Some readers warn there’s an annoying plot moppet in the romance, but others recommend the book for fans of sweet, second chance stories. Some of the other books in the series are also available for 99c!
Meet the Brannigan brothers—seven sexy brothers who bring the heart and the heat! From bestselling authors Barbara Freethy, Ruth Cardello, Melody Anne, Christie Ridgway, Lynn Raye Harris, Roxanne St. Claire and JoAnn Ross comes a brand new contemporary romance family series: 7 Brides for 7 Brothers. You won’t want to miss a single one!
LUKE – Barbara Freethy
Luke Brannigan lives for the adrenaline rush, which makes his job as a filmmaker of extreme sporting adventures the perfect career choice. He loves to travel the world, risking life and limb to capture the most amazing shot. Some might say he’s running away from something…or someone.
When Luke’s billionaire father Colin Brannigan dies unexpectedly, Luke is shocked to receive title to the mountain lodge where his parents first met. Having been estranged from his father for years, Luke has no idea why his dad picked him to inherit this very personal piece of property…until he realizes the pretty blonde manager is Lizzie Parker, his former college girlfriend.
Luke and Lizzie have an emotional and heartbreaking past, but will they have a future? Will love be Luke’s greatest adventure yet?
Bikers and Pearls
Bikers and Pearls by Vicki Wilkerson is 99c! This is a small town contemporary romance with an opposites attract element. Some readers expressed difficulty sympathizing with the heroine, while others loved how the relationship progressed between the hero and heroine. Reviews also mentioned that this is a romance without any explicit sex scenes.
Who said tempting a sweet Southern belle would be easy?
When rebel biker Bullworth Clayton gets tangled up with pastel-and-pearls-clad April Church, sparks fly. Sure, April would clearly rather work with anyone else, but if teaming up with Bull means a successful charity event for a sick little boy they both care about, then so be it.
April is baffled at how drawn she is to the leather-wearing, tattooed Bull—he just doesn’t fit with her simple, safe, country-club life. And as much as the handsomely rugged man tempts her, she still can’t shake the images of the tragic motorcycle accident from her past, which left her scarred and her father broken.
Bull tempts her to don a pair of leather pants and go for a ride with him, while April desperately tries to resist her attraction to the wild side and keep her exploits hidden from her small town. Will they be able to navigate their differences and find a middle road to love?
Title: Mini Summer Bingo Blackout
Fandoms: Torchwood & FAKE
Characters: Ianto Jones, Jack Harkness, Owen Harper, Team Torchwood, OCs, Dee Laytner, Ryo Maclean, JJ Adams, Drake Parker, Bikky Goldman, Carol, OCs.
Rating: G to PG
Word Count: 2700
Spoilers: Not really.
Summary: A selection of triple drabbles spread across both fandoms
Content Notes: A bit of everything, I think.
Written For: Challenge June Special: Mini Summer Bingo
Disclaimer: I don’t own Torchwood, FAKE, or the characters.
A/N: Decided to post them all in one post here. I can separate them out for posting to my journals at a later date.
( Mini Summer Bingo Blackout... )
Prompt: "ghost consciousness."
The house had lain ruined for decades upon decades, quiescent at the edge of the town. Once, it was said, a fine family had dwelled there, wealthy at first, much given to parties and entertainments. The oldest people in the town still remembered the parties: the music of string quartets, and cakes decorated with spun-sugar ornaments, and couples dancing gaily through the night. But now none of the windows had glass in them anymore, save for a few sharded teeth, and the wind blew freely through the rooms where people had once gathered to gossip.
Nevertheless, the house was not entirely uninhabited. A ghost remained attached to the house, and it murmured to itself during the long winter nights, singing tuneless ghost-songs of the shapes that shadows make in the dark, and the sounds that mirrors make when no one is around to hear them, and footsteps in the distant wood. The ghost did not remember the name of the person it had been, once upon a time, but neither did this make it unhappy.
In time a pregnant cat moved into the house for the shelter it offered. The ghost did not remember much about cats, except that they liked cream, and it had no such thing to give the cat. But it had other things to offer. It encouraged the old closets to throw their doors open and disgorge their rotted linens so that the cat would have something to nest in, and it offered all house's hiding places, as well as the lullaby of the crooning wind.
For her part, the cat was a pragmatist. She did not share human prejudices against ghosts, and a ruined house was as good as any other place for her to raise kittens. She merely made sure that there were no raccoons or the like already occupying the place, and then she set to building her nest in earnest.
Cats are not the most talkative of folk, but this cat was friendlier than most. She asked the ghost why it lingered in the house, instead of going to its rest the way humans usually did. While she didn't always put credence in human stories, she had heard that ghosts usually stayed in the realm of the living because they had left some task unfinished.
The ghost said to the cat, "The only task is the task of the house itself. It was my home when I lived, and it remains my home in death."
"Then I am sorry I cannot help you," the cat said, dismayed in spite of the very pressing matter of the kittens she expected to arrive in a matter of days. "A human could help you restore the house, but I am a cat. I may have clever paws and whiskers, but they are no good for building."
The ghost's laughter gusted through the house, although it tried to keep the worst of the cold from the cat. "What do I care about restoration?" it said. "Perhaps once, when I had flesh, it would have mattered to me. But now I am a creature of shadows and dust and ash, and this house suits what I am now. I can keep it safe for you and your kittens. They can play in the house's halls and grow to adulthood without fear of being chased out by human owners; is that not enough?"
"If that is the case," the cat replied, "I shall gratefully accept your hospitality, and my kittens and I will keep your house free of mice."
"It is a very old bargain," the ghost said, "and if it suits you, it suits me."
Two days later, the kittens were born without fuss, or more fuss than the usual, anyway, and in the years to come, generations of cats made their home in the house. They probably live there still. As for the ghost, it has been busy adding the songs of cats to its repertoire. The result is noisy, but none of them mind.
Another group of lawmakers is starting the debate over whether and how to reauthorize an online surveillance power set to sunset at the end of the year.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing this morning on Section 702, as enacted by the FISA Amendments Act. That is the authority the government claims justifies the warrantless Internet surveillance of innocent Americans and others around the world and includes controversial Upstream and PRISM programs.
We’ve long argued on the Hill and in the courts that this surveillance violates privacy protections, including the Fourth Amendment, and that lawmakers should let the sun set on the law.
Today’s hearing comes after the House Judiciary Committee had a hearing on the expiring law in March, and the Senate Intelligence Committee had a hearing earlier this month. As we did with those hearings, we’ll be live-blogging this morning’s hearing. Follow along below.
9:13 a.m. PDT - The hearing has concluded. Thanks for reading!
9:10 a.m. PDT - Collins noted the concerns from the ODNI and the NSA that it would be difficult—and in some circumstances even privacy invasive—for the intelligence community to come up with an estimate of the number of U.S. persons impacted by “incidental” surveillance under Section 702. But she said she “adds [her] voice” to the calls that the intelligence community continue to work to find a way to deliver on the long-promised estimate.
9:03 a.m. PDT - Goitein tells Sen. Lee that every time the government conducts a backdoor search, it is an independent privacy violation. She points out that the list of crimes for which the DOJ can use backdoor search materials to prosecute is not public. Furthermore the DOJ has “spotty compliance at best” with the statutory requirement of notice to defendants against whom 702 information has been used.
8:55 a.m. PDT - Sen. Richard Blumenthal hinted at the idea of expanding the role of FISC amici, the outside experts that the FISC can call on when the government seeks FISC approval for surveillance that raises new legal questions. Blumenthal—who has long fought for a large role for a “special advocate” in FISC proceedings—asked witnesses how to improve the amicus process. Along the lines of Feinstein’s proposal, Klein suggested involving the amici when the FISC considers annual 702 recertification. Goitein noted that, under the system set up by the USA FREEDOM Act, the FISC chooses when to involve amici, and there’s no way for the amici to appeal the court’s decisions.
8:50 a.m. PDT - In response to a question from Sen. Grassley, Olsen says it would be “unwise” to impose a warrant requirement for backdoor searches of Americans’ communications incidentally collected under Section 702. Goitein points out it that if the NSA had intentionally sought to directly target these Americans’ communications, a warrant would be required in the first instance. For that reason, she believes backdoor searches violate “the spirit if not the letter” of Section 702’s prohibition on reverse targeting.
8:30 a.m. PDT - The first panel of intelligence officials has concluded, and the second panel of witnesses has started. They are former General Counsel of the NSA Matthew Olsen (currently at IronNet Cybersecurity), Center for a New American Security’s Adam Klein, Elizabeth Goitein of the Brennan Center for Justice, and Elisebeth Collins of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.
8:15 a.m. PDT - NSA’s Morris evaded questions from Sen. Patrick Leahy about when the NSA would seek court approval to reinstate “about collection” under Section 702. While Morris said the NSA does not currently have plans to do so, he also said the agency is “always looking at ways to improve the technical controls we have in place.” He also reiterated the agency’s opposition to a legislative ban on about collection, and declined to give a concrete answer to Leahy’s question about when the NSA would have a technical fix that would enable the agency to restart about collection.
8:08 a.m. PDT - Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse posed a question for the record asking the government to detail all the ways in which it “polices use and abuse of 702 information.”
7:55 a.m. PDT - Sen. Al Franken expressed his frustration with the ODNI’s professed inability to provide a “meaningful” accounting of American communications “incidentally” swept up in Section 702 surveillance. Pointing to the 2011 FISA court proceeding in which the NSA provided an estimate of wholly domestic communications it had collected, he pressed ODNI to come up with a similar estimate.
7:50 a.m. PDT - Sen. Mike Lee brought up the idea of tailoring the definition of “foreign intelligence information” to more narrowly focus on information related to national security threats. The NSA’s acquisition of communications under Section 702 must have the “significant purpose” to obtain “foreign intelligence information,” but that term is broadly defined and, in the past, has included things like information relevant to foreign affairs.
Stuart Evans, the Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Intelligence, replied that he couldn’t substantively discuss the definition of “foreign intelligence information” in an open hearing and pivoted to defending how the intelligence community identifies targets and then audits those identifications.
7:40 a.m. PDT - Sen. Amy Klobuchar pushed back on the intelligence officials’ testimony that Section 702 should be reauthorized without a sunset. That would give Congress “no leverage to get changes or to work on things,” she said, noting that Sen. Feinstein—who has historically defended the intelligence community—said she would oppose reauthorization without a sunset.
7:28 a.m. PDT - In response to questions from Sen. Feinstein, the panel of intelligence officials pushed back on the idea that Congress should codify the end of “about collection” under Upstream. Feinstein asked about the possibility of working with the NSA to draft a legislative amendment to bar about collection, and the panel of witnesses resoundingly answered that the intelligence community would oppose such an amendment.
The NSA’s Paul Morris told Feinstein that the NSA would like to keep open the possibility of restarting about collection if they can find a technical solution that minimizes the amount of unnecessary information about Americans obtained through about collection. “We think that, given enough time, we might be able to come up with a technical solution that addresses the [FISA] Court’s concern,” he said.
The fact that the NSA is already thinking ahead to restarting about collection makes it even more necessary that 702 reforms include codifying the end of about collection.
7:16 a.m. PDT - Paul Morris, NSA’s Deputy General Counsel, publicly discussed for the first time an example of the intelligence community using Section 702 to discover and take down a smartphone app. Without going into any more details, Morris said the agency obtained information in 2016 about the state-sponsored smartphone app and had it removed from app stores.
7:10 a.m. PDT - FBI National Security Branch Executive Assistant Director Carl Ghattas said that FBI only receives “raw” 702 communications if targeted selectors are relevant to an investigation but admits that FBI runs “significantly more” queries for US persons’ names than NSA.
6:58 a.m. PDT - ODNI Acting General Counsel Bradley Brooker repeated—almost verbatim—Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats’ excuses from earlier this month about why the intelligence community is failing to follow through on its promise to Congress to provide an accounting of the number of U.S. persons whose communications have been “incidentally” swept up through 702 surveillance. According to Brooker and Coats, it would be “unpalatable” to have the intelligence community divert resources from national security threats to conduct research into the individuals impacted by 702 surveillance to see if they’re U.S. persons.
As we’ve said before, we think it’s unpalatable for the intelligence community to ask Congress to reauthorize a law without giving them an understanding of how that law impacts their constituents. The fact that they’re hiding behind “privacy and civil liberties concerns” makes it even worse.
6:50 a.m. PDT - In her opening statement, Sen. Feinstein notably did not mention her call that 702 reauthorization legislation codify the end of “about collection,” or collection of communications that mention a foreign intelligence target’s email address or other identifier. About collection is a controversial and privacy-invasive technique that the NSA ended earlier this year. EFF and other privacy advocates see the codification of the end of “about collection” as a critical piece of any reform efforts. Feinstein did, however, briefly touch on her push to formalize the role of an outside counsel in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court’s consideration of Section 702 annual certifications.
6:48 a.m. PDT - Senate Judiciary ranking member Dianne Feinstein—who is also a senior member of the Senate Intelligence Committee—started her opening statement with a jurisdiction grab, reminding her colleagues that while the Intelligence Committee has a head start on 702 reauthorization this year, the law is ultimately within the Judiciary Committee’s jurisdiction.
She specifically mentioned a new bill from Senate Intelligence Republicans, including ardent surveillance defender Sen. Tom Cotton, that would permanently reauthorize Section 702. Feinstein reiterated her opposition to the bill, saying “Congress has an important oversight role to play in these measures,” and that “the sunset allows us to review and revise” the law as technology changes.
6:42 a.m. PDT - Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley opened the hearing with a rundown of recent terrorist attacks and praise of Section 702 surveillance as a counterterrorism tool. He overstated the oversight of 702 surveillance “by all three branches” of the government, but he did acknowledge concerns about the way innocent Americans’ communications are warrantlessly and “incidentally” collected under Section 702. Read Grassley’s full written opening statement here.
6:34 a.m. PDT - The hearing is starting now.
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In this HaBO, we’re trying to track down the first romance Reader Esti ever picked up:
I was talking to Bea at the Ripped Bodice about the first romance novel I ever read, and she suggested I contact you because I cannot for the life of me remember the name of the book (to be fair, I was only ten. Someone messed up and put it in the kids section at a book sale and I bought it. It definitely gave me an education, lol.)
Anyway, the story was about a divorced couple whose son was kidnapped around Christmas time. Of course they fall back in love while searching for their son. I believe the kidnapper was the hero’s partner, who wanted the heroine for himself.
I’m pretty sure the cover was blue (I know, how cliche) and that it was they type of books that come out every month, like the Silhouette romances.
Blue cover alert!
This week we have a two-hour episode on Monday, and a two-hour episode on Tuesday.
Pray for my liver.
Is anyone out there a doctor? Because I’m really going to need a note for work on Wednesday.
Boss: “Elyse, why are you in pajama bottoms and is that a tortilla chip in your hair?”
Anyway, last week a bunch of guys were jerks, everyone fought with each other, and Rachel broke down crying because of the shittiness of the group. Iggy tattled on everyone. Lee revealed himself to be the missing Malfoy child. Kenny was accused by Lee of being aggressive.
Dean and Peter stood out by not engaging in the bullshit.
We also need to take a moment to talk about Lee’s hair. There’s no justification for his bouffant or the amount of gel that he needs to achieve it. My working theory is that he’s smuggling exotic birds up there.
Anyway, on with the show!
We’re back on Hilton Head Island, SC. Kenny has approached Lee to confront him because Lee told Rachel that Kenny was aggressive toward him.
Now let’s take a moment to call that statement out for what it is: coded racism.
Last week pretty much all of the men were shouting at each other during an epic blow up. No one got physical and there was no indication that anyone would. Multiple people shouted at Lee because Lee is a raging asshole.
Lee only accuses Kenny of being aggressive.
Coincidentally Kenny is a large Black man.
Rewatching clips from last week, it’s apparent that Kenny was never going to get physical with Lee. He was feet away from Lee when they argued, and while voices were raised, both had relaxed body posture.
By accusing Kenny of being aggressive, Lee puts Kenny in an untenable position. If he gets mad at Lee for being a shitbag, he’s an aggressive, potentially dangerous Black man. Same if he vociferously defends himself. Now all Kenny can do is keep his cool while Lee attacks him like the cowardly little rectal pustule he is.
Very calmly, Kenny says to Lee, “You are a disingenuous snake.”
That’s pretty fucking unfair to snakes. Snakes are just eating rodents and keeping their ecosystems sound. Snakes aren’t using all the hair gel.
It’s obvious that Lee is trying to provoke an angry, potentially even violent reaction from Kenny, who refuses to engage.
I expect Rachel will immediately see through all of this
After all that nonsense, Rachel shows up and gives Bryan the group-date rose , which is interesting because I actually forgot that Bryan existed. Which one is he again?
The next day Rachel goes on a one-on-one date with Jack, who looks a lot like Bryan, which is confusing me. They take a carriage ride and then shuck and eat fresh oysters. They go dancing and Jack flirts, and it’s painful because there’s no chemistry between them. Rachel is clearly aware of it and doesn’t want to kiss him because she’s “sick.”
Cut back to the hotel. Some of the other dudes tell Lee what a shitty, racist thing calling Kenny aggressive is, and Lee gets suitably butt-hurt because Kenny “played the race card.”
He acts like he has no idea what the connotations of his comments are.
Then we go back to Rachel and Jack having dinner. Jack is trying sooooo hard to impress Rachel and she has this kind of vacant stare going on. He’s talking about how they really connected and Rachel looks like she’s thinking about The Black Panther teaser trailer. Or shampooing her carpet. Or cuddling with her dog, Copper. Or anything other than spending time with Jack, really.
He is super oblivious to the fact that this woman has totally checked out.
Rachel comments, “Jack says ‘I just want to take you back to Dallas and just lay in bed and talk.’ That didn’t sound…great to me.”
She tells Jack that she doesn’t feel a romantic connection to him and that he won’t be getting a rose.
Jack, who was busy naming their future children, is stunned. I felt a little bad for him but also, pick up on signals dude. She didn’t want to kiss you! By this point in filming the “sick” thing is nonsense. Everyone has the same cold.
Except Lee. Lee has bird flu but only because an African Ringneck Parakeet that I’ve named Mr. Tweeters is living in his hair.
The next night (or same night? It’s all a little fuzzy here) Rachel puts on a black dress that is held together by sequined clips and makes her look like a goddamned goddess. She decides to omit the cocktail party and go straight to The Dreaded Rose Ceremony.
Cut back to the house where Peter, who is actually aware of human beings other than himself, is telling Iggy how the mens’ awful, childish behavior hurt Rachel.
I feel like right now is a good time to admit that I really want Peter to win.
- He doesn’t engage in petty bullshit. Every time Lee is starting some shit or Eric is screaming “MY NAME IS IN YOUR MOUTH” Peter is off on his own, presumably working out the blueprints of the dream house he will build Rachel with his goddamn hands.
- Rachel’s dog, Copper, loves Peter. Copper spent their whole flight to Palm Springs with his head in Peter’s lap, gazing adoringly at him. Dogs know. They always know.
Also when the WTFery is high, Peter adopts the Jim Halpert “is this real life” look.
Case in point:
Then it’s time for The Dreaded Rose Ceremony–the ceremony when Chris Harrison gets to drink the blood of fallen Bachelorette contenders, thereby freeing him to walk in daylight.
In a cutaway Adam (the one who had the puppet) says, “I feel like she hasn’t seen the full Adam yet. She’s had a glimpse. She’s had a snack. I want to give her the full kitchen.”
Is The Full Kitchen a sex move I don’t know about? Is it having sex while scouring the sink?
Kenny gets a rose. Peter gets a rose. Adam gets a rose.
Then we’re down to one flower.
Chris Harrison shows up to tell us we’re down to the final rose. THANKS CHRIS!
Clearly at the behest of the producers, Rachel gives the rose to Lee.
I might have thrown up in my mouth a little, but this drinking isn’t great for my GERD.
Iggy is left out. He looks physically ill. The Tickle Monster doesn’t get a rose.
“I gotta get back out there, and look for a girl who appreciates a good set of tickling,” he says.
I don’t know what that means, but it upsets me. It sounds like something that would be scrawled in blood at a crime scene, baffling detectives.
Next they all jet off to Oslo, Norway! They immediately start off with a one-on-one date with Bryan (who I forgot existed again).
They repel down a 187 foot ski jump. Because that sounds …fun.
Bryan tries to kiss her in midair. I would have been so absolutely panic-stricken at this point that I would have reflexively punched him in the face. Like a full on KO. Don’t fucking touch me when I’m dangling 187 feet in midair.
Over dinner Bryan and Rachel discuss being insecure in high school and college. Bryan tells her that previously he was afraid of commitment in relationships, but he’s matured since then. Which totally explains why he’s looking for marriage on reality TV. Because maturity.
Then he says the words, “I’m falling in love with you.”
EVERYONE TAKE A SHOT.
Despite her “cold” Rachel totally makes out with Bryan. She also gives him a rose.
Back at the hotel Lee is busy drinking the tears of children when the date card arrives.
It’s a group date with…IDK a bunch of the dudes. I’m drunk.
Regardless, Kenny and Lee aren’t in the group date which means they have a two-on-one date later.
Mr. Tweeters makes a brief appearance from Lee’s hair and gingerly accepts a pistachio from Chris Harrison.
For the group date, the dudes and Rachel learn how to play handball. Rachel describes it as a combination of football, basketball and water polo. Minus the water, I guess. It’s not the handball I played in high school gym class which involved hitting a ball with your hand and bouncing it off a wall. It makes about as much sense though and is equally appealing.
Also for reasons that boggle the mind, Dean wears his jock strap OVER his uniform.
We cut back to the hotel where Kenny Facetimes his daughter and my heart melts.
Meanwhile Lee lifts weights, polishes his cowboy boots and puts on his most douchey pair of distressed jeans. They show him reading a book about Oslo and I 100% guarantee a producer had to flip the book right-side up for him.
The two-on-one date card comes for Kenny and Lee, and includes a poem from Chris Harrison. I am not making this up:
Yes. That actually happened. I totally believe that Chris wrote it himself too. While cackling. The poem is about murder, but no one has figured it out yet. Chris prays to the Rose God.
Back to the group date. Rachel and Peter have dashed off to the hot tub where they’re gone for “three and a half hours” according to one of the dudes. I’m thinking they may actually have had sex. Just the parts that were filmed looked like they were about seconds from penetration.
Despite that, Will gets the rose. This confuses Peter because THREE AND A HALF HOURS. That’s stamina. He worked hard, okay? He didn’t carb up for that. That was all grit.
The next day it’s the two-on-one date. Lee, Kenny and Rachel take a helicopter ride out to the wilderness. They have drinks by a river. Mr Tweeters calls out to the wild birds of Norway.
Kenny and Rachel go to talk privately. Kenny tells Rachel that he loves spending time with her, but also that he feels like she’d be a great role model for his daughter. For the most part he skirts the bullshit with Lee, and focuses on the relationship he wants with Rachel.
Rachel isn’t at all blind to Kenny’s maturity and sincerity.
Then Kenny and Lee sit awkwardly alone while Rachel is (presumably) filming her cut always. A bird chirps really loudly onscreen and I yell, “Mr. Tweeters!”
My husband looks up from his book. “What?!”
Oh, lord, I’m drunk.
Then Lee and Rachel go talk alone. I’d like to point out that Lee has major There’s Something About Mary hair going on. Lee tells Rachel that Kenny had tried to “violently” pull him out of a van and that it appalled the other contestants, which is a blatant lie. Then he tells Rachel that Kenny gets violent when he drinks. Again, there is no evidence of this.
“I’m never gonna lie to you,” Lee says while lying to Rachel.
Somewhere Darth Vader is thinking that Lee is the son he wished he had.
I’d call Lee a worthless sack of shit, but shit can be used as fertilizer. He’s an oxygen thief. A waste of perfectly good hair gel.
I felt so genuinely bad for Kenny at this point. He’s being attacked, lied about, and there’s so little he can do to defend himself other than hope Rachel sees through Lee’s bullshit.
Then we get TO BE CONTINUED with clips implying that Kenny and Lee come to blows. I doubt it — the show has a vested interest in keeping anyone from getting hurt, and it’s bullshit to imply it’s going to lead to violence.
If anything, Mr. Tweeters might finally lose his shit and peck Lee to death, which I’m okay with.
Are you still watching? Who do you think should get the final rose?
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There are key moments and motifs in fiction that we latch onto as readers, and as writers. Symbolic scenes that loom large for us because they connect in some deeper way with our own buried nightmares and past traumas.
For me one of those moments is in C.S. Lewis’ The Silver Chair, where every single day, bound to that chair, the prince remembers how much he’s forgotten. Fleetingly, he understands he’s a prisoner and also that he can do nothing about it, imprisoned equally by his own enchanted brain.
I was just six or seven when I read this and the horror of it simply overwhelmed me and then infiltrated me: that moment when you know, and simultaneously know the knowledge won’t last.
I think it terrifies me because the vulnerability and powerlessness of that moment is so crushing and absolute.
In Never Now Always, I set out to explore the terror of that moment. And also to face it and conquer it, putting my characters in the same predicament, yet giving them tools to fight.
So the story centers on Lolo, a child who finds herself trapped in a mysterious labyrinth under the supervision of a horde of voiceless alien Caretakers. She is surrounded by many other children, but none of them know how they ended up there, or what happened before. And as the Caretakers subject the children to psychological experiments focused on trauma and memory, their ability to form short-term memories is limited, too. Everything they learn, or think they learn, just slips between their fingers like water.
Then Lolo hits on the concept of writing — scrawling drawings and pictographs as simply as possible, designed to represent these fleeting pieces of story to her future self. Hoping that she stays the same, that her perception persists enough from day to day that when she sees those scribblings later, she’ll still know what they mean.
For me, as the writer of the novella, it was more complicated. The deeper I got into the story, the more I realized how truly challenging it would be to tell a story where the mechanics of narrative are broken, where one thing doesn’t always lead to another and pieces of story don’t necessarily add up.
In some ways every scene felt like a first scene. There are gaps in this story, and continuity errors.
But I also realized that while I wanted my reader to feel somewhat disoriented, I could not let them remain as disoriented as the characters, because that would really not be an enjoyable story to read.
So I also ended up depending heavily on language to do the work — I tried to anchor everything in touch and taste and feelings, always in the present tense, a language reinvented for children whose sense of time is confined to a narrow slice of perpetual now. Everything that’s happening to them is happening in the immediate, and the present is the only moment that matters.
And in that perpetual now is where I think my characters — and I, myself — find redemption and solace. Because love is deeper than language. Because my dog doesn’t need to remember all the days of his life with me to know that with me he’s loved and safe and home; “yesterday” and “tomorrow” don’t actually mean anything. As always, my dog is wiser than I am. So I gave Lolo a dog, too, to help her figure it out.
In the end, the story returns to the one idea I find most comforting: that in this world and the next, life after life, we always make our way back to protect those who’ve protected us, and to be reunited with the souls we’ve loved.
I hope it’s true.