We Need More Lesbian Knights

In the wake of being made redundant, hopefully scoring a new job with greater prospects, and forever waiting to hear back from my agent (I’ve bought Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook 2018 because I’m beginning to worry he doesn’t have time to take me on – I also need to brush up on knowledge of publishing contracts), I am desperate to feel the all-encompassing joy and frustration of writing a new novel.

So as life throws its curve-balls and persistent hurdles, one challenge above them all is drawing near: NaNoWriMo.  NOT ANOTHER POST ABOUT NANOWRIMO!

If the title didn’t give it away, well, surprise! I’m writing about lesbian knights, and the setting is Fantasy-Middle-East and Fantasy-Scandinavia. I love romance, I love magic, I adore knights, and I want to read more f/f stories that focus on a plot instead of totally on the protagonist’s sexuality.

I was inspired by author Bridget Essex who writes f/f novels that cater to everything I ever wanted. Lesbian knights in exciting plots resulting in a wholesome, healthy, sustainable relationships where the drama doesn’t come from people trying to specifically sabotage the main love affair. But the focus of A Knight to Remember is very heavily on “getting the girl”, rather than about the beast that’s come to destroy Boston. I was blown away by how well it tied the threads together, but I wanted more…

After reading both A Knight to Remember and Date KnightI felt: I love this kind of story but want 10x more world building and double the layer of subplots. Basically, I wanted an epic fantasy that was about the epic fantasy, featuring knights who are also, btw, gay and transgender.

I’m looking forward to reading The Second Mango next by Shira Glassman, which seems to be exactly the kind of angle I’m craving.

Do you love knights, too? What would you want to see done differently with the classic, wrongly dishonoured knight story?

And are you doing NaNo? Let’s be buddies! And you’ve gotta tell me your elevator pitch in the comments! What’s your story about? Do you plan for NaNo? I’m planning the house down. What or who has inspired you to write your NaNo novel?

Here’s my synopsis: 

When an honourable knight is accused of murdering a foreign princess and sentenced to death, a witch swoops in to rescue her, on one condition: Nazirah must give the witch her first born child.

But Nazirah is a lesbian and likes the odds of never having to make that sacrifice, or so she thought. With the deal struck, she has one year to fall pregnant, or she will still die.

In a terrible world of demons, warring royals, and the unsolved murder of Princess Galiana, Nazirah is running out of time to either fall pregnant to save herself, to uncover the lies of a court she once loved, or to hunt the monster that could break her curse.

Book Launch: Meet erotica writer L.M. Brown

forbiddenwaters 200x320Today we’ve got something new, something exciting, and something a little bit naughty. I confess that I have yet to read L.M. Brown’s work but as soon as I came across the pitch for her new book – she had me by the tail fins. I’m excited to make her new release, Forbidden Waters, my first taste of her work.

But enough from me! I don’t want to babble, I’m honoured to now hand over to L, who can tell you more about her upcoming m/m/m erotica.


 

Meet Prince Finn

You’d think being born a prince would mean the young heir to the Atlantean throne would have everything he could ever wish for. Well, not if you read romance novels on a regular basis, you wouldn’t. After all, princes have problems too and Finn has more so than others.

As a merman, Finn is at home in the ocean, but even the wonderful world under the surface of the ocean can lose its appeal when you are also its prisoner.

Finn has everything a prince could want, except the freedom to go up to the surface of the ocean and walk on the land. Now, you might think that this isn’t particularly important since he is a merman. He should be just as happy and content under the water, right?

Mermen, at least in my world, can only ever have intercourse in their human forms. Prince Finn, at twenty years old is one of the oldest virgins in Atlantis, if not the actual oldest.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Finn is no different to any other merman or mermaid when it comes to needing the touch of another. Like all of his kind he goes into heat twice a year on the summer and winter solstices and when that time comes the need to go to land can be pretty overwhelming.

Being trapped under the ocean when the heat of a mating fever is upon him is difficult and painful, but despite all that Finn handles his imprisonment pretty well. That is, he does everything he can to find a way to escape the boundaries of the city. This means passing by the dangerous sea dragons as well as escaping the watchful gaze of his parents, the king and queen of Atlantis and his jailers.

Even if he were attracted to mermaids he would have trouble escaping the city to ease his sexual frustration. Being attracted to men, which is strictly forbidden in Atlantis, makes it doubly difficult for him to obtain the freedom he desires.

Despite all this, Prince Finn does not let his imprisonment bother him too much. He is a merman who craves love and will navigate Forbidden Waters to get it.

~

Blurb

To save his clan from ever-increasing shark attacks, merman Kyle seeks sanctuary for his people in the sunken city of Atlantis, even though he knows that as a homosexual merman, he will be sacrificing his own chance for love. Love finds him anyway in the form of Prince Finn, the rebellious young heir to the Atlantean throne.

When their relationship is discovered, Kyle is the one to pay the price. Banished from the oceans, he seeks shelter in England and finds a new love with human, Jake Seabrook.

For Jake, Kyle is the chance to move on from the crush he has on his straight best friend. The strange man he found naked on the beach seems to fit into his life with ease. If only Kyle weren’t keeping secrets from him, Jake could see them having a future together.

Things are not what they seem for either of the men and when Kyle discovers the truth about Finn, he knows he must return to Atlantis.

Three men, a tangled relationship, and one chance for happiness—if they can trust enough to take it.

~

Excerpt

Kyle shook his head and was about to say something else when the sound of someone in pain drifted through his mind. He knew instinctively it was Finn and swam past the queen to the resting chamber. Queen Coral followed at his back. They found Finn curled up in Kyle’s sleeping sponge, his tail curled around him. He clutched his stomach in obvious pain.

Ignoring the queen for the moment, Kyle rushed to Finn and gathered him into his arms.

“I’m here, Finn,” Kyle murmured. “I’ve got you now.”

Finn groaned and wrapped himself round Kyle. “I hate this. The heat of the season gets worse every time. I thought it might help to be here in your home, but it didn’t. It’ll pass by the end of the day. It just hurts not to mate when the desire is so strong.”

“Damn,” Kyle swore under his breath. At twenty years of age, Finn had already gone through nearly ten mating seasons without relief. That was more than Dax and Undine had lived through combined. The pain Kyle suffered from would be nothing compared to what Finn was dealing with right now.

Kyle glared at the queen. “Do you see what your stupid rules are putting your son through?”

“This is not my fault,” the queen argued.

“Don’t fight,” Finn interrupted. “Just hold me Kyle. It’s helping.”

Kyle tightened his grip and kissed Finn on the top of his head. “I’m here now. I won’t leave you.”

Finn settled down a little and began to rub up against Kyle. He could tell what the merman was trying to do, but Finn’s efforts were in vain. Mermen simply couldn’t find release in their half-fish form. No matter how Finn mimicked the movements of the act of mating, they could never actually see it through to completion while under the water. Which meant Finn could never find relief as long as his parents held him prisoner under the waves.

“Kyle, help me,” Finn begged. “Take me to the island. Let me know you the way I need to.”

“I forbid it,” Queen Coral ordered.

Kyle ignored her and sent his next thoughts privately to Finn. “I promise this won’t happen next mating season. Next time I’ll take you with me, even if I have to kidnap you to do it.”

~

Forbidden Waters is now available at Totally Bound and will soon be availble on Amazon.

Bio

L.M. Brown lives in England, in a quaint little village time doesn’t seem to have touched. No, wait a minute—that’s the retirement biography. Right now, she is in England in a medium sized town no one has ever heard of, so she won’t bore you with the details. Keeping her company are numerous sexy men. She just wishes they weren’t all inside her head.

L.M. believes there is nothing hotter or sweeter than two men in love with each other… unless it is three.

L.M. Brown loves hearing from readers so don’t be shy.

~

Where to find L.M. Brown:

Website & Blog – http://lmbrownauthor.wordpress.com/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/groups/LMBrownTreasureTrove/

Twitter – @LMBrownAuthor

Evangelion Manga Reviews: Apocalypse and Beaches

What are the spin-off mangas like?

evangelion_144Are you a fan of the popular anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion? Do you want to know what the spin-off mangas are like? Then this review is for you!

I’m a fan of the original series and most of its varing manifestations. I while back I was surprised to discover that there are two manga series. They are, for the most part, published fan fiction and not written by Hideaki Anno but that doesn’t mean they are bad.

I’ll be scrutinising use of plot, writing skill and characterisation. The two manga series in question are: The Shinji Ikari Rising Project and Campus Apocalypse

There are no spoilers in these reviews, but they are aimed at people who already know the characters and are aware of the original plot.

The Shinji Ikari Rising Project – Volume #1

NGE_ShinjiIkariV1This particular spin-off manga, by Osamu Takahashi, drags us into an altered universe with gorgeous artwork featuring our favourite leading characters – primarly, Asuka Langley Soryu.

It takes a while for any serious plot to kick in – chapter 6, to be precise. The lives of Asuka, Shinji, and Rei are completely mundane and revolve around sexual comedy and romantic angst. In a world where Shinji’s mother is still alive and living in a family unit with Gendo Ikari, the story tries to explore how the chosen three teenagers would compete and interact if dating was their only worry.

We’re led through this alternate universe by Asuka who has been friends with Shinji since the age of four. This childhood bond is threatened when the beautiful Rei Ayanami moves to town – capturing Shinji’s interest – and forces Asuka to consider if she wants to be more than Shinji’s friend.

It’s beautifully drawn but plot points concerning the EVA are jarring and feel out of place in an average world where no one even vaguely mentions the Angels. There is no tension or threat of an imminent attack, which makes the EVA project feel slightly superfluous, like an attempt to create danger where there is none.

The first volume is light hearted compared to the original anime series and takes a somewhat heart-warming look at the dynamics between Rei, Asuka, and Shinji. In fact, it acts like a harem in which Rei and Asuka fall over Shinji, and Shinji himself frequently catches glimpses of female underwear; torn between the attractions of two striking young women. So if you’re not a fan of series like Oh! My Goddess this might not be the adaptation for you.

Saying this, Takahashi has done a fantastic job of staying true to the original characters’ personalities and it might be worth giving it a go just to enjoy spending time with Asuka and company. They have been altered to better socialise with each other as there’s an uplifting sense of friendship and love beneath all their pranks and bickering. Even the adults, especially Misato Katsuragi and Gendo, have a cheerful disposition that seems unhampered by dark, NERV secrets.

For those of you hoping for shipping fanservice, Takahashi does a grand job of teasing you with hints at yaoi, yuri, and het pairings all around.

It’s a calm and casual approach to Evangelion. The plot is vague and distracted with summer festivals and beach trips, but the characterisation is gripping and makes it worth reading if you want a closer look at ‘what might have been’ had Shinji and Asuka come from a happier environment. Mechs are not promised!

I personally don’t enjoy this kind of manga, so I won’t be buying the rest of the series. For those of you who do like harem-esc manga, this seems like a good one.

  • Fantastic characterisation,
  • Beautiful artwork,
  • Superfluious plot.

Campus Apocalypse – Volume #1

campus-apocalypseCompared to The Shinji Ikari Raising Project, Ming Ming’s Campus Apocalypse is an original and thoughtful alternate-reality. Corporation NERV, Shinji’s high school, the Angels and the characters themselves have been shaken up and re-imagined. This one is my favourite of the two.

Mystery arises from the get-go when Shinji spots his classmate running around at night with a Giant Spear (a.k.a. the Lance of Longinus) and an unknown guy. He puts this out of his mind until the next day at school where he attends NERV Foundation, a Catholic high school.

His curiosity is peaked when ‘the unknown guy’ turns out to be a transfer student by the name of Kaworu Nagisa who has a particular interest in Shinji, and a suspicious attitude towards Rei. Little does Shinji know, his curiosity will plunge him into a world of Angels, EVAs, Cores, AT Fields and prophecies – but not as you’d expect.

Compared to the original series, the art style has a more modern, anime feel. Ming has poured his own touch onto the page rather than perfectly mimic Anno’s drawing, which is part of what makes this series stand out.

I wasn’t sure if Ming’s story would be particularly good, as the first “in-class-scene” has a forced tone of humour. It’s more a case of, ‘look, isn’t this FUNNY?‘ than it actually being humorous. I was thrilled to discover that the story takes a compelling turn and has an exciting take on all the tech/techno-babble from the series. The Angels are especially interesting in this adaptation. In fact, it was the appearance of the first ‘Angel’ that hooked my attention.

The mood of storytelling has kept with the original – dreamy, brutal, symbolic (to a sensible degree) – and promises to be an insightful interpretation. The characters are true to themselves, especially Rei, Shinji, and Asuka. Like the Shinji Ikari Raising Project, Shinji’s abandonment issues have been toned down but he is a lot truer to his original characterisation with unforgettable, well implemented mantras such as, “I mustn’t run away. I mustn’t run away. I mustn’t run away!

For those of you who ship Kaworu and Shinji, there are enough intense stares between the two boys to make fangirls die of giggles.

This is a compelling adaptation with narrative skill and unexpected re-imaginings of the original series. The artwork isn’t quite as mesmerising as Takahashi’s but the plot makes up for it by the book load. I’ll be buying the next volume.

  • Gripping story,
  • Unique alternate universe,
  • Well written.

Are you a big fan of the Evangelion series?

Free stories and audio books; and season 2 of Bloodshot Buck

BWNlogo_blue (1)Fantastic news! Big World Network is now a FREE site with over 2,000 episodes and nearly 800 hours of audio from 70+ series.

What the friggity are you talking about?

If you’re new to this blog (hello!) you might not be totally familiar Big World Network (BWN), so let me push you down the rabbit hole and into an exciting new domain.

BWN is a literary network that features dozens of stories from a vast array of genres. Do you like Military Sci-Fi? Epic Fantasy? Historical Romance? Supernatural? Young Adult? Romance and Erotica? The list is extensive and, in fact, not all of their content is fiction!

The site works episodically, so each chapter is written as an ‘episode’ and there are twelve episodes in each season, per series. One episode is uploaded a week in both text and audio format, all of which is now free to enjoy.

Why not take a quick look at the website right now? [click, click, click!]

What’s the catch?

Zero. Zip-zada nada derpy dope none. Free stories. Free audio books. As many as you want.

Patreonage

BWN is changing because we want people to read the wonderful content that we work hard to provide. Right now, our authors, editors, and narrators are all doing this for free. The authors take home the largest percentage of royalties on book sales, but that doesn’t begin to cover all of the work that goes into each series and season.

Editors, narrators, authors—everyone who works for BWN (like myself) earns no money (I’m not crying there’s just student loans in my eye) but with your help, those of us working behind the scenes at BWN can finally get a little compensation for our time and effort, as well as provide readers and listeners with even more fantastic series.

By donating as little as $1 a month, patrons get exclusive perks. Check out the Patreon page for a snazzy video about why we’re super duper sexy.

BANNER

Bloodshot Buck, season 2

And last but not least, season 2 of Bloodshot Buck is now airing! Aaaaaah! Mitch and I have had such positive feedback about season 1’s cliffhanger ending, and we can’t thank our readers enough for their support. Get ready for Eva to start kicking some butt!

We also have a new Bloodshot Buck Facebook page and a tumblr blog now. The blog contains headcanons that…are probably canon but not in the story, pictures that inspire us, our notebook doodles, scenes that got cut, side-scripts and other helpful things.

Seriously, thank you so much for reading and listening. We couldn’t do what we love without your support.

Evangelion Manga Reviews: Apocalypse and Beaches

evangelion_144What are the spin-off mangas like?

Are you a fan of the popular anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion? Do you want to know what the spin-off mangas are like? Then this review is for you!

I’m a fan of the original series and most of its varing manifestations. I was recently surprised to discover that there are two manga series. They are, for the most part, published fanfiction and not written by Hideaki Anno but this doesn’t mean they are bad.

I’ll be scrutinising use of plot, writing skill and characterisation. The two manga series in question are: The Shinji Ikari Rising Project and Campus Apocalypse

There are no spoilers in these reviews, but they are aimed at people who already know the characters and are aware of the original plot.

NGE_ShinjiIkariV1The Shinji Ikari Raising Project

Volume #1

This particular spin-off manga, by Osamu Takahashi, drags us into an altered universe with gorgeous artwork featuring our favourite leading characters – primarly, Asuka Langley Soryu.

It takes a while for any serious plot to kick in – chapter 6, to be precise. The lives of Asuka, Shinji and Rei are completely mundane and revolve around sexual comedy and romantic angst. In a world where Shinji’s mother is still alive and living in a family unit with Gendo Ikari, the story tries to explore how the chosen three teenagers would compete and interact if dating was their only worry.

We’re led through this alternate universe by Asuka who has been friends with Shinji since the age of four. This childhood bond is threatened when the beautiful Rei Ayanami moves to town – capturing Shinji’s interest – and forces Asuka to consider if she wants to be more than Shinji’s friend.

It’s beautifully drawn but plot points concerning the EVA are jarring and feel out of place in an average world where no one even vaguely mentions the Angels. There is no tension or threat of an imminent attack, which makes the EVA project feel slightly superfluous, like an attempt to create danger where there is none.

The first volume is light hearted compared to the original anime series and takes a somewhat heart-warming look at the dynamics between Rei, Asuka and Shinji. In fact, it acts like a harem in which Rei and Asuka fall over Shinji, and Shinji himself frequently catches glimpses of female underwear; torn between the attractions of two striking young women. So if you’re not a fan of series like Oh! My Goddess this might not be the adaptation for you.

Saying this, Takahashi has done a fantastic job of staying true to the original characters’ personalities and it might be worth giving it a go just to enjoy spending time with Asuka and company. They have been altered to better socialise with each other as there’s an uplifting sense of friendship and love beneath all their pranks and bickering. Even the adults, especially Misato Katsuragi and Gendo, have a cheerful disposition that seems unhampered by dark, NERV secrets.

For those of you hoping for shipping fanservice, Takahashi does a grand job of teasing you with hints at yaoi, yuri and het pairings all around.

It’s a calm and casual approach to Evangelion. The plot is vague and distracted with summer festivals and beach trips, but the characterisation is gripping and makes it worth reading if you want a closer look at ‘what might have been’ had Shinji and Asuka come from a happier environment. Mechs are not promised!

I personally don’t enjoy this kind of manga, so I won’t be buying the rest of the series. For those of you who do like harem-esc manga, this seems like a good one.

  • Fantastic characterisation

  • Beautiful artwork

  • Superfluious plot

campus-apocalypseCampus Apocalypse

Volume #1

Compared to The Shinji Ikari Raising Project, Ming Ming’s Campus Apocalypse is an original and thoughtful alternate-reality. Corporation NERV, Shinji’s high school, the Angels and the characters themselves have been shaken up and re-imagined. This one is my favourite of the two.

Mystery arises from the get-go when Shinji spots his classmate running around at night with a Giant Spear (a.k.a. the Lance of Longinus) and an unknown guy. He puts this out of his mind until the next day at school where he attends NERV Foundation, a Catholic high school.

His curiosity is peaked when ‘the unknown guy’ turns out to be a transfer student by the name of Kaworu Nagisa who has a particular interest in Shinji, and a suspicious attitude towards Rei. Little does Shinji know, his curiosity will plunge him into a world of Angels, EVAs, Cores, AT Fields and prophecies – but not as you’d expect.

Compared to the original series, the art style has a more modern, anime feel. Ming has poured his own touch onto the page rather than perfectly mimic Anno’s drawing, which is part of what makes this series stand out.

I wasn’t sure if Ming’s story would be particularly good, as the first “in-class-scene” has a forced tone of humour. It’s more a case of, ‘look, isn’t this FUNNY?‘ than it actually being humorous. I was thrilled to discover that the story takes a compelling turn and has an exciting take on all the tech/techno-babble from the series. The Angels are especially interesting in this adaptation. In fact, it was the appearance of the first ‘Angel’ that hooked my attention.

The mood of storytelling has kept with the original – dreamy, brutal, symbolic (to a sensible degree) – and promises to be an insightful interpretation. The characters are true to themselves, especially Rei, Shinji and Asuka. Like the Shinji Ikari Raising Project, Shinji’s abandonment issues have been toned down but he is a lot truer to his original characterisation with unforgettable, well implemented mantras such as, “I mustn’t run away. I mustn’t run away. I mustn’t run away!

For those of you who ship Kaworu and Shinji, there are enough intense stairs between the two boys to make fangirls die of giggles.

This is a compelling adaptation with narrative skill and unexpected re-imaginings of the original series. The artwork isn’t quite as mesmerising as Takahashi’s but the plot makes up for it by the book load. I’ll be buying the next volume.

  • Gripping story

  • Unique alternate universe

  • Well written

Are you a big fan of the Evangelion series? Have you read either of these mangas, too?

Fifty Shades of Feminism

This has to be the best “Fifty Shades” marketing pun out there. That’s it, they don’t get better or more tongue in cheek than this. Now stop.

But I’m not posting this to rage about marketing puns, or Fifty Shades of Gray. I want to share with you a new book. A fantastic book. A book that makes me feel solidarity with not just women, but people. If you haven’t heard of Fifty Shades of Feminism edited by Lisa Appignanesi, Rachel Holmes & Susie Orbach, that’s not surprising. It’s a book about feminism, after all. Ech.

STL2439FEMINISM_332024k

What makes this book special is its informality. This isn’t a preaching book. This isn’t trying to tell you The Rules Of Feminism (because they don’t exist, by the way). Fifty Shades of The F-Word is a book filled with stories, personal struggles, hope and reasons to challenge the equality lie.

It contains three-to-four page entries from fifty women around the world of all ages, sexuality and shades of feminist ideas. I started reading it yesterday and I’m a third of the way through.

So, what I really wanted to do was share with you parts of one story that have resonated with me the most and, I suspect, will resonate with many young women from my generation and younger. It’s an entry by Sharon Haywood, called Owning the F-word. It succinctly puts across the difficulties many people face in a Western world that is entrenched with anti-feminist rhetoric. I hope it reaches women afraid of being ostracized for trying to reclaim a demonised movement.

“I was always a feminist . . . I just didn’t know it.

As a teen and a young woman, I would rattle off misinformed excuses for not owning feminism, and it doesn’t seem to have changed much with up-and-coming generations. Take twenty-two-year-old Taylor Swift, internationally acclaimed pop-country singer, who when asked whether she was a feminist responded, ‘I don’t really think about things as guys versus girls. I never have. I was raised by parents who brought me up to think if you work as hard as guys, you can go far in life.’

It wasn’t until my thirties, when I left my provenance in Canada to explore other cultures, that I came to learn that feminism is not a battle of the sexes, and sometimes working hard simply isn’t enough. It took moving to Argentina, where 15 per cent of cosmetic surgery patients are teenage girls seeking Botox injections, chin implants and lip fillers, for me to become a card-carrying feminist.

By the 1980s, just as I grew old enough to form my own opinion, the backlash aimed at the second wave of feminism was firmly entrenched in popular culture. The media and entertainment industry did (and still do) a fine job of depicting feminists as militant, hairy and angry, strengthening the stereotype that no one I knew wanted to be associated with. I bought into the propaganda that feminists were man-hating, undesirable and humourless, adjectives I most certainly did not want attached to my name.

Although I recognised that many of my basic rights – voting, getting a credit card, attending university and having full reproductive autonomy – came courtesy of earlier generations of feminists, I couldn’t relate to them. A combination of immaturity, widely accepted delegitimizing stereotypes and having never known a real-life feminist shaped my believe that the women’s movement had finished its job.

Even though my core values aligned with feminism, I fervently defended my beliefs in equality by tagging on the disclaimer, ‘Yes, but I’m not a feminist,’ lest I be ostracized from mainstream society. I rejected the F-word when I called out my friends on sexist jokes, when I maintained catcalling is sexual harassment and even when I defended my undergraduate thesis arguing the association between porn and violence against women. The relationship between less obvious forms of oppression in my midst and the work of earlier feminists eluded me.

[. . .]

Since I’ve owned feminism, my life has changed for the better. It has heightened my sensitivity to the different experiences of people as they intersect with various aspects of their identity. It’s improved the quality of my personal relationships with others and myself. And it’s affirmed that a small group of committed people can indeed effect positive change. That said, imagine what our world would look like if feminism wasn’t restricted to the fringe.

Study after study has shown that feminism self-identity lends to greater collective action, thus increasing the likelihood of social change. From Argentina to Australia, the more of who own feminism as part of who we are, the greater our odds of raising consciousness and dissolving the rhetoric that stands in the way of gender equality.

Perhaps with more life experience, celebrity and role models like Taylor Swift and other well-known self-proclaimed non-feminists – actress-director Drew Barrymore, singer-songwriter Björk and Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, to name a few – will recognize that they too are in fact feminists, and pave a less-obtrusive path for all women.

Taking ownership of the label doesn’t require abandoning the role of stay-at-home mother, earning a doctorate in gender studies or founding a non-profit organization (and it certainly doesn’t trigger overnight facial hair), but it does mean possessing and wielding out combined potential and power to achieve genuine equality.

Individually, it starts with the assertion. Yes, I am a feminist. Full stop.”

tumblr_m3k4ydjqjY1r4z8sp
To read Haywood’s full entry, you should really buy Fifty Shades of Feminism. It’s a great way to tease into a muggy subject; especially if you don’t know how to shape what it means, or if you aren’t sure whether to believe feminists are nuts or not (I advocate not, ta); with fascinating, uplifting, inspiring stories.

Fictional Characters Who Changed My Life

It’s true that reading books/comics/manga or watching a film/TV series can change a person’s perspective on things. We can see our faults reflected in others, we can see our virtues, we can think outside of our small bubbles and we can learn to understand others. We can also be inspired to change the things we hate about ourselves or in the world around us – we can find the courage to admit what we love.

There are a small number of characters who have affected me so much that I have sought to change who I am, and I’d like to tell you about three of my most significant role-models.

Hermione Granger: I met Hermione when I was five years old in 1997. What an annoying bossy-boots she was. She always had to be snooty about getting things right. She had to point out the obvious to Ron and Harry like they were idiots. She had this way of talking that was so irritating, so well pronounced. And she knew everything! I mean, alright, that’s pretty amazing but she was way too arrogant about it.

I disliked her for a long time and, even by the end of the Philosopher’s Stone, I only had a begrudging admiration for her. It was her sharp tongue and logic won my respect in the Chamber of Secrets. I cared about her, of course I did, but she was still a bossy know-it-all.

It wasn’t until the fourth book that I began to realise I was also a bossy know-it-all. I realised I had all of her annoying qualities and not enough of her wit or dedication. It took me years to grow out of my ‘Granger Attitude’ but I always told myself, ‘Be smart like Hermione.’ and I knew that to be smart, I had to work hard.

Hermione taught me to study; not to be arrogant, to expand my vocabulary, to be brave and stand up to your friends when they’re being idiots. She’s the reason I try so hard and she’s the reason I’m no longer a dick.

Tohru Honda: My cousin introduced me to Tohru (from the manga series Fruits Basket) when I was 16 in 2008. What a caring, considerate, loving and determined girl Tohru is. I’ve always been emphatic but not to the extent of Tohru Honda. Sure, she’s dopey, overly apologetic and keen to please people – but she truly cares. She’s not stupid. She doesn’t cling onto others because she’s incapable. In fact, despite how lovely she is it’s never annoying. You know what I mean. The unflawed Mary-Sue type.

Tohru sees – or tries to see – the good in everyone, even if they seem like the incarnation of abuse and anger. She looks past their flaws and asks, “Why did you treat me this way? What’s hurting you or troubling you? Ah, I see. I understand you. If I can’t help, please just know I understand. I won’t run away.”

She strives to be helpful and puts other’s needs before her own. She loves people without holding back and offers advice that I think everyone should hear.

Tohru is the character I relate to the most. I learnt from her how much I hate selfishness. It’s the one quality I can’t stand and I especially hate to see it in myself. Jealousy, too, is a terrible, destructive, stupid thing but that wasn’t so hard (for me personally) to master. Selfishness, however, still bothers me.

I’ll always strive to be as caring, understanding and loving towards everyone like Tohru is.

Ibis: What an insightful character Ibis turned out to be. I met her when I was 18 in 2012 and I carry her story with me every time I move house: The Stories of Ibis by Hiroshi Yamamoto. I don’t think it was her intention to have such a profound effect on my outlook on life but, nonetheless, she’s changed my world and opened it up into a gaping expanse.

I don’t believe in any religion because of this book and I don’t think that was its intention. I think it wanted to express the brilliance and kindness of the human mind, which it certainly achieved. While Tohru restores my faith in the people around me, Ibis stripped away my doubt and made me see the world.

She showed me how amazing people are when they work together. She showed me how illogical it is to believe in ‘a fairy in the sky’ (please note I do not condemn anyone who believes in God or the Gods). It still stuns me that now, even when I try, I can’t find any belief in a higher life form (E.Ts are a whole other discussion).

I feel liberated, if perhaps a little sad. I even feel like I caught a glimpse of everyone in the world, despite knowing this is ridiculous. Ibis taught me to believe everyone has the ability to be kind and that no religion will fix things; people have to fix things themselves, and they have to feel motivated to achieve change.

Ibis taught me not to put faith in the Gods but to put my faith in people, who are a lot more likely to get things done.

What about you? What characters have changed your life?

Orange Squids, Killer Ghosts and Filming a Film

Hello! It’s been a while and I do apologise. I’ve been writing all over the internet but now is the time to share the fruits of my labour. I’m here to tell you about an awesome website run by squidmasters, praise Maureen Johnson‘s latest book and how one of our uni assignments is to film a short film.

Squidoo
I’m a lucky student, I really am. Some of the content I can choose to write about is the stuff of dreams. This term my essay assignment was: Compare and contrast the theme of religious reformation in Final Fantasy X and Dragon Age II. Gosh, that sounds like terrible research. I’d have to read Final Fantasy wikia and watch Dragon Age videos – maybe play a little bit of each game to refresh my memory…

This paper has probably been the most enjoyable I’ve had to write so far – even more enjoyable than my steampunk dossier. As I was researching the symbolism of Yu Yevon script (you should click that link, it’s a great article) I found a great, critical study on a lovely looking website called ‘Squidoo‘. At first, I was baffled by the overwhelming squid theme. I mean, it’s fun, but what is it all about?

To be honest, I still don’t understand why squids are everywhere. I think it’s just a clever branding gimick but I love it all the same. I joined up to click Like on these fantastic articles about Final Fantasy X and within a matter of two days I was addicted and publishing my own squid work. Now here’s the part I’m excited about: I get paid for those of you who visit my articles (Squidoo calls each post a ‘lens’)! That is, however, if you view my lenses without ad-blocker as it’s the advertisements that pay us writers. The advert system on Squidoo is actually pretty clever and relevent as I’ve clicked off to discover some interesting stuff when browsing other squid-peoples’ work.

My lenses so far:
What Makes A Novel ‘Steampunk’?

Steamboy: what makes it a reasonable steampunk film?

A critical investigation into the debates surrounding the film Memento

– From the titles alone you might be able to discern that these are academic essays. It took a lot of research and effort to write them. Now that they’re online I hope others who are researching the same topics will find them useful as I found Helluin’s Final Fantasy lenses useful.

Lensmasters I Love Already:
LadyLovelace
Helluin
Susan52
MitchAllan

The Name of the Star
I did something crazy but fun last month. I agreed to buy five of Johnson’s books for five people on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean and ship them over for World Book Day. I’ve had a copy of TNOFTS moping on my shelf for a while now and it’s only recently that I decided to join in the reading fun and pick it up.

I couldn’t put it down. I finished it in four days. Having graduated from teenagedom it’s been a while since I have managed to read a Young Adult book. Johnson has achieved writing TNOFTS for all ages. It’s told from the perspective of Rory, an 18 year old American student who has moved to a London boarding school, just in time for the return of Jack the Ripper.

The story is tense, gripping and equal parts heartwarming as it is chilling. Each of the characters, especially Jazza and Boo, were compelling, believable and fun to meet. There were times when I didn’t want to hunt for ghosts – despite how fascinating – but hang out with Jazza instead. I felt clever for working out the clues and on edge after finishing numerous chapters. There were a few nights when I felt afraid to turn off the light to go to sleep.

One day I will probably have children and I would like to share with them The Name of the Star, but regardless of your age I recommend giving this book a chance. I’m 99.9% sure you’ll thank me.

Filming a Film
The joys of group work. Actually, this group project is the most fun I’ve had since coming to university. I hate group work, I really do, but so far almost everyone has been fantastically easy to get along with (bar that one person I won’t name *twitch*).

We’ve been discovering the difficulty of filming (in general), handling actors who’ve got a stick up their arse, organising props, positioning the boom-mic out of shot, the magic (or impossibility) of proper lighting equipment, dressing in each other’s clothes, racing against the sun to ensure lighting continuity, the unrelenting cry of a flock of seagulls when trying to film a poignant scene and numerous other challenges.

I’ll be sharing a blooper reel soon enough and, if the rest of the group doesn’t mind, the short film itself. For now, screenshots:

Writing Reviews [part 2]: Tips & Examples

Transform your inner reviewing kitty from this…

A few weeks ago I explained how important it is to know the formula of writing a review – particularly when the review is to help other writers improve. This week I’m going to be a little more detailed and give a tip on how to style your review. Style is, of course, not quite as important as the formula and this post in no way explains the only method of reviewing.

Before I go into that, what do I mean when I say ‘style’ and ‘formula’?

Formula: A method of doing or treating something that relies on an established, uncontroversial model or approach.

Style: A quality of imagination and individuality expressed in one’s actions and tastes; A customary manner of presenting printed material, including usage, punctuation, spelling, typography, and arrangement.

Formula is a lot more ridged and you should really know what goes into writing a review. Style is less important but it does contribute to the overall effect. The method within this post is how I approach reviews. This is in no way the correct style but it’s useful to know about. Let me state that I’m no expert. I’m just a pleb with a pen like most other human beings. I just know some stuff. Japanese word of the day: 研究 (kenkyuu) = research.

Here we go:

This isn’t about you or me

The best way to distance yourself from the writer is make it clear you are focused on the text. How do you do that? Avoid the subjective personal pronoun ‘I’ as much as possible and, most definitely, the pronoun ‘you’. This will feel strange at first but the story is what is being discussed, not ‘you’ and not ‘me’. What this does is focuses our critical opinion and distances the author’s emotions – not entirely, of course, which is why you must still phrase yourself carefully.

Example: “This story has terrific flow and a strong, consistent, narrative voice. Susan is a believable old lady and her relationship to her daughter and her community is heart warming. The pace is well managed – a wonderful example of writing down thought and speech without making the scenario confusing, or inconsistent.

The only section that may need consideration…”

As you can see, I’ve managed to talk about some of the key strong points and I’m about to discuss its potential weaknesses. At no point was it necessary to say ‘I think you didn’t do this well’ or ‘I think the dialogue is strong’.

The dialogue is strong, it is consistent and the pace is well managed. Learn to recognise the talents and pit-falls of a piece of writing and make concise statements about them. That said, it does take practice to recognise universal strengths and weaknesses of a piece and not what is your opinion (but you’re reading this post so I’m guessing you intend to exercise your reviewing ability). What do I mean by this? When you notice the factors of a story that make it awesome or shite, you think, I’m quite certain everyone thinks the dialogue is amazing and not just me. This would make it a universal strength and ‘not just your opinion’.

The screenwriter Danny Stack is in love with this method of critiquing and I’m going to quote him so you can see how I agree and disagree with his approach:

There is no ‘I’ in ‘Reader’ so avoid phrases like: “I don’t think this works” or “I laughed out loud” because the coverage shouldn’t bring attention to the reader, it should be wholly focused on the script. Your comments represent what you think so there’s no need for any first person narrative. Some comments like, “in this reader’s opinion”, are okay because it helps to qualify the balance of critique being offered. Also, don’t try to be too funny, jokey, glib or dismissive. This doesn’t help anyone.” page 8

Stack’s approach to reviewing is intended for the eyes of an executive and not for the writer, but he does justly say that a review should be wholly focused on the script/novel/extract, not the reader or writer.

Sometimes it is just you

It’s not likely that you, reader of this blog, are writing a review for a film director or agent – you’re writing a review to help an author improve. In this case, it’s not always possible to omit yourself from a review. You are just one person, after all, and how you respond to a piece – though valid – might not be universal. When this happens it’s necessary to fall back on the SPP ‘I’. This usually happens when you find something about a story that’s confusing, vague, offensive, potentially unnatural or you just aren’t familiar with the genre rules.

Example: “There was also a swap in tense that didn’t help, which is: ‘says’ instead of ‘said’. I understand this was deliberate but (and it may just be me) it didn’t quite sit right. I just thought I should point it out in case it proves jarring for someone else, too.”

As you can see, I made it clear to the author that I’m not condemning them for their choice, nor have I phrased myself as if my opinion is certain. Many other people might disagree with me, and the majority rules, but I felt it was important to bring this use of tense to the author’s attention. Now, if I’m the only one who ever says this line is problematic, the author will know it’s just me and can easily dismiss my opinion, or vice-versa.

Bad Example: “There was also a swap in tense that didn’t help. I found it confusing because I don’t think it feels right, even if it was a deliberate choice.”

Can you see how, if read with the wrong intonation, that second sentence can be misread to sound condemning or absolute?

Always think about what is your opinion and what is clearly bad or beautiful writing.

What to look for

Sometimes after reading an extract, the reader can think: “Man, what am I going to say and where do I begin?” But this is where knowing the basic structure of a review is a valuable tool of reference. This also depends on how in-depth you’re willing to go. Obviously, the more thorough you are the longer it will take. This is why editors (or at least freelance editors) get paid so much. It takes time. For the rest of this section I’ll be quoting Stack almost verbatim.

A safe starting place is CONCEPT: is the idea any good? Is it commercially appealing or more intellectual and discerning? Or is it just a shameless rip off of a million genre flicks before it? Or does it bring something new to the table? Is it genre?

PLOT: Does it make sense? Is it convincing and/or original? Too predictable maybe. Jumbled?

STRUCTURE: is there a basic understanding of craft on display? Is it a join the dot three-act-structure or does it contain a solid and reliable framework to tell its story? However, the reader shouldn’t get bogged down with restructuring tips because it’s not a full-throttle editing exercise. You’re a reviewer, remember that even if the line is blurred.

CHARACTERS: Are the central and minor characters believable, original, compelling, inspiring, colourful, loathsome, boring etc? Decent character development or emotional journey for the protagonist? Effective use of subplot with the supporting character?

DIALOGUE: Distinctive, realistic, off-the-wall, on-the-nose, funny, dull, plain, quirks, true to each character?

TONE: Does the writer have an original voice; is the tone of the story consistent to the genre etc?

PACE: Pace, rhythm, tempo. Scenes start too soon, too late? Cut too soon, too late? Boring segments with little dramatic impact or importance? Where does the pace flag? What’s its overall effectiveness?

SETTING: It is important to the story – does it make a valid and visual contribution to the characters and plot? Does it effectively build a fictional world and hold it up?

Not all of the points above need to be addressed in a casual review but if you’re feeling lost on what to talk about, these are the key factors.

Final Example

I don’t write perfect reviews myself, I just know what makes a good review. A useful review. Here is my final example, a review I wrote for the opening chapters of The Power Inflicted by Sam Kearns. I now hope you have all the basic tools you need to write good reviews as well. Hooray!

There is nothing fundamentally broken about The Power Inflicted to point out! This is very typical of the Epic Fantasy section and is lavished with beautiful descriptions. The metaphors and imagery used throughout are vivid; I could almost feel the mud of the mangroves.

Saying this, there are some sentences that try too hard to be descriptive. As an example: “He would test his endurance and his agility in the clustered jungle at the centre of the islands where the foliage was thickest”. It might be better to cut out ‘in the clustered jungle’ as it goes on to say ‘where the foliage was thickest’, which imply the same thing. Aside from these few clustered sentences, the rest of the narration flows wonderfully and has maintained being descriptive without over-saturating the reader.

The dialogue may also need a little consideration. It’s so very close to sounding natural but not quite there yet. A few exchanges between Tantha and Parus felt staged, like an anime. These are few but it might be an idea to read out the dialogue with a friend.

My final note is something that personally bothered me. There’s a lot of standing on the cusp, lips and tide of the sea. It’s a beautiful scene, a beautiful beach, beautiful descriptions – I can feel the water tickling my toes and smell the salt air – you don’t need to keep reminding the reader that Tantha and Parus are stood by the water’s edge. It was by this point (example coming) that I didn’t want to see the sea’s edge mentioned again: “Parus clasped her arm as they stood on the cusp of the sea and stared in wonder.” It might just be me who was irked by the one repetitive imagery, however, which is why it’s a personal add-on.

As you can see, these aren’t major problems. The pieces IS fairly typical of the genre and might need work to stand out amidst other Epic Fantasy novels, but it’s an enjoyable read. You write with vivid flourish. 🙂 ”

You can read the opening chapters of The Power Inflicted by Sam Kearns [here] Thank you Sam for letting me use this review!

Bibliography-ish-but-not
dictionary.com
Script Reading in the UK: The Complete Guide by Danny Stack [see his blog here] or [download the chapters here]

…to this! Clever cat indeed.

Related articles

100 Words: For Wards, Waifs and Strays.

This was written by Bardicblogger and I felt this was an intriguing poem, certainly one worth sharing. The original can be seen here.

 The writing prompt over at Velvet Verbosity is FORWARD so here’s my 100 Words for this week.

For Wards, Waifs and Strays

Forwards in time, backwards in poverty.
Money is an illusion created by the masses.
We need it to survive yet we’d survive better without it.
Crazed men chase it,
forever playing the money game,
winning in one hand, 
while losing in the other.

On the surface they’re a success.
Everything is theirs,
yet they’ve never looked beyond their own perspective.
They’re unable to see anything in the eyrie of existence.
Each exists in their own bubble,
a marble held up to the eye,
yet most don’t realize there are two worlds:
a world of fantasy and a world of delusion.

I Expected Better, famous writer.

“Arrangements had been made by his PR man and aide. At his house a chauffeured car was waiting, a rented car. In it were the PR man and another member of his entourage. Johnny parked his car and hopped in and they were on their way to their airport. He waited inside the car while the PR man went out to meet Tom Hagen’s plane. When Tom got into the car they shook hands and drove back to his house.”

Is it just me, or is that not incredibly passive and dull? It sounds more like an instruction manual or a list of events. I wish I could say the rest of the book is any better, but it’s not. I would stop reading but it’s required for my course. The sex scenes are even worse, like a mechanical description of horse sex for perverse scientists.

Do you know who wrote that or where it’s from? The Godfather by Mario Puzio. I get the feeling the film adaption is 100 times better. I’m not impressed by the book, even 218 pages in.