Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Castle Rock - A Twist on the Expanded Universe


Upfront I'll admit, I love expanded universes.  Comics, manga (Japanese comic books), movies, novels, fairy tales, all of it.  I love when you can pick up a story and realize there are these threads that spread out to other stories. I am completely caught by an expanding narrative that allows me to catch all the small threads, as if I were catching the tail end of a very long inside joke. It keeps my little geek heart happy.

Some do it better then others.  The early days of the MCU with little teasers at the end were cute, but nothing compared to the layered worlds of  CLAMP manga. The difference being that one was a set up from the beginning, while the latter was pieced together part by part, the connections added in with each new story. Now there are pluses and minuses for each, but my heart lies in the ones that aren't so obvious and don't use the intertwining as a crutch - looking at you MCU.

That paired with the fact that I am a Stephen King fan.  I grew up stealing his adult books from my mother's reading shelf in the spare bedroom, hanging on the retellings by my best friend when I wasn't brave enough to finish them myself.  I knew he always crafted his stories to connect and when I found CLAMP did the same thing in my college years, I'm reasonably sure it's part of the reason they were one of my favorite manga creators.

Flash forward to today, while working on other things I decided to press play on Castle Rock.  A new series by Hulu, Castle Rock bills itself as Stephen King told ala Once Upon a Time. In other words you may recognize the place, you may recognize the characters, but this is a new tale, and that really intrigued me. Because by now I've read even more of his books and seen quite a few of his movies.  Beyond that I admire him as a writer - though some of his tropes irk me - and dream of having a library of my own works as numerous as his one day.

So what exactly is Castle Rock?  Well, for those
familiar, Castle Rock is the fictional town that a
good number of Stephen King's stories take place in.  It's situated in Maine and is a small town, complete with all the downsides of such a place - ie small town secrets, old notions and strange but protected ways. The townsfolk aren't evil, of course, they're just set in their ways and when something new comes up or something tries to rustle their way of life well, there's no having that.

As a series, Castle Rock weaves together a unique story with countless points of entry. For those who aren't familiar with Stephen King, you'll find here an intriguing story about the source of evil buried in a small town.  For those familiar with the author you'll find the same... and so much more. Littered throughout the storytelling are nods and hints to all of his books. Some are obvious - like the infamous Shawshank Prison - while others are ever so slight - the mention of a rabid dog that one year.  Hints abound, you can barely blink while watching, because you'll miss one.

The nice thing is, even with these easter eggs scattered across the path, unless you're familiar you wouldn't know and it doesn't hurt the story if that's the case.  At the time of writing this, I've seen five episodes in the series and they all come together with a complete tale that doesn't leave the viewer out in the cold. At no point am I told 'oh, that's from Needful Things, read that for more' nor does a character subtly drop a list of the other movies you should add to your queue.  Nope, it's all an inside joke that isn't required to watch the show and enjoy it.

Honestly, I wish all expanded universes were like this and I do miss it. I realize that Marvel and DC have movies to sell and Once Upon a Time had fan favorites they wanted to show Disney fans front and center, but Castle Rock shows what can happen when those wishes aren't focused on.  And in the end this series is masterfully unfolding and I'm so ready to see where it goes.  Then, once it's done, I know I'll be revisiting other favorite movies and novels of Stephen Kings, to relive those worlds all over again and even try a few other new ones.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Review: Sunstone (Comic)



Sunstone is the ongoing comic by Stjepan Sejic (and sometimes his wife) delving into the world of BDSM and the relationships that exist within.  This is not your "50 Shades of Gray" in comic form.  This is the actual portrayal of a healthy relationship between two women and the others they interact with in the BDSM scene. It's very pretty, it's very hot, but it's also really well written with three dimensional characters and a beautiful story. And it's adult, so be warned.


What's it about?


Lisa is a freelance writer, more then often dabbling in erotica when she can and mostly keeps her submissive side hidden.  Meanwhile Ally is a successful business woman with more then enough money to burn - and burn it she does on elaborate props and setups for the perfect submissive she's hoping to one day finds. The comic follows their meeting and relationship together as they explore their own preferred taboos and figure how to blend their worlds of 'love' and 'submissive and dominant' together. There's also spin off series concerning the others characters introduced, such as Sunstone: Mercy and Sunstone: Jasper.




Art by Luis Royo

Thoughts:


As I mentioned, if you were looking for a healthy alternative to the more well known '50 Shades' relationship, here is a perfect example.  The series was recommended to me by a good friend and it does not disappoint in story, heat meter or art.  Basically, we have a healthy relationship here that is arguably better then the damaging fantasy of the previously mentioned Gray series.

Backing up a bit, ever since my teens I've had a love for art in this style.  It can hardly be called pornographic, because it's not just about the boobs and flesh shown off, though there is plenty of that. Growing up I found myself drawn to the art of Luis Royo which easily mixed sexuality and art, and now I have a deep love for doujinshi and fanart that do the same thing. Basically this is a story that doesn't shy away from showing skin when the plot requires it, but does so in a tasteful way that can easily still be called art.

If you're not familiar with the kinky world of the characters, that's not a problem.  The comic obviously understands that the world is full of a variety of people with a variety of experience and kinks so it gives enough information for a foundation without shaming the reader in anyway.  It's easy to get into and easy to love the characters - especially when they refer to themselves as sexual nerds, who just happen to like sex the way most others would describe their love of comics or movies. It's descriptions like this that make the world and story especially easy to step into and explore across the pages.


Added to this, the story is told from Lisa's POV and as a newbie on the BDSM scene, she's serves as a perfect bridge into the story and niche culture without dumping a load of exposition or terms on the reader. It also gives the comic an almost voyeuristic style, letting the reader peak into the naughty secrets of what the main characters do behind closed doors.


Having read a variety of books, novels and comics before, I would have to say the main thing that grabs me and keeps a hold of me about this series is how much history the characters seem to ooze with each action.  This isn't just the normal author goal of creating 3 dimensional characters, no I would venture to say the creators of this series have gone beyond that with their writing, illustration and even the perfect little details of how Lisa bites the side of her lower lip.  It feels like I've met these characters.  With each new volume and page it feels like I'm checking in with close friends and hearing about their lives. The storytelling is personal and vivid in a way that few stories manage to be.

Final Thoughts:


It's really common in our world to just pair men and women together if they share a certain amount of screen time. It's quite rare for media - especially certain movies - to show us the depths of a relationship and how it grows, twists, turns and flourishes over time. This is even more rare when talking about queer couples or couples with niche sexual interests.  First and foremost this series communicates that sexuality is a spectrum of desires and needs - with every person having needs they not only struggle to understand, but also have to find another who can meet them.

What I'm trying to say is that you do not have to be part of the BDSM scene to enjoy these stories.  Because these comics are about people, who are as real as a comic page can portray.

Where can I find it?


The collected volumes can be found at most local comic stores and are published by Image and Top Cow. Support your local comic book store!

You can also find them on Amazon.

You can also check out the creator's Deviantart page.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Where To Find Us This Weekend: 2DCon in Minnesota!

We have another convention coming up this weekend in Minnesota and we're guests!  Come join us at 2DCon!  We'll have a table as always and Briana will also be showing off the amazing Nintendo dress Jessica made for the DesignICON show.  Now's your time to see it in person and catch all the details!

Don't forget to pick up Little Creepers - our newest release - and any of our other books and prints you may have missed.  See you there!



Other events coming up soon:
San Japan in the end of August!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Books to Check Out: Making Friends in the Afterlife by H. Jonathan Goltz


At first glance, this doesn't exactly look like it's for kids.  But lets be honest, some kids like a little creepy and that doesn't mean there isn't an important message mixed in with the oddly cute illustrations.  I know I would have loved this book as a kid simply because of how unique, cute and sweet it is.


Life's tough for little Amnio. His parents are the reason why all the creatures called "humans" disappeared before he was born, and now everybody left in the Afterworld is afraid of him! How's a kid supposed to find any friends around here? "Making Friends in the Afterworld" contains three short, fully-illustrated tales of gas-masked kid Amnio's search for companionship in the seemingly gloomy Afterworld. Along the way, he'll meet an unlucky headless chicken named Nugget, several former imaginary friends, and Mr. Pudge, a dog so loyal that even radiation poisoning can't keep him down for long. Best summarized as "like 'Dick and Jane' after the apocalypse," this title has a heart of gold within its dark-humor exterior, and is perfect for kids (and grown-ups!) who prefer some 'creepy' mixed in with their 'cute.'

You can get your copy here on Amazon!


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Where To Find Us This Weekend: Pride St Charles!

This weekend is going to be awesome!  For Saturday we'll have a table at Pride St Charles with our books, new costumes and an awesome new rainbow pixel quilt! If you're in the area, come say hi and check out our queer magical girls!

Also we have new stickers specifically for the event!

See you there!!



Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Pride Month and Where I Fit (or don't) Within My Family

Photo by Ekyse Lavonne

So, its Pride month. That time in our lives when we’re supposed to celebrate how queer
we are and remind the world we exist, before the month is over and a large number of them
can go back to pretending we don’t. There is a portion of my family who are included in
that group and, with recent things that have happened, I needed to write the below and get
on with my life. This is super personal, but honestly I do hope it helps others, or at least will
help explain what happened recently and why I’m 10000% done with this bullshit.
My grandmother passed away recently and, as most families do, my family and their friends
gathered together to talk about her and attempt to lay her to rest. However, in the world of
passive aggressive Minnesota, it’s not really that simple. Let me back up. Once upon a time, back in middle school, I told my parents I thought I was gay. I came
prepared, I had the proof. A close attractive female friend, check. The desire to only
sketch beautiful women because curves were easier and prettier, check. My complete
lack of a dating life in any shape or form in spite of having several male friends who
shared my interests, check. I was positive. I knew what the word meant and it fit me,
I was so sure. What else could it all mean? “No. You’re not.” my dad said and that was that. I was told to never talk about it again. Once upon a time, fresh out of college, I moved back in with my parents. I was an adult.
I had a full time job, a handle on my bills and was ready to strike out on my own. Oh and
I had a girlfriend. One I met in college over the internet and spent nearly all my free time
online with. We were in love, I even bought her a ring. Eventually I gathered up the courage
to tell them that, once again, I liked girls. This time my proof was indisputable. I had a
girlfriend, a lover of the female persuasion. Surely this would be enough. They refused to say her name. When my mom mentioned her it was always as my
roommate and nothing more. My mother even took the time to gaslighting me,
accusing me of being the problem for being so concerned with ‘labels.’ I skipped
Christmas that year, instead we went and got a cat, trying to fill the gaping hole. This is how it went, on and off for years. Briana’s a part of my life and when my
parents called she would come up in conversation. There was some headway,
here and there, with time passing and small comments. They started to say her
name, my dad even referred to her as my partner once in front of others. I wasn’t
crazy, they were getting it. Surely it would eventually be enough kind words,
comments of understanding, I’m not insane really, I’m still your daughter I’m
just in love. But each time, even when there seemed to be progress, that brick
wall came crashing down to remind me that no, I was wrong. It was never outright hate, my parents don’t do that. Instead it was small things,
like ignoring her until I brought her up. Gifts purchased from the clearance rack
with the sticker still left in place, just so they had something to wrap. Complete
silence at the mention of a wedding, especially when they had mentioned paying
for when there was a hint of my being straight. My parents became masters of
microaggressions that I could never bring up, because I’d be gaslit into confusion
and silence, somehow never able to communicate to them why it hurt so much. Which brings me to the funeral with the eulogy written by my own mother’s hand
and my complete and utter rage during what should have been a time to mourn
a loved family member. Sitting there, in the pew, with my ever supportive wifey of 16+ years, I sat looking
at a lovely one sheet of paper about my grandmother. She was a sweet woman
who had mothered a large family and lived on a farm for most of her life. She
loved animals and taught her daughters to sew, spending all the time she could
with her grandchildren and great grandchildren. She was survived by an entire
family… a family which included her children and their loved ones. My parents
and their children. My brother and his wife of less than a year. And me. Just me.
Partnerless. Sitting there, in that funeral home, the person next to me was reduced to
invisibility yet again and I felt like a piece of me was cut away, not suitable for
public consumption. She wasn’t good enough. I wasn't good enough. And in
spite of my continued efforts, we never would be. So it was time to stop trying. There’s this nice little fantasy that’s passed around, that family is the
foundation you build your life on and that one safe place you can always
return to when times are hard. This is a truth that so many people cling to
and write their lives on that when you realize your family doesn’t fit this mold
there’s a sense of panic. Children like me run forward and try to pretend it’s
ok, burying the painful truth so deep that it’s continually forgotten and denied.
We try so damn hard. Just one more chance and they’ll get it. Just one more look,
one more phone call, one more conversation. One more awkward get together
and it’ll all turn out ok. The fantasy says if it doesn’t work it’s our fault. Our
family isn’t to blame because they’re still there and still a strong foundation -
instead we’re the odd piece out that doesn’t fit and we did something wrong. It’s
our fault that we’re different, because we don’t fit.

That fantasy is a lie. It's not our fault. It never was. What I failed to realize is that this wasn’t my job. I could twist and turn all I
wanted, but it wouldn’t matter until my family actually made a space for me
to fit into. I would never be able to fit into something that wasn’t there to begin
with. Pretending to be something I wasn’t to fit their tiny little space - or worse,
amputating a part of myself just to be around them - wasn’t helping anyone. It
was hurting me. A lot. And I couldn’t do it anymore. That day, on the way back from the funeral home, we ranted and I cried. A lot.
No part of that night was about my grandma, as it should have been. I’d come
to terms with my grandma’s death before the funeral, honestly, that part I’d
already worked through. Instead I was angry and I was in pain because of the
family it was killing me to hang onto, and I needed to let them go. It would never
matter how much I tried or how many chances I gave them. The ball was in their
court and it always had been. There was nothing I could do until they actually
picked it up and moved on. No amount of me trying was going to force their
hands, no matter how much I wanted it to. ‘Coming out’ is the moment in a queer person’s life where they step out through
a closet door and finally show the world who they are. I’ve come out, many times
since middle school. I haven’t always been accepted, but it’s always felt like some
sort of progress was made - except with my family. Somehow, there, my queer
self was revealed only to be shoved back in the closet and hidden away with
every other dark denied secret. It didn’t matter how many times I pulled it out, it
was always pushed right back in, ready to be ignored for another day. I think, sometimes, ‘coming out’ is simply a door. A door to leave behind yourself
and the others who won’t accept you. In this case it was leaving my parents’
house and walking down the street to join my partner in the home we’ve created
with my friends and chosen loved ones. From the outside I can see how damaged
and condemned that old family house is. I can also see that I’m not the one doing
the damage and it’s not my job to fix it - because that’s not where I live anymore. I’ve built for myself a life and a home that’s much more stable. One where I fit in
and don’t have to explain myself to anyone and pray that they somehow still
remember what I said. There’s a stable family inside, but they’re one I’ve built
and they accept me for who I am. I moved away and made a place for myself.
It still has a phone to get those calls and a door to be knocked on, but for the
first time, I’m done being the person who needs to initiate that contact. Beyond that, there’s another piece that’s just as important. I don’t need a reply.
At this point, whether they come knocking or not, it doesn’t matter. My identity
doesn’t include them, and I’m no longer me: whether they like it or not. Instead
I’m just my queer ass self, living here with my partner and our three cats. No
part of that identity is theirs, acknowledged or denied. I’m just me. Period. Happy Pride.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Books You Should Check Out: Lovesick Titans by Amanda Meuwissen

I love it when friends release their own books. There's something about knowing the author that makes reading their stories and exploring their worlds that much more interesting.  So you should check out this one:



Lovesick Titans


Not even a Titan can always stand up to a God.
Malcom Cho is in over his head, wrapped up in a love affair with his superhero nemesis Zeus, who most people in Olympus City only know as Detective Danny Grant.
Lovesick Titans begins where Lovesick Gods left off, after a heist gone wrong that ended with a museum guard dead and Mal and Danny beaten and exhausted from their fight with the new threat in town, Cassidy Ludgate—Hades.
Unaware that Ludgate’s true motivation is revenge for the death of his father at Zeus’s hands, Mal wants only to keep Danny close, while Danny races to solve the cases surrounding Ludgate to stop him from whatever he has planned for them next.
What Mal doesn’t know is that Danny didn’t pursue him with the purest of intentions but sought to break his heart in retaliation for not being there when he needed him in the fight against Thanatos. Even though Danny no longer seeks that end, the lies between them loom like a shadow about to descend upon them both.
And Hades has only begun to toy with them…

Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/Lovesick-Titans-2-Amanda-Meuwissen/dp/1732299706/ 


Haven't heard of this series before?  That's easy, you can get the first book here:








Amanda Meuwissen has been writing and posting online for many years, including maintaining the website and blog for the software company Outsell. She is an avid writer and consumer of fiction through film, prose, and video games, and is the author of the paranormal romance trilogy The Incubus Saga and young adult novel Life as a Teenage Vampire. Amanda lives in Minneapolis, MN, with her husband, John, and their two cats.


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