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.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Monday Promo: Provocateur: Eyes Wide Shut (MM erotica)

Hey everyone,

As you may or may not have caught on, I joined up with a few other authors to start releasing more erotic genre'd fiction through Heatstroke Press.  My story, Blushing Apples is up, along with my partner's novella Lemon Wedges.  As part of this, every monday that a new one comes out I'm going to be promoing them here for you guys to see.

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. 

First up this Monday:

Two men. One hour. No holds barred. 

Carter Reid and Brandon Young come from two different worlds. One a courtesan, one a self made millionaire with a penchant for a light bondage. 

Extremely graphic and detailed, Provocateur: Eyes Wide Shut is an intimate view of what happens when these two worlds collide. 

An erotic short of 4,500 words

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Cosplay Experiences - Don't be a Prop

Stepping into the convention scene or any sort of event tied to geekiness in general, and you'll not only see cosplayers walking around, you'll find them in groups.  Like most people, cosplayers like to create groups of like minded and like dressed people for a variety of reasons.  I've joined some of these groups from time to time for various reasons, but there's one experience in particular that stands out to me and refuses to be forgotten.  For good reason.

I remember being a cosplay prop.

With anime and several other series, I have a tendency to like characters who stick around in the background.  I love odd series like Gankutsuou, Utena, Sorcerer Hunters, Saint Seiya and others that just don't usually fall into the normal anime fans' line of sight.  More so back years ago when we didn't have streaming anime and VHS tapes were astronomical in price.  (Wow, I sound old!)

It may not be so much of an issue now, but back then it meant that most of the characters I absolutely loved and wanted to cosplay as, no one would recognize.  This presented a problem because at the base of cosplaying is the desire to be noticed.  If you dress up as a character no one knows, most people will tend to ignore you and I had enough of people ignoring me in real life.  The whole point of my dressing up was to fit in and being ignored, well that obviously meant I wasn't fitting in.  So I compromised, I joined a group for a show I wasn't as crazy about, but still liked, and picked a character I wasn't crazy about, but still liked and dressed up as him.

Recognize this costume?  Yeah, this was him.  Duke Devlin from Yu-Gi-Oh.

Now, let me step back for a moment and provide some clarification.  At no point in this article am I saying I hate this character, this costume nor the people I cosplayed with.  Instead, once again this is a personal realization that I want to write about and again, it's related to this experience.  Don't take it as a negative, honestly it turned out to be a very positive realization for me.  Got it?  Just so we're all clear.

That part cleared up, I picked Duke Devlin because I thought the character was cool and two good friends already had Yu-Gi-Oh costumes, so it made sense.  Plus, their costumes were amazing and I wanted to hang out with them and take some awesome group pictures.  Ultimately I had fun cosplaying the character and we even found a closed mall attached to the hotel for Anime Iowa and got some amazing shots that looked like they fit in right with the show.

The problem was, I realized afterwards, that I didn't enjoy it as much as I'd originally wanted to.  By picking a show and character I kinda liked, instead of loved, I'd compromised and unknowingly basically turned myself into a prop for someone else's amazing costume.  I was thinking of myself as a way to add to their costume, rather then focusing more on my own fun and my own cosplay.

After reaching this realization, I honestly put the costume away, and it only made a later appearance for when the Yu-Gi-Oh movie came out in the theaters near me (cuz I'm a dork like that).  In the end I had had fun, but the realization after the fact kind of tainted the experience and made it not as fun in retrospect.

As a take away from the whole experience, I decided to only cosplay characters I liked for my reasons, and not just to fit in with a group.  I liked spending time with the group and getting some awesome pictures and I was totally up for doing that again.  But if I was spending the time to make these costumes and the pieces to go with them, it only made sense to me to focus that energy on characters I love, rather on halfhearted love for the sake of being noticed a teenie bit more.

The idea I'm hoping cosplayers take away from this, is to be yourself.  Honestly, no matter what your skill level is with your cosplay and whether you make it or not, you're not a prop.  You're a person who is also wearing a costume - which means you're also a cosplayer in your own right.  So if you want to dress up as someone to match another person's costume, there's nothing wrong with that and have fun!  But in my experience it's much more fun if you love the character you're portraying.  It shows through the costume, no matter what the skill and it can make a world of difference on how much fun you have in said costume and at said convention.

In the end, be yourself.  Be the characters you love and don't forget that you have the ability to be recognized for your own skill, not just because you're standing next to someone else.  There's nothing wrong with cosplay groups, but there's nothing wrong with your individual cosplay either.

**Any other cosplay/sewing/anime/geeky subjects you want me to write about? - Let me know in the comments! ***