Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Backseat Gamer: Mortal Kombat X

We have a PS4!!  We can finally start gaming again and playing to new stuff we really want!
*cough*  Ok, now that that's out of my system...

Mortal Kombat has always been one of my wifey's true video games loves.  As a kid I didn't grow up with a game system, so I never experienced playing the game.  Still I knew of it and I absolutely loved (and still do) the live action movie that came out - in spite of all it's cheesiness.  I also enjoyed watching her play the last one, so needless to say we bought this with our new PS4 immediately.  This was a long time coming.

About 20 years after the events of MK9, most of the main characters are either dead, or trying to pick up the pieces.  Trouble starts up again, when a certain magical amulet goes missing and it's time for the newest team of recruits to take on the battle to save Earth Realm with a few old familiars.  

Back when this game was released, the PS3 version was delayed (and eventually got cancelled) so we were left with the choice to wait or find some other way to see the story mode.  This is the first game I can think of where we actually hunted down the full story mode online via Youtube because we really didn't want to wait.  I remember liking it at the time and loving the new characters.  And, when we finally got the system and the game, we happily played through the story mode again.

The new characters?  I love them.  I'll admit I was hesitant, because Soul Calibur also tried a jump forward in time with new characters and it was less them impressive.  However Mortal Kombat seems to have nailed it.  The new characters of Cassie, Jacqui, Takeda and Kung Jin provide excellent backstories, unique personalities and are easy to identify and associate the newest generation of fans with, plus they don't alienate the older fans.  Of that group I would have to say that Takeda is my favorite overall and favorite to play with, but I seriously love all of them (though Kung Jin is really hard for me to play).

There's also a whole host of new 'villains' from other realms that I really like.  Kotal Kahn is super interesting, taking a character based on Mayan and Aztec gods and adding him to the realm.  I especially love how some of the cultural aspects are part of his character, making him incredibly unique when compared to other fighting games I've seen.  I also really like D'voriah and Ferra/Tor more then I thought I would.  And Shinnok, while annoying, makes a pretty threatening boss.

Other well known characters are also back.  We get to see aged versions of Sonja Blade and Johnny Cage and others, while many of those who died in the last game come back as ghostly versions of themselves thanks to Quan Chi.  Added to that, there's several cameos of other lesser known Mortal Kombat characters worked into the storyline.  It's a bit of a disappointment that you don't get to play them and they aren't included in the DLC, but there's hope for in the future and it makes me excited to see the next installment, if they keep this up.  I continue to be impressed by how these new Mortal Kombat games have successfully rebooted things, without ignoring the previous source material.

The storyline is good, keeping the same cinematic scope as the last game and Injustice.  I really like this trend, where the fighting graphics and the cut scenes are so close to quality that you can actually watch it as a movie with very little adjustment.  The adding in of reaction commands was perfectly done.  Not too hard to interupt the story and create frustration, but instead they added to it in just the right way.

In the actual nitty gritty of the fighting game, there's a couple new mechanics worth note.  In this game, each fighter has three modes - which let the player pick what they want to focus on.  Fundamentally the character doesn't change, but the ability to choose if you want your character to lean a bit more toward magic, offense or defense actually makes the easier for players like me who are more of the button mashing type, and yet endlessly playable because now you have the option to master the same character in three different ways!

There's also the addition of challenge towers that change on a constant basis.  This reminds me of those endless iPhone games where there's just level after level and you can play to your hearts' content but translated for a console (without micro transactions, thank god).  There's a set of challenge towers that are normally with the game, but also a set of living towers that change frequently.  So, essentially, even after you've played through each character's story, you can always log in for a new challenge.  In that, I see this game having a seriously long life, even if the DLC doesn't continue.

The one thing we haven't tried yet is the DLC.  We plan on getting those next, but at the time of writing this review neither of us have tried the added characters.  Though I do love the idea of adding in horror movie baddies and making your own horror movie fighting game as time goes on.

The bad?  Hmmm, honestly I don't really have anything I dislike about this game.  I could play the whole thing, even with my minimal gaming skills.  I enjoyed many of the gross characters and fatalities and really don't have any complaints.  Other then why the heck didn't this come out on PS3? Damnit, that wait was agonizing!

How Much I Played:
I am proud to say that I played about half of the game with my wifey.  She and I switched the controller back and forth during story mode and I beat the personal towers with quite a few of the characters.  The krypt was all mine, thanks to the random jump scares that come up.  The only thing I didn't really play was the living towers, as those are stuck on medium and way past my skill level - but I am proud to say that I can beat the game on Easy and didn't have to use Super Easy the whole time ^__^;;;.

I do have to say, the most fun moment was playing one of the Test Your Might challenges and we had to work together, one of us holding the controller against the table and ready with the trigger, while the other mashed the buttons as quickly as possible.  That was a lot of fun!

Loved the hell out of this game.  It was a long wait and so worth it.  Now, I really really need that DLC.

Yep!  Back when the game came out, we threw together a quick closet cosplay for my wifey as Scorpion and here's some of the pix!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Review: Fate/Stay Night (Unlimited Blade Works)

With the ending of the convention season, I finally have time to catch up on some anime series, so I'll be doing more reviews like this, hopefully.  Any recommendations?

What is the show?

Fate/Stay Night is one in a series of stories about mages who summon historical figures in order to fight for the coveted Holy Grail, a mystical item that can grant the winning mage and servant any wish.

Unlimited Blade Works specifically is the remake of the series from the original (just Fate/Stay Night) which focuses on one of the many storylines and endings from the visual novel/dating sim game that started the series.  Yes, you read that right, this is based on a dating game from Japan, but honestly you may as well push that fact far from your mind, because this isn't a romance.

Shirou is the main character and he is the adopted son of a mage from the last Holy Grail War, which he knows very little about.  But when he accidentally summons one of the legendary servants: Saber, he's thrown into the storyline and the current Holy Grail War and must become the hero in the process.

I've known about this series for years and have always loved the premise of taking historical figures and bending them to fit as warriors in such a fantastic story.  When I attempted to watch the first series, I have to say I was less then impressed by the lack of character and personality Shirou had.  In this remake, I'm happy to say that's been corrected.  No longer is he a very lackluster character next to the exciting and new takes on well known historical figures - now he is very much a character who stands on his own and who you end up rooting for, no matter how tilted his ideals may be.

All in all, it's a really dramatic series, that made me love the main characters and quite a few of the side characters.  As it was based on a dating game, you can still see threads of pandering to the fans, but they really only left in the important plot related points, so I can't complain.  The character development is well written with everyone, the animation is gorgeous and the fight scenes really keep you on the edge of your seat.  In fact those fight scene are a beautiful marriage of computer animation and the traditional animation style, that you feel every blow on the screen.

I do highly recommend this series and it fits right in there with action series such as Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood, Tokyo Ghoul, Attack on Titan and other awesome titles.  The contained storyline gives you a complete series that you don't need to go hunting for history about (but it's fun to after the series has ended) and the amount of kick ass females who are woven into the storyline is a great bonus.  That and, without any spoilers, the storyline centering around Shirou and his personal growth is one of the most interesting I've seen in a long time.

There is a prequel to this series in Fate/Zero but you don't need to see it to understand this series.  Instead, it's more of a bonus and you'll recognize some characters who float between both storylines.  It doesn't matter what order you watch the two series in, there's just a few 'easter eggs' you'll notice if you take the time to watch both.

Watched on: Streaming on Hulu

Want some spoilers and in depth thoughts?  Just scroll past the image:

Spoilers below this point!

Lets talk about those servants - specifically Saber (least to start).  I love the fact that Saber is in fact King Arthur.  It's not stated flat out in the series, but they make it pretty obvious once you find out what her weapon is and with her flashbacks to the original reason why she wanted the Grail and her wish fulfilled.  The whole idea of mages summoning historical heroes in itself is really interesting, but the fact that they made one female with no explanation or excuses, really intrigued me.  I like that it's never really discussed that while the mythical/historical King Arthur would have been male, Saber is very much female.  There's no long drawn out flashback as to why, the audience is just told to accept it as reality, and I like that.  It allows me to extrapolate and search out my own fanfiction prone explanations after the fact and it doesn't hurt the story at all.  Yet, at the same time it's not too far to expect that had a female drawn the sword meant to pick the future king of Britain - then yeah, she would have probably had to pretend to be a male or simply live with being called a 'king' for most of her life.  It's a new twist on an old and familiar story that I really like.

And that is part of why I love this series.  Part of the fun is watching it and trying to figure out who each of the servants are.  Some are flat out named in the series, while others are not and it can lead to many hours of looking up information and discovering other story tidbits that keep you interested far past the actual series.  It's like a little puzzle book that just keeps giving you more and more information as you pull apart the pieces.

Gilgamesh was my only disappointment - and even then he wasn't really.  He's so arrogant and unforgiving that you can't help but laugh at his particular type of madness.  I mean a bad guy bent on world domination that is ok with killing most of humanity because they don't deserve to have him as their king?  That's some special thinking right there!  What they didn't tell you about his story, I know is revealed and expanded in Fate/Zero, so I really can't complain.  All in all there was far too little of him in this series and I wish there'd been more - but I understand why there wasn't.

The whole crux of the story, and the reason why it's called Unlimited Blade Works centers around Shirou and his relation to Archer.  I found that story to be really intriguing with how well it was written and handled.  It was almost a time travel story, to be honest, but not quite.  Since the heroes are timeless, the fact that Shirou and Archer are actually the same person from two different times (and possibly two different threads of time) is really interesting and their well thought out explanation worked better then most time travel stories I've come across.  It made Archer a really interesting character with oh so many layers and during their fight, I honestly couldn't tell you who I was rooting for, because damnit they both deserved to win and lose at the same time.

So yeah, like I said, I loved the series.  I do highly recommend it and I plan on finishing Fate/Zero soon here.  I hope they explore the other storylines presented in the visual novels and some of the other games in future series.  I would be quite happy to see these characters over and over again.

(With the exception of Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya - where they turn it into a magical girl series.  I really have no interest in that thread.)

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

2016 Conventions!

With the closing of the 2015 convention year, and the ending of the year as a whole, we've retreated into our warm house to restock our shop, write more books and plan for next year's conventions.  Luckily we already have a few we can announce, and some new products that we'll be releasing.  And there will be at least one more written piece on the way, and hopefully a few more.  Here's a preview of some things to come!

March - 2016
We have two conventions already confirmed: 

Anime Milwaukee - we'll have a table in Artist Alley, while Shuto con we'll just be attending and running some panels!

We will also - hopefully - be releasing the sequel to Seeking the Storyteller.  More news on this as we have it!

April - 2016

We're confirmed as Featured Artists at Anime Detour this year!  So you'll find our table up near registration and the dealer's room!

October - 2016

We're confirmed as Guests at Gaylaxicon!  Stay tuned for more info on this con as well!!

We have a lot of other things planned as well, but we can't quite share them just yet.  So keep an eye out.  And next week I'll return to my normal blog posts ^__^

If there's any conventions you'd like to see us at, feel free to comment and let us know!  Otherwise you can always recommend us as guests to your local con too!  We'd love to travel all over and meet everyone!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Announcement: The Little Book of Big Babes!

I'm happy to announce finally that the wifey and I are featured in a lovely picture book promoting body positivity and all around plus size loveliness!

Check out  The Little Book of Big Babes!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Review: The Enfield Haunting

What's it about?
A three episode mini series I found on Hulu, The Enfield Haunting tells the story of a poltergeist that haunted a house  and family in Enfield, London.  It's marked as being based on real events.

The first thing that struck me about this mini series is how unclean it is.  I'm not saying it's dirty, but being a production from over seas, I immediately noticed the difference in style.  Whereas here in the US, haunted house stories are presented with bright lights and pristine white walls and clean houses, this piece has a home that looks decidedly lived in and a family that is very plain.  This gives the mini series a very 'lived in' look and makes it feel that much more real.  That added to the non-shaky camera that follow the main characters like a peeping neighbor, gives you the feeling of being right in the house while it's all happening.

It's a very realistic and startling effect that adds to the story and is honestly something I wish they would do more often in American movies.  Heck, this would have made movies like Paranormal Activity that much scarier.

The story is presented in a very real and authentic, lived in look that stays the entire film.  Bits and pieces show up here and there to tell you the poltergeist is real, but yet there's still a lingering wonder if those parts are untrue and maybe the family has been lying the whole time.

I don't want to give away spoilers, but I will say that I was quite happy with the ending presented and the revelation to why the poltergeist actually exists.  There's a chance that there's much more to this story then we see, but you're still left with quite a bit of closure because you learned what you needed to know.  I do plan on looking up the actual case after watching this, to see what was actually reported to have happened, but I found this to be quite entertaining and a very good story.  It certainly didn't have and didn't need all the gore we're used to seeing in American movies lately and it was quite a welcome change.

Watch it on Hulu!

(Disclaimer: I watched this on my own Hulu subscription, no money was received for this review.)

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

NaNoWriMo Pep Talk - Tips for Finishing This Month

It’s November!  Welcome to National Novel Writing Month!  If you’re one of the several people around the world who are ambitious enough - and possibly crazy enough - to embark on this journey, here’s some helpful tips to help you toward your goal.

1.Write Now!

It’s November, that means now is the time to write.  Forget about editing and correct sentence structure, all of those things.  For this one time in your life, throw the English book out the window, grab your pencil and word processor and just go at it!.  The very point of NaNoWriMo is to write a novel in a month - 50,000 words!  That’s a lot of words for most people and can be a really daunting task.  What can make that task even more daunting is if you try and edit as you go.  This is the one time in your life where being a perfectionist can stop you in your tracks and that’s not something you want.

So this is why I’m saying, toss that English book out.  This month is purely for focusing on getting that story to paper.  All of the editing and correct grammar can come next month.  But for this month, let yourself free from those restraints and just tell your story.  You don’t have to share it with the world yet and it doesn’t have to be perfect.  But you do need to write it.  So just write and leave the rest for December 1st.

2. Surround Yourself With Support

Aside from the word processor, handy notebook and lucky pen; the other tool that a writer and author must always have is a supportive cast.  That means characters in your book that support the main character and real people around you to support you in your efforts.  Surround yourself with these people - people who want to hear about your story updates and those who can encourage you to keep pressing forward.  You need cheerleaders in your court and your can find these everywhere.

If your friends, family and coworkers don’t fall into this group, that’s ok!  There are social media communities posting words of encouragement and there are even pep talks on the NaNo Website.  Use these to your full advantage and get cracking.  Post statuses on your Facebook, pictures of your word count on Instagram and excerpts on your tumblr.  There’s motivation everywhere and it’ll only help you drive forward, because you can get this done!  So make use of it and go for that goal!

3. Edit Out the Noise

Normal life doesn’t go away for the month of November, so distractions will come up.  These can be things such as work, children, unsupportive friends and the like.  While I suggested above to toss out the English and grammar book until December, there is a specific sort of editing you should do: getting rid of the noise.

This means that there should be a safe place for you to work on your novel in progress, where discouraging and progress killing people can’t touch. Be it a quiet bedroom and a laptop, a tree house in the backyard with wifi, or even just a set of headphones and your favorite Pandora station. Find the thing you need to create a little wall around yourself and do it as often as you need.  Those naysayers out there who feel the need to point out your mistakes and the impossibility of the task at hand have no place this month.  You have better things to pay attention to and a novel to finish!

4. Don’t be Discouraged

As you type away, working on your novel, there will be those around you who will make comments.  You’ll see other people’s statuses talking about their plots, their word counts and their amazing accomplishments from previous years.  These posts are another sort of motivation - so don’t let them discourage you.

Keep in mind that your novel and your accomplishments are your own.  This means that no matter whatever heights others around you reach, that doesn’t mean your wins are any less important.

5. Keep in Mind the Goal

Ultimately, the goal of NaNoWriMo is to write.  It’s a way to spur people who have wanted to write a novel, to take it on while there’s an outpouring of support and several other people working toward the same goal.  The stimulated work schedule gives you a hard deadline and several people racing with you to the finish line.  In the end, it’s not the 50,000 words that matters, but the fact that you tried.

This may seem counter intuitive to the whole process, but it’s important to remember that the goal is to write the story.  Not everyone makes it to the finish line in November and often times life and the real world can step in the way, and that’s ok.  So, if the goal of 50,000 words turns out to not be doable, that doesn’t mean you’ve lost.  It means you still get credit because you tried.  In NaNoWriMo there are no losers, as silly as that sounds, there are only Authors and their works in progress.  After all the year has more than one month.

And if it takes you more than a month to write your story, that’s ok too.

Sincerely - a participant who has not met the goal many years, but knows it’s still fun to try anyway.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Book Review: Teen Titans: A Kid's Game

What's it about?
The Teen Titans are back, the team reforming with the newest 'sidekicks' of the DC Universe, in the aims of giving them a place to be kids and learn to be themselves without the Justice League looking over their shoulders.  But this isn't the first group of Titans and the team's past comes back to haunt the new members, forcing them to stand up and fight as the team they hope to become.

I have always been a fan of the DC Universe of comics, with a special love for Batman and Robin.  I also love the cartoon show for Teen Titans, enjoying the origin stories of teenagers coming of age as heroes and the pitfalls that come with it.  While this comic has, essentially, a completely new set of heroes and takes place in the DC universe after that show, it still does a good job of hitting the same notes I loved.  These characters aren't perfect heroes and I love the tension that many of them might become something else.  The climax of the book seemed a bit rushed, but it would have been amazing as an animated show where the action wouldn't be limited to about three pages.  All that said, I couldn't put this down.  I do hope, with all the DC animated movies doing so well, that they delve into the world of the Teen Titans once or twice.  Seeing these characters in a grittier and longer animated movie would be awesome and very welcome.

Purchase on Amazon

(Disclaimer: This book was purchased at Half Price books with my own money, no money was received for this review.)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Dear Fatty - Letters to My Younger Self

Wanted to let you guys know about a project we were involved in.  

"Dear Fatty - Letters to My Younger Self" is a small zine of letters by fabulous fat women written to themselves at a younger age, telling all the things they will become.  The idea is a message of empowerment, that your awesomeness is not defined by your weight and shape.  It was a lot of fun to be part of this project and Briana and I have letters in this zine. 

If you're interested, you can pick up your own copy at the link below. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Anime Fusion this Weekend!

We're at another convention this weekend!

If you're in Bloomington Minnesota, come stop by!

Here's a map to where you can find us in the Dealer's Room/Artist Alley

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Costumes, Cosplay and Some Holiday Issues

It's Halloween and everyone likes to dress up in costume at this time of year.  There's usually an amount of fun behind it, but there becomes a problem when people either don't think or use the wrong sense of humor when choosing their costume.  So while you'll usually find me flying the flag that everyone can cosplay, this time - for this article - I'm going to fly the same flag with a caveat: everyone can cosplay: but don't cosplay these things.

Why am I writing this article?  Because Halloween and October is a month of fun with dressing up, parties, and candy.  It should not be a month that specific people fear and despise because they're waiting for their culture, race, religion, and very identity to be slaughtered across social media by insensitive, unknowing, or just plain stupid people.  So I'm writing this in honesty because of my love of the month and costuming, and my utter sadness that my partner and friends have to deal with this crap year after year.

Do Not Cosplay These Things!

1. Blackface, yellowface, etc - the darkening of one's skin to portray a character of a different race.  

But wait - you say - this isn't offensive!  I'm just being the character, it's just makeup, I'm just being accurate.  Nope, that's not a good excuse.  See, the problem is the history of it.  Whether you think that you're doing something awesome or totally in character, you have to acknowledge that there is a history of non-black people coloring their skin to mock and insult those with darker skin.  This isn't something that happens just to those with black skin either, it's also been used against Native Americans, Chinese, Japanese, Middle Eastern, and any number of people who aren't white.  So seriously, just don't do it, because like it not you are cracking into all of the emotions from those times and that history and you will offend and mock many people.

But wait, you still say, what if the character isn't human? (Insert Steven Universe, Star Trek or any other character here).  That's great, but still not an excuse.  YOU are a human.  This means you are still touching on all that sensitivity and insulting past.  So really, just don't do it.  Colors such as purple, green, grey and those not usually found in human skin - sure, go for it.  However, if you think your Storm or Garnet costume can't possibly work without changing your skin color, then either change your mind or don't do it.  It doesn't matter how accurate or well intentioned you are, you can not escape the past with this act.  So just don't do it.  You really really don't need to. I'm sure you'll be recognized as Storm, Garnet, or whoever without changing your skin tone.  

2. Cultures - taking elements from a living or dead culture and wearing them as a costume.

This includes, - but is not limited to - Native American feathered headdresses, religious figures, geisha, sexualities, cliches, and stereotypes.  All of these things are likely integral parts of people's lives and beliefs and really aren't something to be mocked or played at.  Whatever the reason behind your costume, these cultural items and dress are usually paired with a deeper meaning you may not be aware of.  Some of these things must be earned through years of work while others are 'won' through years of hatred, killing, and suppression.  And some are horribly offensive because they are not true depictions and mock the history of a culture.  

Much like the argument with blackface, you are dealing with years upon years of history.  Several times costumes like this are made to mock and poke fun at cultures or are horribly incorrect in their portrayal.  By wearing a costume like this you are cheapening the culture it claims to portray and showing them as a joke.  Your very act of wearing the costume is negating the real life requirements behind items that are earned and fought for, reducing them to knockoffs that can be bought at party stores and tossed away the next day.  Don't be a part of this, because even if you are trying to wear the costume to show you love this thing, it will likely not be read that way and you will hurt and offend people.

But wait, you say, the outfit I'm wearing is from a dead culture, it couldn't possibly offend anyone who is now alive!  Are you sure?  Are you really, really sure?  Because the fact that the costume exists means that someone has taken the time to learn about and research the culture, which means people know about it.  There is a very large chance that there's still someone out there who practices and/or highly respects that culture.  So really, just don't.  If you're grasping at straws that much, you already know it's offensive and just looking for a reason to not feel guilty.  You won't find that here in this article and you won't find it from me.

3. Offensive Current Events - wearing costumes that relate to current events and also mock those events.

This, I would have thought, would have been common sense, but apparently it is not.  Dressing up as current events, especially those wherein at least one person was treated unfairly, hurt, killed, or any number of things just shouldn't be done.  Seriously, don't dress as a tropical storm that killed dozens of people; don't dress as the young man in the hoodie who was shot; don't dress as the transexual lady who just came out to her family, and don't dress as the boy who had his clock confiscated because school officials thought it was a bomb.  This reaches out to any number of things and I could spend all day listing them.

The point is that all of these events were things that affected people's lives and are tied to memories and, often, deep emotions.  Sure, something might have happened in another state or country far from you, but you have no idea who is related to who and who has family or friends in that area.  You may think it's funny, but you're mocking the pain of others by wearing it as a costume.  Because to those people it isn't funny - it's a sad part of life and often is a cause of death.  So really, just don't.  Your joke shouldn't use their pain as a jumping platform.

4. Insulting - meant to be insulting to specific persons, cultures, etc.  

Look, let's be simple and honest.  I've heard it said that jokes aren't funny unless they offend someone, but I'm going to challenge that.  You can be funny and have fun without being offensive, you can be amusing without harassment.  It just takes a little more thought and creativity.  So really, if you wear an insulting costume, it really just comes off as lazy and uncreative.  And yes, I am judging you for this action.

Coming to the center of it, Halloween and wearing costumes is about having fun.  It's about enjoying yourself and being someone/something else for that small amount of time.  But your fun and escapism should never come at the cost of someone else.  Just because companies make the costumes and sell them isn't an excuse for poor taste on your part.  Go ahead and have fun dressing up.  Fun doesn't have to be insulting.  Instead fun can be fun for everyone, it just takes a little more effort.

So really, what I'm saying, is be the person who puts in that extra effort.  Don't insult, don't harass, and don't belittle.  Put on a costume that you can truly shine in and let those around you shine as well.  There's so many options out there for costumes during this holiday season and all year round.  You don't need to hurt people with your choices, because there's so many others out there that everyone can enjoy.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

WD Oct 2015 Challenge: Start a Writing Blog and Claim Your Domain

Start a Writing Blog
For today’s platform-building task, start a writing blog. You can use Blogger, WordPress, Tumblr, or another platform if you wish. To complete today’s task, do the following:
  • Create a blog. That is, sign up (if you don’t already have a blog), pick a design (these can usually be altered later if needed), and complete your profile.
  • Write a post for today. If you’re not sure what to cover, you can just introduce yourself and share a brief explanation of how your blog got started. Don’t make it too complicated.
  • Share your blog URL in the comments below. I’ll go through and create a list of blog URLs, so that we can easily find, follow, and friend each other in the blogosphere. It’ll be great!
  • Read more about this entry here at Writer's Digest

Claim Your Domain

For today’s platform-building task, claim your domain name. I’ve never made this a task in the past, because it costs money to register a domain name. Rather, I’ve strongly encouraged doing it. However, I think it’s so important to have a stable piece of online real estate–and the price is really so minimal–that it has to be a requirement for a writer platform.
Why is it so important? Let me share the story of my former boss and current friend Jane Friedman. You see, there are two Jane Friedmans in the publishing world (probably more), but my Jane Friedman is the one who claimed all of the sites with that name.  

As you can see, I combined two of the exercises into one day.  Why?  Well, because if you are here at this page, you know I already have a writing blog.  So it seemed really odd to me to make a blog post that says "Hey!  I have a blog."  
As for the second one, when I became an author, I quickly discovered that not only was my first name hella popular across the internet (part of the reason I call myself Snow in most fandoms is because there's so many Jessicas out there) but my last name is also popular!  Googling myself I am apparently a lawyer, a popular high school sports star, a design coordinator, an author and someone who made a crap ton of money off Neopets.  None of those were me,but they're all named Jessica Walsh.  So I may have to struggle now with differentiating myself from the other Jessica's out there, but I've already published books and changing the name on the covers is a bit hard.  So I'm still working on that. 
In the meantime, my website is actually under our company name: Sewn Together Reflections and a good portion of my social media is under the name most fans would know me as, be it Snow, Jessica or Destiny.  So I'm juggling a couple, but then I've never really been simple ^___^

Friday, October 2, 2015

WD Oct 2015 Challenge: Set Your Writing Goals

Set Your Writing Goals
For today’s platform-building task, set your writing goals. There are some people who believe in just charging blindly forward, but I believe in taking a moment to consider goals. And here’s why: It’s hard to know if you’re finding success if you don’t know what you’re trying to achieve. Or put another way: If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you’re there?
So put together a couple lists:
  • One list should be short-term goals. These are goals you can accomplish within the next year. It’s okay to get ambitious, but try to keep them semi-reasonable. For instance, if you’re an unpublished writer, winning the Nobel Prize in Literature is probably not a reasonable short-term goal. But maybe getting published in a literary journal is.
  • The other list should be long-term goals. Feel free to knock yourself out with ambitious goals here. Dream a little. But also include reasonable goals that you might accomplish eventually. As an example, I once set a goal of getting a full-length collection of poetry published, and it happened 18 months later!

Short Term Goals:
* Finish editing Hunters 2: Beneath the Chapter
* Submit a new story to Dreamspinner Press
* Participate in NaNoWriMo 2015
* Set up a Patreon
* Read more books

Long Term Goals:
* Learn more about marketing books
* Figure out how to sell ebooks at conventions
* Finish Hunters series
* Finish and Publish Horsewomen/Bringers/Aspects series
* Get into a habit of writing and publishing novellas every couple months
* Submit to more calls from Dreamspinner and other publishers
* Read and review more books

Current Story Work List:
This isn't included in the note above, but it's something I do to keep track of what I'm working on, since I tend to work on several stories at once, following the whims of my muses.  So a lot of these stories may not see the light of day for a long time, but writing this down reminds me that those ideas are patiently waiting their turn to be written. 

* ReWrite Horsewomen/Aspects
* Finish Feelings
* Edit Spiked and Feathered
* Write Shadow Play
* Write Blushing Apples 2
* Finish Devious Pies
* ReWrite Songbird
* Finish Little Creepers
* Write Hunters 3
* Write Light It Up
* Write STS comic idea
* Write Child's Dreams

Thursday, October 1, 2015

WD Oct 2015 Challenge: Define Yourself as a Writer

For the heck of it this month, I'm going to participate in the Writer's Digest 2015 October Platform Challenge (click on the link to read what it's about). 

So here's Day 1:

Define Yourself as a Writer

For the first day of this challenge, I want everyone to take a step back and define yourself as a writer. Don’t worry about where you want to be. Instead, focus on who you are, what you’ve done, what you’re currently doing, etc.
Name: Jessica Walsh 
Positions: Freelance author; currently published with Dreamspinner Press, Heatstroke Press and independently.  Previously published in Apex Magazine.  
Skills: Creative writing, editing, book promotion, blogging, idea generation, public speaking and teaching.
Accomplishments: Guest Author/Creator at No Brand Con 2015, Anime Iowa 2015, Gaylaxicon 2016, Anime Detour 2016.  Steal the Spotlight Winner: Apex Magazine #66
Interests: Writing (all genres), costuming/Cosplay, Anime, GLBT and representation issues, cats and fashion.
In one sentence who am I?  Jessica Walsh is a creative artist, channeling her muses in all mediums to reflect the variety in this world through her writing and art. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Review: The Whispers

Every season there's that one show.  That show you heard hints of in ads or on the radio and in spite of yourself it catches your interest and you end up watching it, and liking it, and then it's gone.

The Whispers was that show for me last season and I have mixed feelings, because I'm actually kind of happy it only lasted a season, for probably all the wrong reasons, according to production studios.

What is the show?
The Whispers is a single season show telling the story of various children who all seem to have the same imaginary friend named Drill.  And Drill is telling them to do things that children really shouldn't be doing.  Lily Rabe plays Claire Bennigan, a child psychologist who steps forward to look into these strange cases and has a son of her own.

What really intrigued me and caught me from the start, was the small ads I saw for the show while on vacation in Atlanta.  I thought it was going to be a ghost story, something that rarely shows up as a thing beyond the CW and teen romance series.  So I was interested - especially with the twist of imaginary friends.

The show itself is well written and unfolds like a novel, letting you meet and come to like all of the characters.  All the questions you have about Drill are slowly answered, but only in ways that bring more questions, so the show hooks you from the beginning and really doesn't let go.  All of the characters seem very human and likable, in spite of their flaws.  Especially Claire and her family.  I was pleasantly surprised to see her portrayed as a strong and yet very human woman, who was allowed a range of emotions without turning into a wibbling mess that needed to cower against one man or another.  I was also incredibly impressed by all of the child actors in this show.  At times I swear they were almost too good and the force of Drill working with them was made that much creepier.

So, without spoilers (those are below the next image) I will say that you should watch this series.  It was obviously made to go on for more then one season, but the place they ended it actually works quite well and leaves you wondering just enough that you can dream up your own scenario.  (I'll go into that more below.)

The Whispers is an interesting and adventurous ride.  I'm sure if I had children it would creep me out even more, because every child has an imaginary friend and somewhere in the back of your head, you might wonder what it would be like if that friend weren't quite so imaginary.


I loved this show, and I'm not ashamed to say the first reason was because it tricked the hell out of me.  In seeing the ads, I was under the impression the show was about ghosts, just like I said above.  But it's not, in fact, it's about an alien invasion.  So why didn't I mention that above?

Firstly, I'm not a fan of aliens.  It's not that I don't believe there might not be something out there - I actually do.  But I am very tired of seeing them in media, because something about how they've always been portrayed in media just feels off to me.  And had I known this was about aliens, I never would have watched it.  But this show did it perfectly.  At no point do you ever see the aliens.  Instead you only hear about Drill and not even the children can see him.  You get a glimpse of their ships at the end, but that's it.  In this the drama of the children and their parents trying to find out what is going on is made front and center and while the aliens are a big part, the show doesn't focus on them because it can't - and I felt that really helped the story line progress in an interesting way.

Even the ending is left incredibly ambiguous because there is a cliffhanger in the children disappearing along with Claire in the alien's hands.  But the story I was left wanting to know more about wasn't the aliens... it was actually the humans on earth.  Yes, I cared that Claire was gone along with the other children, but as the show ended I was more curious about what the heck all the parents were going to do now with their children gone.  Because realistically there was no way for them to go after the aliens and no way to recover their children - instead the characters would have been forced to deal with their abduction and the lack of hope of them ever coming back.  That idea intrigues me and I know it would never make a good tv series, but it might make one hell of a novel with the correct writer.

It was only after the series was over that I read a bit more into it and found that it was based on the short story "Zero Hour" by Ray Bradbury.  But again, like the series, the story ends with the aliens arriving, so not much expansion available there.  Which I'm ultimately ok with, because I'm not sure that any part of mainstream media would be interested in that much of a character story where it would have to be about recovery and loss, and never about the hope of getting them back.

The one nagging thing I wasn't too happy about is the story surrounding Claire's husband, Milo Ventimiglia as Sean Bennigan.  In the beginning we're told he died during a military mission, only to see him later alive and with no memory of what's going on and being led around like a puppet by Drill.  The problem is that the show establishes that Drill can only talk to children, and it's never explained why Sean can hear him through the lights.  The viewer of the show might guess that it has something to do with his amnesia and touching the meteor that Drill seemed to arrive on, but this is never confirmed and it's never touched again as the story progresses.  Even later, when grownups do appear that Drill can communicate with, it's not hinted at that Sean might have also been one of these.  Instead it's a loose thread that is never wrapped up or explained, and it could have easily been.  I'm also not convinsed it was the amnesia that caused it, as when Drill was completely taking over in the final stages he didn't try and duplicate the affect with other grownups, which he could have easily done with drugs and coma victims.  So that loose thread was left hanging and very disappointing.

But really, that's my only grip.  In the end this show was masterful written, had amazing children actors (and adult ones too) and created a very interesting and coherent world.  I'm sad there's not more, but at the same time I'm happy because I liked the open ending.  Because the show was never really about the aliens or the whispers the children heard.  Instead it's about grownups not listening to their children and taking them seriously.  Because maybe we should, before someone else does.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Book Review: Taken by the Minotaur by Isabel Dare

What's it about?
Like the old myth, Theseus makes his way into the labyrinth to defeat the dreaded Minotaur.  We all know the story, determined to stop the yearly tribute sacrifices, he plans on killing the beast and bringing it all to an end and come out a victorious hero.  The problem is things don't go quite as planned and Theseus probably should have realized that creatures don't always want sacrifices to mame or eat or kill.  Sometimes they're hungry in other ways.  And sometimes the hero finds himself surrendering in a way he never anticipated.

Another novella I picked up purely on a whim, due to a promo for a free try, I'll admit I'm so hooked.  I love Greek and Roman myths and apparently this author makes a habit of taking those familiar tales and turning them into delicious erotica.

There isn't much thought needed here and if you're not familiar with the myth, you will lose nothing.  Instead this author easily walks the line between seeding in information you need and leading you on a familiar hot ride.  It honestly felt like I'd accidentally discovered hidden pages in that mythology textbook that the professor swore up and down shouldn't be there.  And contained within is this hot alternate universe tale where Theseus doesn't slay the Minotaur, instead he lets the Minotaur take him.  The story is predictable, but it doesn't disappoint.  Instead it made me realize that there might be something hot about all those shifter and monster erotica stories out there that doesn't make you feel like you've dropped into a taboo abyss.  For the first monster erotica story I've read, I was pleasantly surprise.  It was short and sweet and I was happy to find that there are two more parts that I plan on picking up.  Not to mention that she has a whole slew of stories like this and it looks like I'll be filling my Kindle bookshelf with all of them, because this is definitely a newly found guilty pleasure.

Purchase on Amazon

(Disclaimer: This book was obtained during a free book promotion, no money was received for this review.)

Monday, September 21, 2015

Monday Promo: Sophie by the Sea by Belinda Burke

It's Monday and I have another promo for a book by a fellow author from Heatstroke Press!

Heads up, these are erotic tales and do involve sex between various pairings and all over the range of kinks.  So if this isn't your thing, then I wouldn't follow the links.  You've been warned. 

Sophie has returned to her normal life - to the sea, and to her photography. She's spent as little time as possible thinking about her encounter with Luka and his pack, if only to keep herself from wistful thoughts. There may be magic in the world, but so far as she can see it won't make any more difference in her life.

So far as she can see, however, isn't far enough. Sophie may think things have returned to business as usual, but the ocean has a surprise for her. A shark, who can take the shape of a man. A shark who calls himself Theron, and who can reach out and touch Sophie’s mind.

Theron is the lord of the sea, and he sees her only as his woman, soft and beautiful. He wants to touch her, taste her, take her…and then keep her, if she can pass his test. If not, shifter though he is, Theron is more shark than man. Sophie might be in terrible danger…

But that doesn’t mean she can resist.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Book Review: The Obsidian Stairway by Bibi Rizer

Genre: Erotic Romance

What's it about?
Somewhere in the future, or another world, O'Mara Tanner is a reporter, charged with reporting on the 'services' offered within the Pleasures, a futuristic red light district of sorts.  It's her job to go take part in the new services and then write a saucy story that will bring the patrons in and satisfy the need for sex in a world where the population balance between men and women is completely off and men are hard to come by.  This time, she's interviewing the mysterious Tully and the very unique service he provides.

I admit, I bought this book purely based on the fact that it was an erotic short, and since I've been dabbling in that genre a little myself writing wise, I figured I should read a bit of what's out there. This came up on my feed as a free offering and I figured why not.

First and foremost, I am intrigued by the world this novella presents.  A large scale uprising left this world with an in-balance between the genders, leaving a setting where harems and eunuchs are very common and women are more likely to find companionship in each other then the few men left around.  This was an interesting place to set a story that ultimately talks about a woman rediscovering what love actually is.  I was very interested in this world and the problems this sort of society presents, and how that honestly relates.

The problem is, that such an interesting premise actually does the overall story a disservice.  It's too short, and there's a lot of questions left unanswered with all the information.  I was left with more questions about this world and the scenes that you go to an erotic novella for were really an afterthought in my mind.  By the time this story got to the sex (which was hot in it's own dystopian way), I really didn't care, because I was more interested in learning and exploring this strange world the story had presented me with.  This creates a problem, because as an erotic novella, the sex does need to be there and shouldn't be seen as a hindrance to the overall thing.

That being said, I actually did like the story.  In hindsight, this is something I would rather read as part of a box set, or a long running serial that I can marathon during a late night when I really should be sleeping for work the next day.  I am interested to learn more about Tully and O'Mara and I hope their paths cross again, but I also wouldn't object to different couplings in this odd world.  Either way, I do want more, I just wish I'd waited until more was out.  I see there is a second book and I will probably be picking it up, but I may wait until there's at least another after that.

Purchase on Amazon

(Disclaimer: This book was obtained during a free book promotion, no money was received for this review.)

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Default is NOT White

I am sick.  I am tired.  And most of all, I am disappointed.

As I've grown and gotten more into the geek world, fandom as a whole and just more of humanity, time and time again this issue has come up.  Every time someone who is not white takes a chance and steps forward, dressing as a character where their skin color is just the slightest amount off, the internet explodes.  Countless times my wife has dressed as a 'white' character and she's been called names because she is in fact black.  Countless times strangers and friends across the internet have done this and have been called names, the N-word and trolled, and it's pathetic.

This came to a head today because one of my wife's close friends dressed as Lola from Space Jam, - who is in fact a brown bunny -  and was bashed because she herself is black, and how dare she turn a character black.

But see, there's the problem.  A bunny, people?  Seriously?  It's a rabbit.  It's a drawn rabbit who is animated with light brown fur.  This character is not black.  She is not white.  She IS A RABBIT.

One doesn't need to look far in the world to see this issue.  The flame wars surrounding Rue when the Hunger Games movie came out.  The 'underground' fandom that believes Hermione is actually dark skinned.  Heck, there was even an explosion when one of the new leads in the upcoming Star Wars trilogy was revealed to be a black Storm Trooper.

Right, because white armor somehow dictates the color of the skin beneath. 
This is the problem!  We - as a world - need to stop assuming that just because something isn't identified as some other color in the first millisecond, that it's white.  This is not a small problem, this is a huge one.  People assume that anime characters are white, because they're drawn without black hair and stereo-typically tilted eyes.  People assume that characters in books are white because they glossed over the word 'olive' as a skin color, or heck, didn't even realize that the description wasn't there. This happens every day and it's so painfully obvious that it really needs to stop now.

And it's not just people who are white who make these assumptions, it happens on the other side too. During a panel this year, my wife admitted to myself and quite a few convention goers that she's done it herself.  When we were in the brainstorming stages of our Storyteller novel series, I mentioned that we should make a couple of the characters black and she just stared at me.  Not because it was a horrible idea, but because that idea had never really occurred to her before I'd mentioned it.

It is a sad and sorry statement against the state of our world, when we are so trained to see everything as white.  Everything is white until proven black and even when the proof is there, too many people gloss over it or don't see it so that it become moot. It puts our world in a very monochrome lens, when it's anything but, and it comes out in everything that we make from movies, to fanfiction, to art, to cosplay, creating a self fulfilling prophesy of whiteness and the horrible hated other.

People aren't allowed to express any sort of color anymore without hatred thrown at them.  People aren't allowed to dress as their favorite characters, write about people like them, or even imagine that just maybe, just maybe that character is something else.  Yes, I'm looking at you Annie, Fantastic Four, Spiderman and even the new Incredible Hulk.

It is a sad, sorry state of affairs because of what we're depriving the world of.  This world is full of so many colors, why would we do this to ourselves?  Beyond an issue of race, beyond an issue of being a bigot - seriously?  Look at what the world is denying itself by ignoring and denying and automatically hating the huge array of variety out there.

There's an image I saw on Facebook, as a meme of all things, but it sums this up so perfectly and I wish I still had it saved.  The picture showed a group of brightly colored birds and talked about how we loved their variety, but hated our own.  Then it showed a picture of a group of children of many different races.

I am sick, tired and disappointed. I am also frustrated.  I am a white woman, so you may think that I don't have a personal stake in this, but I do.  Beyond my wife who is black, beyond my friends and the people I've met in the world and the unwarranted hate they receive, I live here too.  I see the media and the fanart and ads and everything around me and the amount of white that I see is so overwhelming that it hurts.  I DON'T HATE WHITE, but I would like to see some variety.  I would like to see the variety of the amazing people I've met and know reflected in the things I enjoy.  I would like to be able to step into other worlds of fandom and fun and be presented with the amazing array of color and variety that I already know exists.  I shouldn't have to dig for it.  It's already around me, so why is it so hard and hateful to find?  And really, if I'm this frustrated, I can only image how frustrating and painful it is for people who are not white.  I have been told how painful this is.

This needs to stop.  It needs to stop in fandom, it needs to stop in life and it just plain needs to stop period.

Just because something isn't white doesn't mean its wrong.  Just because a color isn't stated, doesn't mean it's white. The world is so much more creative then that and damnit, it's about time we were too.