Thursday, October 12, 2017

Books You Should Check Out: Lovesick Gods by Amanda Meuwissen


Heroes aren’t meant to act like their villains—or fall in love with them.

The elements touch everyone on Earth—Fire, Water, even Light—but every so often someone becomes more attuned to their elemental leaning and develops true power. When an evil Elemental known as Thanatos arrived in Olympus City, it saw the rise of its first hero—Zeus. But the death toll caused by defeating Thanatos changed Zeus, who by day is young detective Danny Grant. 

It’s been six months since Thanatos terrorized the city at the start of Lovesick Gods. Danny should be used to his duty behind the mask, but the recent past haunts him. His girlfriend left him, he snaps at the barest provocation, his life feels empty—he needs an outlet, any outlet to pull him out of his depression.

Enter notorious thief Malcolm Cho, the Ice Elemental Prometheus. There was a time when Danny welcomed a fight with Cho, filled with colorful banter and casual flirtations that were a relief compared to Thanatos. Even as a criminal, Cho had recognized the threat Thanatos posed and promised to help Danny stop him, but the day Danny needed Cho, he never showed. Cho was the reason so many people died that day—including Danny’s mother.

Danny decides to teach the man a lesson and fan the fire of their attraction into something more. At worst, he’ll get some no-strings-attached sex out of the deal and finally blow off steam; at best, he’ll get Cho to fall in love with him and then break his heart to spite him. Danny doesn’t expect to fall for Cho in the process, and he certainly can’t predict the much darker threat on the horizon.

Excerpt below Author Info.




About the Author:

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.







Excerpt: 

Danny had always assumed Cho’s subtle flirting was just to get a rise out of him. The man mocked him, lied to him, betrayed him. And all that, that got his crank turning? Even when he’d played nice with Danny in the past, he’d just been hoping to bend him over the nearest surface.
Cho wasn’t good or redeemable. When the city needed him, when Danny had needed him, he’d run away and hid, then dared to show his face right after and expected Danny to act like nothing had happened. Cho just wanted to use Danny like everybody else. Even Andre and Lynn wouldn’t look twice at him if he wasn’t Zeus.
Just like them, Cho only saw Danny suit deep, not even skin deep, just leather and lightning. No one cared about Danny Grant. His past relationships proved that. He’d never once been the one to end things; they’d always left him first. Vanessa left because he was too distant; he couldn’t tell her he was an Elemental, and it had only gotten worse after his mother’s death. Before that, his last boyfriend had been sweet and soft and loving, but he couldn’t handle Danny’s intensity.
“Maybe I need someone who isn’t Lightning leaning,” he’d said.
Danny didn’t care what element someone was, but he didn’t want sweet or soft right now. He definitely didn’t want loving. He shouldn’t have to always be the lonely superhero that couldn’t be honest about who he was without putting people in danger.
Cho wouldn’t be in danger. He could take care of himself. Danny wouldn’t have to hide that he was Zeus. He wouldn’t have to hide anything, worry about anything. He could take what he wanted and blow off some of that steam rising steadily within him.
Turning around, he spotted Cho in line, halfway to the counter now. Cho was smooth and handsome and exuded sex appeal. It wasn’t as if Danny was blind to that. This could be everything he needed. And he’d finally get his revenge.


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

New Release: magnifiqueNOIR Book 1: I Am Magical by Briana Lawrence


RELEASE DAY IS HERE! - A message from my wifey:

This time last year I was launching the Kickstarter for this little idea I had about a group of black, queer, magical girls. While the Kickstarter didn’t end up panning out, I told myself that I wouldn’t give up on the idea and that I’d finish the story and release it someday.

Today is that day.

“magnifiqueNOIR” is here and I am so thrilled to be presenting it to everyone!

If you’ve already preordered the book through the Indiegogo or our Etsy shop, you will be receiving it very soon! I got confirmation from UPS that the 15 boxes (yes, 15!) will be at my house this Friday! After that, I’ll be autographing all of them and then giving my post office a nightmare (just kidding, we already talked to them and came up with a plan).

If you haven’t ordered the book yet, now is your chance! Not just the physical copy, but the eBook as well! So here’s Bri’s somewhat comprehensive list of ways to have a little bit of black girl magic in your home, on your Kindle, and more important: in your hearts (boo Bri that was cheesy).

  1. The super special awesomely autographed copy! Follow the link here to get a physical copy of the book autographed by yours truly! We have a limited amount of numbers before we order batch #2 of the book in time for fall season conventions! http://etsy.me/2wgOepY
  2. The amazing Amazon physical copy! While it doesn’t come with my autograph, it is discounted for a limited time, and hey, free shipping through Prime is always nice! http://a.co/iLjp1os
  3. The magically fantastic eBook copy! Because who doesn’t want their electronic reading device to come packed with black girl magic? http://a.co/eTKiHSf
  4. Conventions! I’ll have a list of them up soon, but this Saturday, I’ll be at MSP Fall ComiCon at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds, so if you’re local, you can come and get a copy of the book from me in person!
  5. Don't forget we have prints and a bunch of items with the girls on it. All of these can be found at our etsy store: http://snowtigra.etsy.com

Now comes the next part: promotion. If you are absolutely in love with the book, talk about it online! Use the hashtag #magnifiqueNOIR to share your love for these girls. Take pictures of your book/eBook, share this post everywhere, and definitely, most definitely, definitely definitely definitely LEAVE A REVIEW when you’re done reading! Let’s show the world that black girls with magical powers are spectacular!

As always, thank you from the bottom of my chubby black queer girl heart for all the support. When I came up with this idea last March, I had no idea it would grow so much. There may have been some hiccups along the way, but we’re here now, and you all are truly magical :)

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Review: The Conjuring and Conjuring 2


What are they about?

Both movies center around the figures of the Warrens, who are real life ghost hunters.  Each movie tackles at least one of the 'real life' cases they investigated and what they encountered, with a bit of cinematic flair.

Thoughts

Like most people I became familiar with the Warrens through the Amnityville Horror movies.  I was reintroduced to them several times through my various adventures into stories of ghost hunters and paranormal things.

Across all of this, there's very different views of the Warrens.  Some people love them, some people owe them their lives, some people hate them and on and on.  Either way, they are some of the most interesting people out there when you look into paranormal things.

With that in mind, I actually love the idea of them being part of this cinematic universe and I'm very much enjoying seeing it grow across several movies.

The first Conjuring introduces us to Ed and Lorraine Warren in the context of not the Amnityville Horror, but rather another haunted house that is supposed to be possessed by the spirit of a dead witch who is terrorizing the family.

In this movie we have all the normal trappings of a paranormal hunt however with two very distinct differences.  For one they keep the movie in the correct time period - the 70's.  So there's a well done nostalgic feel that keeps you rooted in the technology of then and how people may have reacted in that time.  The second is that there's no found footage.  James Wan (the director) has wisely decided to ignore the cliche gimick of shaky cam and instead focus on scaring the bejezus out of us in other ways, and it's effective.

The second movie, Conjuring 2, explores another slightly more well known case with the Warrens
known as The Einfield Haunting.  Again we're presented with a large family who has to deal with a demon in their house, with it's own intentions.  And since this one takes place in England, the Warrens have their hands tied with what they can and can't do.

Oddly, both of these movies manage to duplicate the feeling that I always loved about X-Files, the tv show, and my little paranormal fangirl.  You, as the viewer, are presented with the tale of a demon and how a family copes with it.  Yes, it could be fake, and the Warrens take you for a ride to slowly delve into proving it so that they can perform an exorcism.  In the end they become kind of the heroes of the franchise without any huge display of powers.  They just happen to know about the paranormal.

With reguard to powers, there is a caviate.  Yes, Lorraine Warren is shown to have psychic powers.  However, she's never really shown to control them.  Rather she's just a party to what they show her and then relays the message.  She doesn't summon up the demons or powers at will, they just either are or aren't there.

Beyond these two movies, there's a host of spinoffs that have either been released or are on the way.  From Annabelle, to the Nun and hopefully many others, we get to see other cases that the Warrens have had some part in. And as someone who loves a good ghost story, I love seeing how these all intermingle with each other.

Now, yes, I have reviewed another movie about The Enfield Haunting and I've linked it.  Also, through my reading and websurfing, I know that these movies take quite a few artistic liberties.  For example, the real Annabelle looks more like Raggity Ann then some chipped and creepy porcelain doll.  And The Enfield Haunting has it's own controversies with how the Warrens were tied into it.  Weirdly the controversies add their own layer to watching the movies and guarantee me hours of further reading to hear all the sides and come to my own conclusions, like any good ghost story should, so I don't mind the artistic liberties.  It just means that I have a lot of reading ahead of me to learn the real story and what actually happened.  It's like a really good cinematic teaser.

I honestly like both of these movies for what they are and that's a good scary ride.  It doesn't matter to me if they're true or not, but the fact that their based in a thread of truth runs just the right line to make it good.  That plus the style of James Wan and the great actors and actresses makes for a fun ride.  I'm very much looking forward to checking out many of the spin offs, soon as I find them on a streaming service I subscribe to.

Where did I watch it?

HBO Go streaming service.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Review: D. Gray-man Hollow




What's it about?

Return to this alternate timeline where the world is a mixture of science and magic and exoricists hunt down mysterious weapons called Innocence to defeat the Millenum Earl.  Allen Walker, an exorcist, discovers secrets of his past and how he is truely tired to the Noah, the Millenium Earl and the 14th.

Thoughts:

Back when I'd originally started this series, I loved the characters but the series cut off with no real resolution thanks to a host of issues.  Sadly it left things unresolved and upon hearing that there was a continuation I was eager to jump back in.

I am a huge sucker for anime that focus on religion, mainly because it's so interesting to see how other cultures see something that I'm familiar with.  So anime that deal with exorcists and demons and the like are super interesting to me.  There's always something new about it and so much creativity they aren't afraid to explore.  In the course of a continuation I was excited there too, because the characters I'd been introduced to were very interesting and deserved more screen time.

Sadly this continuation didn't turn out as I'd hoped.  Unlike other projects out there that pick up old source material and continue it for a new audience, this anime drops the viewer right into the thick of it.  While this might work for some series, D.Gray-man it does not.  There are just far too many characters for one to keep track of, and this was in detriment to the series as a whole.

The original D.Gray-man series had a habit of introducing the audience to a daily monster, then defeating it and recruiting them to The Order of exorcists.  This style makes it easy to follow from day one, but jumping back in it means you're left with about 20 characters to juggle.  Add to that the newly introduced members of the Noah family (the bad guys), the Crows (exorcists in red), the Thirds (more exorcists), the scientists, the Bookmen and a couple more daily monsters and it will make your head spin. It almost made me want to take out a pen and paper to take notes - which is not a good thing.

Though, realistically I should have realized from the opening, as it basically shows all these characters as different groups and hints that there's a lot to keep track of.

Even setting the characters aside, the plot arc of the 14th is heavy, and a lot to swallow.  Without giving too much away it causes an upheaval in The Order and Allen is stuck right in the middle of it.  He's not so much an active character, but rather along with the right, trying to survive with everyone else.  This fast pace leaves the viewer wanting to take more notes.  It also made it feel like I was watching a long winded recap due to the speed, and I found myself really hoping that they would slow down and re-cover a few things, rather then handing characters so much exposition dialog.

Sadly, the final nail in the coffin was the ending of the season.  It's left wide open with no resolution, obviously hinting at them expecting to have more time.  Sadly, like the previous series, it was cut off after just one season with no resolution in sight.  I'll have to hunt down the manga for a resolution, which isn't horrible, but it would have been nice to see it in animated format before I do that.

While not all bad, there were some good points of the series.  For one, Kanda gets a well done arc that explains quite a bit of his back story and where he came from.  Though rushed, I did like learning about the 2nds and Alma.  The sad part is that like the rest of the series, this is left open ended and at the end of the season we are left seeing only the beginnings of his reactions to discovering the truth.  I would have loved to see this full story line all the way to the end with his reacting to what he learned, but no such luck.

The Noah family, also, enjoys a bit of a redesign for the better.  While more is learned about the Millennium Earl that completely destroys his ability to be threatening, other characters like Tyki Mikk are done beautifully.  For as a little as he shows up in this new series, him and Road are high points in the season and there's never enough of them, ever.

The animation is a bit of a sticking point as well.  While overall it looks stunning and beautiful, there are certain points where it misses the mark entirely.  Comical moments are paired with 1st season Naruto style animation that makes me want to wash my eyes out and high tension fight scenes are paired with oddly drawn eyes that make the characters look squished or cross-eyed and destroy the tension completely.  It's highly distracting and really detracted from the series as a whole, no matter how much I wanted to know what was coming next.

Final Thoughts?


While series like Black Butler and Full Metal Alchemist have made anime retreads and continuations all the rage, this is one you can skip.  The plot points are interesting and the characters are there, but it makes more sense to read a well edited Wikipedia article then try and keep track of everything over 12 episodes.  I wasn't impressed, it actually saddened me that I spent the time on it.

Oh well, time to hunt down some fanfic about Kanda and Alma and look into the manga series, hoping there's some closure and better explanation there.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Review: The Witch



What's it about?

Set back in the 1600's, a family is banished from their colonial town to build their own farm and find their own way.  However, things don't go well on their own.  Within the first year they are set upon by an evil force, set on bringing them to ruin.

Thoughts

I'll say first off, that as a practicing witch, movies like this give me pause.  I often laugh off the way my kind are portrayed in movies and during the holidays because it's usually quite comical or so far off the mark.  However, there are some portrayals that really get under my skin, and that's usually when they're rooted in the fear people have of witches and the severe hatred that some people have based on religion.  It bothers me because their view of us is nothing like what we really are and when a lot of people hate, well, stupid and dangerous things happen.

That said, this movie got under my skin in a really good way, so much to the point that I actually turned it off halfway through and took a break before I could finish it.  There's a severe amount of religious self loathing and self hatred in this movie that I wasn't prepared for.  That plus the dated style of speaking really pulls you in to this family and what they are dealing with.  You feel for all of them, and when the shit starts to hit the fan, it's painful to watch, but it's also like a train wreck, because you want to see where it all ends up.

The other thing that got under my skin was the treatment of Thomasin.  A lot of how she was treated scared me, because the family was so quick to jump to hatred and fear and she's put in a really impossible place.  She has to deal with all of it and somehow survive.

My biggest gripe with the film is that in some cases they showed a little too much.  While I understand why they included the imagery they did, I wish there were two scenes where they didn't, because it kind of ruined the effect. But that's mostly minor and can be overlooked.

All in all, the movie is quite good, if you can get past some of those points.  It's not scary in a bloody way, really.  Instead I found this movie scary and effective because of how well it shows how quickly people will turn on each other when scared.  Especially considering the current world and how much people are emboldened to act on such emotions, this movie cut a bit closer then I was expecting.

Over all, after making it to the end, I really liked it.  I admire where this film went and how the story played out.  Though hard to watch, it's a very well done folktale.

How I saw it

Streaming on Amazon Prime

Monday, September 4, 2017

Book Review: My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness



It's hard to describe this book and really do it justice. 

I picked it up on the recommendation of a friend on Facebook, and do not regret it for a second.

The book tells, in manga form, the story of a young woman who has never viewed herself highly and how that has effected her view of herself and the world, and held her back from living. 

This is an intensely personal story from the author. In a simple and crude style she gives us a view into the personal and crushing parts of her life. She doesn't expect us to understand everything and doesn't give excuses, but is rather very up front and blunt with the turns her life has taken and why and where it has taken her. 

While some of her experiences were totally foreign to me, several hit far too close to home. Several times I found myself looking away from the book and pausing as I remembered parts of my life growing up. This is not just for queer teenagers, but also speaks to eating disorders, issues with belonging and the need to be accepted but also be alone, just to name a few. It is an emotional book to read and grasp, however the rough manga style makes it very easy to read and light to take in, to contrast the heavy material.

But with all of that it's also worth it. No deep answers are given, no fixes suggested, just honesty. The type of honesty I wish I'd had when I was experiencing the worst of this in my teenage years. The author doesn't claim to be an expert, or even fixed. She just exists and is still learning how to be herself and deal with who she is, if she even knows. 

In that I found the book to be refreshing and needed. Having someone present this much emotion and personal info while not claiming to be an expert is so sincere. This book's simplest message is that 'you're not alone' no matter how alone you feel, and that is something so important.  It's even more important then being fixed or able to cope with life, because sometimes just having someone understand is enough.

Every once in the great while I come across a book that I have feel a deep need to buy multiple copies of and give them to friends. This is one of those books. I highly recommend giving this book a read and a chance. It doesn't offer any answers or fixes, but sometimes just knowing that someone else gets it means just as much.  Seriously, go get yourself a copy. 

BTW: This was soooooo me in high school.  I should have known:



Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Netflix Death Note - The Story that Could Have Been

There's a problem you run into when becoming a published author, that I hadn't anticipated.  Me, always an avid reader, has found it really hard to read as many books as I used it.  It's not just about the time investment or the work to find stories I'm interested in with all the novels out there - it's the intimate knowledge of the process of getting published.  I know all the work that goes into getting out there and all the blood, sweat and tears that come from those before they hit this point and all those who haven't made it yet.

So when crap comes across my plate, it tastes even worse then I could imagine.


So with that in mind, let's talk about the Death Note movie from Netflix.  This is not a review, but it does contain spoilers so if you have a desire to see this movie after all of the horrendous reviews you've scrolled past on your social media feed, you might not want to read this.  Or do.  Maybe.  Whatever.

Beyond all the issues with whitewashing and the watering down of the story - which trust me, I could write pages about.  But both of those have been tackled in several other reviews, so I'm going to aim a little differently.

See, along with the being able to taste the infinite details of the crap set before me, I also find myself graspoing at plot threads that could have worked.  In some cases this makes me like certain movies that others might have hated.  With the Netflix Death Note there is a specific thread that my creative side latched onto.  In other words, lets talk Mia Sutton.


In the movie, Mia Sutton initially reaks of 'edgier then you Bella Swan.' However, as the movie goes on, she's obsessed with finally having power on her own terms that isn't filted through a stereotypical glass.  (AKA: To be a popular girl, one must be a cheerleader.  To be noticed in high school, one must fit in a specific archetype.  But to be a god, she can kill whoever she wants.)  Mia becomes more 'Kira' then this protrayl of Light ever is, and she also becomes a villian in the film.  There in lies the thread of a plot that would be interesting.  Give her a different Death God/Shinigami and have this girl be smart enough to not make herself the figure head and instead manipulate a fuckboy into killing for her and keeping her hands clean.

That, right there, is the makings of plot gold and a story that we don't often see told.  Yes, she is a female caught in a storyline about sex, as many women are, but this is sex on her own terms and used as a weapon.  In a world where the sultry badgirl is so common, why not take the moment to flesh her out and give her a little more then expected.  You can have a smart woman and then write a really engaging story about her downfall. That is a story I would devour that and happily hunt down surrounding media for like fanart and fanfic.

Sadly the Netflix version of Death Note doesn't hold up to this premise which it offers.  It chooses to focus squarely on Light, and while he has some doubts about Mia, they're easily passed off in the lackluster finale in a very YA fashion.  Instead of a showdown like they deserved, Mia makes her last fatal move and unceremoniously dies in a bed of flowers, along with any dream that she might have been a more interesting character.  I wish they'd delved a bit more into her story, give us a reason why she likes to kill so much and why she feels she needs this power, heck, show her planning and plotting more with Ryuk, because I'm sure he's intelligent enough to leave her clues... after all others can see his eaten apples.

All in all the movie presented us with a very different take on Misa Misa and didn't follow through, much to my dismay. That's not to say that the original Misa Misa was perfect, she was however very interesting and much more fleshed out then this version.

If you take anything away from this movie, whether you watch it or not, I hope you look at your own works and take a step back.  If, at any point, any of your characters can be replaced by a 2 dimensional cardboard cutout then you have not done your job as a writer and story crafter.  It is up to you as a creator to show us all sides of a character you create - not to hand us an archetype and expect us to fill in the details.  We, the audience, came to watch your movie... not play MadLibs with the plot points from the last handful of things we've watched.

I think, to a degree, a lot of movies of late are getting sloppy.  Well written character moments are traded in for flashy montages and chase scene climaxes that are a dime a dozen.  Be bold, take a chance.  Flesh out a character for the audience and give us a reason to love and/or hate them.  Let us see their path and convince us with your writing that this is the path they chose, where ever it may lead.  Because therein lies the stories we want to read and see.  Therein lies the best kind of storytelling.