Annoyed With Tessa Gray, A Disquisition on Teeth

Self is so annoyed with Tessa Gray.

Will Herondale comes into her room at night, wakes her from a nightmare, bends down to kiss her, and at the last minute she turns her head so that his kiss lands on her cheek.


Dear blog readers, self can’t, she can’t even.

Just for that, she’ll have to leave Clockwork Prince for a while and turn to Courtney Humphries and a fascinating disquisition on teeth (called, what else, Teeth) in the latest issue (Spring 2015) of Bluestem magazine.

Trigger Warning: Extremely Detailed Descriptions of a Dental Filling

My teeth have been jammed full of an embarrassing number of fillings . . .

(One moment: Fellow Writing Studio writer has just emerged from across the hall, and would you believe in 3 weeks self has never once had an adequate conversation with this person, whose name is Dan, who lives in Tijuana and has won a Canadian National Magazine Award for his writing about HIV-infection and the drug trade in Mexico. And she practically trips over her sneakers and has to call out at the top of her voice — he walks really fast! Self swears she heard him emerge just two seconds ago — WHERE IS THAT ARTICLE ON HIV-INFECTION IN TIJUANA CAN I READ IT. To be continued)

. . . over the years, and each one felt like a failure in my duty as a caretaker. Other body parts we can be lax about. Scraped knees heal, broken arms knit. Even a metabolism fallen into sloth can be rescued with exercise and good food. But teeth are monuments that we must painstakingly clean and protect, or lose them forever. My mother has had various crowns put in, and I fear that I will too someday, as she always warns me that our family has soft teeth. Just the phrase “soft teeth” is foreboding — it implies a fatal weakness in parts that are supposed to be strongest, a lack of genetic fitness that could doom me to a toothless fate.

Alas, this disquisition on teeth, too, has to end on somewhat of a cliff-y. Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

CLOCKWORK PRINCE Quote of the Day, p. 110 (Trigger Warning: Mr. Starkweather’s Grisly Trophy Collection)

Ah, this world: witchlight and warlocks, silver bullets and werewolves, vampire fangs and faerie wings.

These are fairy tales for grown-ups. Small wonder self loves Cassandra Clare.

Anyhoo, it works out really well since self has been sick in bed with a terrible cold, these past few days. Last night she actually broke down and ordered room service. Room service! What an absolutely great idea! Maybe she’ll do that again today. She might even order the exact same things she ordered last night: salad w/ trout, and lentil and bacon soup. Mama mia, that was the best salad she’s ever had. Probably the best salad in the history of salads.

She wrote, too, a wee little bit. Quite happy with her progress on the novel.

Now, where was self?

Oh right. Our three redoubtables took the train from King’s Cross (Self has been there! Last year! That’s when she heard about the death of poet Maya Angelou, because it was projected on a giant screen over the main hall). Will was sent because he’s so pretty and the Shadowhunter they’re dealing with has a weakness for a pretty face (Checked the fan fiction charts: yup, just as self  suspected, there are many dozens of fan fiction involving Will and — some other guy. He just has that much cross-over appeal). Jem went along because he’s Will’s parabatai (And many of those fan fiction homo-erotic pairings are Jem and Will. Of course). And Tessa Gray went along because she wants to make herself useful to the Enclave. Useful! My eye! She just wants to hang out some more with Will and make him wildly jealous by showing how nice Jem is being to her!

Starkweather shows his three visitors around his museum of “spoils”, which include such grisly souvenirs as:

the remains of warlocks: mummified talon hands; a stripped skull, utterly de-fleshed, human-looking save that it had tusks instead of teeth; vials of sludgy-looking blood.

Had enough? Just so you know, Tessa faints, Jem catches her, she has a terrible nightmare, in which her dastardly brother has imprisoned her in a cage and . . . she’s awoken by Will Herondale! And Will is saying: “Tess . . . that must have been quite a nightmare, to have taken the spirit out of you so. Usually you are not afraid of much.”

And self just wants to scream at Tessa: Enough of these cow eyes — go ahead and kiss him already, damn you!

Back to the book.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Beginning CLOCKWORK PRINCE: More Reasons to Love Cassandra Clare

Because she made Will Herondale, a character in The Infernal Devices trilogy.

Quotes fall so trippingly from Will’s tongue. She particularly loves when Jessamine is present, for the two Shadowhunters are constantly squabbling:

They go at it again on pp. 30 -31 of Clockwork Prince (She finished Clockwork Angel in the wee hours this morning)

. . . Jessamine shot Will a poisonous look. “If you think I don’t have the experience to help, then why is she here?” She indicated Tessa. “I don’t mean to be rude, but do you think she can tell a binding spell from a summoning one?” She looked at Tessa. “Well, can you? And for that matter, Will, you pay so little attention at lessons, can you tell a binding spell from a soufflé recipe?”

Will leaned back in his chair and said dreamily, “I am but mad north-northwest; when the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw.”

“Jessamine, Tessa has kindly offered to help, and we need all the eyes we can get right now,” said Jem severely. “Will, don’t quote Hamlet. Henry . . . ” he cleared his throat. “HENRY.”


For all her faults, Jessamine is pretty fierce. She never abandoned Tessa during the climactic fight to defend the Institute from the clockwork automatons who invaded it at the end of Clockwork Angel. And this in spite of the fact that her parasol was demolished, ruined beyond repair, lol.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Mark Twain: Disquisition on Railroad Coffee

At 62, Mark Twain undertook a journey to follow the equator. He called his book — what else?– Following the Equator.

At this point in his narrative, he’s been to Fiji, Molokai, Australia, etc (Wonder why he skipped the Asian countries?) got very very sick, then resumed his journey by train through Australia. He got a tall tale from a fellow traveler (Of course — what is travel if not a series of encounters with tall tales told by strangers one meets in the course of a trip?)

Last weekend, self was in Lake Louise, and it was almost completely iced over. As soon as she got back to Banff, she started reading Robert Falcon Scott’s diary of his disastrous South Pole expedition. The poor man led a team to the Pole, but days away they already saw signs that they had been beaten to it by another team: there were sledge marks in the snow, small cairns, and far off, the Norwegian flag. 1 and 1/2 miles from the Pole they came across a compact tent with a note inside listing the names of five Norwegians and the date: 16 December 1911.

On the way back, all of Scott’s party perished in a blizzard.

Having now gotten completely off-tangent, self has to pull herself back by the nose to Mark Twain’s disquisition on coffee:

Twain experiences his own frustrations during his Australian train journey:  “We saw birds, but not a kangaroo, not an emu, not an ornithorhyncus, not a lecturer, not a native.”

He did, however, encounter something called “sheep-dip,” which he describes as follows:

It is a stuff like tar, and is dabbed onto places where a shearer clips a piece out of the sheep. It bars out the flies, and has healing properties, and a nip to it which makes the sheep skip like the cattle on a thousand hills. It is not good to eat. That is, it is not good to eat except when mixed with railroad coffee. It improves railroad coffee. Without it railroad coffee is too vague. But with it, it is quite assertive and enthusiastic. By itself, railroad coffee is too passive; but sheep-dip makes it wake up and get down to business. I wonder where they get railroad coffee?

Just for fun, self looked up “sheep dip” on Urban Dictionary and got this.

The next chapter, Chapter XV, begins with this quote from Twain’s novel Pudd’nhead Wilson:

Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn’t.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Love You, Jessamine! And phrase “Inside of a Moment” p.424 of CLOCKWORK ANGEL

Once again, dear blog readers:


All hell breaks loose, members of the Clave are scattered here and there throughout London, battling Vampire covens and armies of clockwork automatons, and, most surprising of all, Tessa Gray’s own brother Nate, who turns out to be working for the Magister, the dastardly man who wants to marry Tessa Gray and use her shape-shifting powers to rule the British Empire.

Got it?


Will and Jem are parabati off in Highgate battling Mrs. Dark and the disembodied head of her sister.

The Clave is off somewhere else, rooting out the last surviving members of De Quincey’s Vampire Band.

The automatons take this opportunity to attack the Institute itself, where the only people left to guard it are Thomas the coachman, two maids, Tessa Gray and Jessamine, who in spite of being a Shadowhunter wants nothing more than to wear nice dresses all day and be someone’s wife. When the gates of the Institute are broken down by an army of automatons, this girl shows her true worth by laying about her with her weapon of choice, her parasol. But then she is hit in the chest by a blast from an automaton and falls to the ground while self goes oh no oh no oh no!

Then Dastardly and Cowardly Nate Grey confronts his own sister, Tessa Gray, and tries to kidnap her for The Magistrate. He has her cornered in a dark hallway. Then, Tessa looks over Nate’s shoulder and sees “a disturbance of the shadows . . . something moving toward them both . . . The figure behind Nate was almost upon them.”

Nate goes blah blah blah “I am not a fool, Tessa — ” then whack! The figure raises “a pale and glimmering object . . . above Nate’s head and comes down with a heavy crash.”

For a moment self thinks it might be Will with one of his seraph blades, Anael perhaps. But no, it is Jessamine with a lamp.

“She prodded Nate’s recumbent form with a disdainful toe.”

Jessamine is fast becoming self’s second favorite character in the series, her first being of course Will Herondale.

And here are the relationships as they stand at this point in Clockwork Angel:

  • Will and Jem are parabati (“blood brothers” and fighters)
  • Will loves Tessa Gray.
  • Tessa Gray loves Will but after he pushes her away (for what reason, self knows not, though she can well see the advantage of keeping the angst going for as long as possible; there are, after all, three books), she starts to fall for Jem.
  • Jem loves Tessa Gray.
  • Sophie the servant girl loves Jem.
  • Thomas the coachman loves Sophie.

My, my, what a pretty kettle of fish!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Excitement: Clockwork Angel p. 406 Spoilers Below


Jessamine! You and your damn parasol! What equipment for a Shadowhunter! Almost as much fun as Colin Firth’s crazy church scene in Kingsman where he demolishes an entire church of Klu Klux Klan worshippers with his brolly! (BTW, self watched “Kingsman” in Fort Bragg and almost everyone in the audience was cheering at the end of that scene!)

p. 406:

Jessamine . . . laid about her with her parasol. The whirling edge of it sliced through the legs of two of the creatures, sending them toppling forward to flop on the ground like landed fish.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Evil De Quincey (More From Cassandra Clare’s A CLOCKWORK ANGEL)

Self has not abandoned Mark Twain. Far from it. She had the book with her at breakfast this morning.

But sometimes it is good to alternate readings. For instance, in the section of Twain self is reading now, he talks about poetry.

So it makes perfect sense for self to read about Vampires.


So, Tessa and Will in the Den of Iniquity.

Will and his flashing knives.

Tessa in mortal danger.

The evil Vampire who was so attracted to Will’s throat makes a flying leap out of a window (Self never knew Vampires were capable of such Bourne maneuvers; she thought they merely vanished surreptitiously. Or flew. Or climbed down the sides of buildings, moving like bats. Self is always learning something new. Every day). Here is that scene:

De Quincey bared his teeth one last time and whirled with incredible speed. He raced across the room and flung himself into a high glass window. It shattered outward in an explosion of glass, carrying him forward as if his body were being carried on a wave, vanishing into the night.

Will swore. “We can’t lose him — ,” he began . . .

Oh no! That bloodsucker is going to have a bone to pick with Will, and eventually (perhaps in Book 2), he will re-appear and finally fulfill his desire to chomp on Will’s throat.


And here’s some very very useful information about how to kill a Vampire, courtesy of Will Herondale:

. . . you can’t kill a demon without a runed weapon or a seraph blade, guns aren’t much use to us. Vampires die if you shoot them through the heart, admittedly, and werewolves can be injured if you have a silver bullet, but if you miss the vitals, they’ll just come at you angrier than ever. Runed blades simply work better for our purposes.

Stay tuned.


Each chapter of Following the Equator begins with a quote from Pudd’nhead Wilson (Distraction/Digression: One of the poets tells self the Golden State Warriors are playing tonight. Apparently, since the Calgary Flames have been eliminated, it is now OK to ask at the MacLab for the giant screens to show basketball)

Anyhoo, where was self?

Oh yes, Following the Equator, Chapter V.

The quote that begins the chapter is this:

Noise proves nothing. Often a hen who has merely laid an egg cackles as if she had laid an asteroid.

Mark Twain! Self laughed so hard when she got to the very last word of that sentence. An asteroid! A hen laying an asteroid!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

WIP: Fan Fiction and a Novel

Self has two fan fiction WIPs at the moment, and thankfully she now has a beta (Pseud: Cielo).

But she is seriously behind with her updates. Ever since she got to Canada, she’s had very little time.

Nevertheless, she refuses to abandon her fan fiction writing. She decides to consult her beta Cielo, who tells self: “Katniss must avoid small talk because that may ignite emotions she simply cannot handle.” Moreover: “Katniss must refuse all offers of help from Peeta and his wife.” (Yes, Peeta is married to someone else. Angst is self’s particular specialty) WOW! You see how brilliant self’s beta is???

She’s also working on a novel-in-progress, a historical novel set in 18th century Spain (From dystopian worlds of the future to 18th century Spain is not really such a big leap. Self finds she can write/switch easily from one to the other. Because, let’s face it, nothing is more speculative to a modern reader than the 18th century. Or the 17th century. Or the 16th century. Or, or . . .  well, you get the picture, dear blog reader.)

Because she wants her historical novel to have tons of verisimilitude, she’s reading up on fantastic historical voyages. Luckily, The Banff Centre has a very helpful library only a five-minute walk from her room.

Finally, she’s reading Mark Twain, which is helping her keep her sense of humor well oiled.

One thing she’s observed about Twain in Explorations to the Equator is that he is an indefatigable people person. He never holes up in his cabin during his cruise. Never. Self so admires Twain’s energy and gregariousness.

Because he is always up and about, Twain collects a number of interesting tidbits about his fellow passengers. Yes indeed, he is as addicted to gossip as the next person.

One night, Twain and his fellow cruise-mates play a game. Someone will relate a story, but leave out the ending. The other players devise possible endings, the best one is chosen by vote, and then the person whose story is being told reveals what the real ending is.

One particular story trumps all because, it turns out, the story was never finished. Before he could get to the end of the tale, the story-teller was interrupted.

Everyone tries to come up with a plausible ending, but no one succeeds. Twain decides that it’s because “the story’s strength is in its middle, and . . . there is apparently no way to transfer it to the close, where of course it ought to be.”

Twain ends up re-telling the story for the reader, and it is so, so long that self cannot figure out the point. Plus the anecdote is told in text that is half the size of the main narrative, and self can hardly read it. Honestly, she doesn’t know how Twain remembered so much of this particular story. As far as she can tell, it’s about a man named John Brown, who is 31 and “good, gentle, bashful, etc.” He is “made entirely out of good impulses and bashfulness” (Digression: Two nights ago, self and the other writers were sitting in a circle in the Writers Lounge. One writer was late, and self pulled a chair out for her so she could join the circle. And the woman said: “Oh, thank you! Thank you for being so kind and thoughtful! Not that it’s going to do you any good.” At which statement self nearly bust a gut from laughing) Anyhoo, Brown is on his way to visit his lady love, when his hat gets blown off his head and lands in the river. And he determines he simply cannot show up at his sweetheart’s without his hat. So he decides to doff all his clothes and jump into the river to retrieve the hat. In the meantime, his horse runs off with his clothes, so the man is stranded naked on a riverbank. And —

Darn! How much of this small print can she decipher! It’s madness! Sheer madness!

Stay tuned.

There Is Not World Enough and Time

There is not world enough and time for self to finish reading all the books she checked out from the Banff Centre Library, every Canadian magazine she has borrowed from the Writer’s Lounge (Grain, Room, Prairie Fire, The Walrus), not to mention all the books on her reading list. Time passes too quickly, in the blink of an eye.

Nevertheless, self has not completely given up. She will plow manfully on.

Here’s a passage from Mark Twain’s Following the Equator (Hilarious as only Mark Twain can be):

I had just arrived in Washington from the Pacific Coast, a stranger and wholly unknown to the public, and was passing the White House one morning when I met a friend, a senator from Nevada. He asked me if I would like to see the President. I said I should be very glad; so we entered. I supposed that the President would be in the midst of a crowd, and that I could look at him in peace and security from a distance, as another stray cat might look at another stray king. But it was in the morning, and the Senator was using a privilege of his office which I had not heard of — the privilege of intruding upon the Chief Magistrate’s working-hours. Before I knew it, the Senator and I were in the presence, and there was none there but we three. General Grant got slowly up from his table, put his pen down, and stood before me with the iron expression of a man who had not smiled for seven years, and was not intending to smile for another seven. He looked me steadily in the eyes — mine lost confidence and fell.

(This is not the end of the anecdote, but self has just been seized by brilliance. Yes, she’s just had a flash of insight about how she can continue her 18th century WIP. Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.)

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