Fanfic for Your Saturday Night

I’ve made it no secret that I write fanfic, and tonight, I’m going to share a little thing I wrote. It’s been sitting in my Google Docs for awhile, and I figure why not post it.

Title: Feelings Unknown
Fandom: Dead by Daylight
Pairing: The Hag/The Nurse
Word Count: 880
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: None
Summary:  The Hag didn’t know this feeling. This growing, festering feeling that came into play any time The Nurse came near. She didn’t know, but at the same time, she welcomed it.

Read it at ao3 or under the cut.

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I Lost NaNo but I Still Won

This November, I decided to give NaNoWriMo a spin this year and dedicate my month to writing a novel. I did put in the time and effort. I did more than I expected. But around Thanksgiving weekend, I gracefully bowed out and felt like my time doing NaNo was at an end. Yes, I didn’t finish and get that 50,000-word count. I got nowhere near that. Yes, I didn’t finish out the month. But winning NaNo wasn’t my goal in the end. My goal was more personal, and with that goal, I indeed won.

I’ve written about my situation before. I am a writer with illness, both physical and mental, and it has taken its toll on my work, surely and gradually. It’s been hard to write, although I do keep trying and I do pray that in 2018, things will be even better. My decision on trying NaNo was about focus and discipline. I wanted to push myself to focus on a project, to give it my intense dedication and see where it takes me. I proved to myself that I can do it. I proved I still have it in me, and that is a wonderful realization.

I can admit that sometimes, staying focus is one of my sore points. I come up with an idea that I like. I put effort into the project (I am a note-taking queen, after all), but I hit that wall, or my interest dwindles. I hate when that happens. I will say, no project of mine is completely abandoned, it goes more hiatus. For example, two projects from the past have recently popped back up. I walked away from them because, with one, I wasn’t sure what direction to take it in, and the other, I wanted to try a different format. That one started as actually a monologue. So, no project is abandoned in full. But, it does get tiring to not see a project all the way through to the end. By doing NaNo this year, I found a way to get past that.

One solution to that problem I have found is having what I will call “cues.” With these “cues,” they are little things to get me back into the story I’m writing. It can be anything, such as maybe keeping a picture nearby that makes me think of the project, or making a playlist. Random Invocations was my NaNo project this year, and I had two particular “cues” for it. One thing I did while writing out basic notes for the project, was create boards on Pinterest to help stimulate me. I filled them with pictures of succubi, New York City, celebrities that made me think of my characters’ physical appearances, and any kind of reminder of my characters and story. Anytime I needed that spurt of focus and inspiration, I went and looked at my boards. It helped so much, and I know that when I go to write other projects, I’ll make boards for them as well.

Music also became a “cue.” I’ve mentioned before that I like writing to music. I like creating playlists for my projects and keeping certain songs on hand that makes me think of my story and characters. Working on Random Invocations was no different, and I realized how much of help music is to me. There were plenty of times before I sat down to work, I would pull out my MP3 player and pick out a certain song to get me in the mood. Electric Feel by MGMT was my go-to song for Cassia, my succubus. Victorious by Panic at the Disco helped me write the girls night out scene after Jenna and her very human girlfriend broke up. Mika and Borns were staples throughout the month, and also, during this time, I discovered Hayley Kiyoko. Stating the obvious, but her music is a great soundtrack for writing lesbian romance. It was a nice reminder of the value of personal resources.

The other thing that I also learned was that sitting down and doing it, is sometimes the best option. As I mentioned above, I can sometimes have that waning interest feeling. I do blame my depression entirely for this. On the days where I felt like I wasn’t interested in my story anymore, or that my interest changed, I just sat down and did the work. It took a couple of minutes to get into it, plenty of deleted paragraphs, but after I got out the kinks, I was able to sail along and get things done. In a lot of ways, it reminds me of a work-out. You do warm-ups and stretches before you do the aerobics or weight training. Writing works the same way. After you warm up, you can do it. For such a long while now, I’ve let things slip through the cracks because of not pushing myself in that direction, but after seeing what I accomplished, it gives me incentive. No, it won’t be perfect, because I am still dealing with depression, but I still have that tool to use.

No, I didn’t win NaNoWriMo. No, I didn’t finish with an amazing word count but doing it was worth it. November may be coming to an end in a couple of days, but my work isn’t done. I am going to continue working on Random Invocations. The story in my head is huge, and there are so many directions I want to take it. And, I’m also going to take what I’ve learned this month and utilize those little tidbits. Overall, I do consider myself a winner.

 

Sneak Peek: Random Invocations

It’s November and that means NanoWrimo just started up. I’ve went back and forth, deciding if I would go through with it or not, but in the end, I’m doing it. My project is a piece known for right now as “Random Invocations,” and here’s what it’s about:

After a bad break-up, Jenna Martinez decides to turn to black magic to get over her heartbreak. Though a non-believer, and not the least bit magical, Jenna actually summons a succubus in her Manhattan apartment that goes by the name of Cassia. Jenna is initially terrified by having an actual demon in her home and wishes her witchy roommate Skye wasn’t on tour with her band, leaving her utterly alone with Cassia. But after spending time with Cassia, Jenna realizes the succubus isn’t as terrifying as she thought and just maybe, she might actually have feelings for her.

I’ve written succubi in the past, and since playing Cute Demon Crashers (which you can read my review for it here), I wanted to give it another stab, especially since I’m striving to crossover into lesbian romance. So, I thought wlw succubi would be a good time. So expect a lot of talk regarding Random Invocations from me. I have big plans for this story that might span three books and several spin-off stories. I’m really hoping for that.

As for the sneak peek, here’s the prologue from Random Invocations. I will warn it’s rough as hell and might not even show up in the final draft, but I want to show off Cassia and Jenna. So, enjoy and if you have any feedback, feel free to send me a message.

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Review: Cute Demon Crashers

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Title: Cute Demon Crashers

Genre: Otome/Dating Simulator

Format:  PC (Windows)

Rating: ★★★★★

 

Recently, I’ve taken a dive into the realm of anime and manga. In the past week, I’ve both watched and read Wolf Children and both the film and manga blew me away. I can’t even properly review Wolf Children because all I can say about it is: it’s a beautiful film/manga, one of the best movies I’ve seen, and please watch it. In the past, I’ve enjoyed Studio Ghibli films, Sailor Moon, and I’m a comics fan. So, giving it more of a shot sounded like a good idea, and due to my sister, I learned what “Otomes” were. Finding them up my alley, I decided to dig in and play some. Which brought me to the particular game I’m reviewing in this entry.

Cute Demon Crashers is an Otome/Dating simulator created by a small group known as SugarScript as a NaNoRenO project in 2015. You play as Claire (or whatever name you choose since it gives you that option), a lazy college student, home alone on spring break. Four demons (three incubi and a succubus) randomly appear at her home and offer the opportunity to fulfill her wish for a fling. At the end of two days, you must choose one of the four for a sexual encounter or not (it gives that option as well). This game was such a welcome breath of fresh air and such an enjoyable experience overall. After I finished the four routes, I had a goofy grin on my face from all the fluff. For being as brief as it is, I can definitely see myself replaying this game from time to time.

The characters in this game, are very developed and filled with personality. Not going to lie, after playing it, I wanted to take the four demons home with me. Even the male ones and I’m obviously not the straightest person in the bunch. You have succubus Mirari, who is impulsive, flirty and adorable. Akki, the young, virginal incubus who loves pizza, video games, and cuddling. Kael, the gentle incubus who’s very down-to-earth and a great cook. Then lastly, Orias, an aloof incubus that makes tea blends, loves to read and isn’t quite sure what affection is. All four are well-developed, engaging characters, and it does make it very hard to choose. Claire, the main character, is a very well done as well. You actually see character growth with her, which is nice and I think she’s actually a pretty relatable character for young women in their late teens to mid-twenties. The characters are so wonderful, I can’t rave about them enough.

Also, I’m very impressed by the graphics, art, music, and voice acting. It’s so nicely done for a game made on a small budget and on a tight schedule. The design of the characters is lovely and the art featured in the gallery is definitely worth a look. The chibis are adorable. The music that is played during the sexual encounters has a great gentle quality. With the voice acting, while the game doesn’t feature a ton of spoken dialogue, it’s a nice addition. The voices do fit the characters and I’m in love with Mirari’s soft purr of a voice.

Then, of course, the most talked about feature of the game: the sexual content. It’s great to have a game out there (or any kind of fiction for that matter, regardless of medium) that is truly a sex-positive experience. The game really stresses the concept of consent. The demons constantly reaffirm to Claire that there is “no pressure” and “it’s her choice.” Even for the demons to feed on her sexual energy, it has to be a consenting, positive experience. I can’t state how much I love this, and how important it is. This game is also considerate of asexuals and people who may not be comfortable with nudity and sexual situations. You can choose how far to go, or for it go nowhere at all. During the sex scenes, the game has a feature that hides genitalia via pixellated hearts. This game is very accessible, no matter your comfort level.

I found the sex scenes actually sexy and erotic, even though that wasn’t what the creators had in mind. Over the years, I’ve seen and read plenty of sex scenes. They have featured various levels of heat, and gender combinations. Most of the time, they’ve never done much for me. It’s rare when it does, and there’s also been plenty of occasions where I’ve skimmed, or hit fast-forward because they bored me. But this game, it was one of those rare moments. What really attracted me to it, was how natural it was. I appreciated that, and it made for a nice little fantasy. I thought that the situation with Mirari was one of my favorite lesbian sex scenes ever. It was gentle, sweet, and realistic. I also loved seeing other things such as laughter during sex being welcomed, that BDSM is a normal sex practice, and intimacy doesn’t end and begin with sex. I loved all of this. With so much that the game presented regarding sex and sex positivity, I can say if I had a teenaged daughter, I’d encourage her to play this game. There are so many points made that I would want her to know these things, and in general, in the world that we live in, so many of these points are forgotten and should be encouraged.

As for any complaints, I have one. I wish that the game could’ve been longer. I realize the limitations, and it’s not exactly a downfall, but I would’ve liked to spend more time with these characters. But that’s my only complaint and it’s a very small one.

Cute Demon Crashers is a fun, cute, sex-positive game that I will definitely revisit.

Download Cute Demon Crashers for free.

 

Introducing “A Hollywood Affair”

I’ve had something awesome happen to me recently when it comes to writing that is. About almost two weeks ago, I couldn’t sleep. I have these phases where I either sleep too much or sleep very little, and I’ve been dealing with the latter for the last few weeks. I couldn’t sleep, and I felt alert my mind racing. The biggest urge to write came over me, and I sat down with my laptop and opened a new Google Doc. I went on a writing spree and that writing spree ended about eight hours later, and I had written a prologue and a first chapter. I was dumbfounded. It’s been a long time since I had a session like that. I felt so energized and happy. That day gave me a new project to focus on.

A Hollywood Affair is my new project. It’s a contemporary lesbian romance set around the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. My main character, Tori, is a failed actress who made her niche as a personal assistant, and she had a clandestine affair with Veronica Asher, one of the biggest actresses in Hollywood. Veronica is on par with actresses such as Angelina Jolie or Charlize Theron. Tori left the relationship because she got tired of being the hidden girlfriend. Now, Tori gets a second chance on her dream of being an actress, and to be with Veronica once more. That’s paraphrasing, there’s more to it than that, but that’s the basic idea.

This project is very different for me, very different. The reason, it’s contemporary. I’m not a contemporary writer for the most part. I dabble with it from time to time. The earliest was my penchant for writing angsty, queer, artsy folk during my teens, and then slice of life vignettes if they popped up. My main focus as a writer is on paranormal, fantasy, and historical fiction when it comes to genre. But sometimes, switching it up can be a good thing.

Also, I’m writing it in the first person. That’s different too. For a while now, I’ve mostly written third person POV. I got away from writing first person because of this weird stigma surrounding first person, and I bought into it. I’m stamping out that prejudice and doing first person again. And I’m happy with it. I like getting into Tori’s head and hearing her talk about her Hollywood experience and her relationship with Veronica. It’s also been a bit easier to write. There’s this sort of confessional aspect to it that I get lost in.

So, something different, but it might be something I need.

I’ll be posting updates about this story, and maybe even share little snippets from time-to-time. I will say there’s no guarantee I’ll follow this project to the very end, given what I wrote about last entry. But I’m going to try, and I’m excited to see where it goes.

For now, stay tuned, and for your listening pleasure, here’s my playlist for the story. I write to music, and this is what’s inspiring me right now. So, enjoy.

Writing With a Broken Brain

Trigger Warning: Depression and talk of suicide. Just putting that out there.

It’s been a while since I’ve updated, and I know the reason why. It’s why I’ve been behind on some things, things I really love. It’s because I deal with depression, and the worst part of it is that I’m currently not taking any medication or getting any help for it at the moment. It’s not negligence. I’ve visited with my primary care doctor, and for the last three years I’ve tried four different medications for depression, and none of it has worked. My depression has gotten worse, and my doctor has told me it’s time to see a specialist. A psychiatrist and a talk therapist to deal with my mental disorders (I also deal with anxiety, paranoia, and PTSD, but depression is my main focus), and I’ve been in the midst of making phone calls and playing the waiting game to get in for an appointment. For the time being, all I can do is be patient, and cope as best as I can.

It’s nothing new for me, in a lot of ways. I first realized I had depression as a twelve-year-old girl. My teen years were plagued with suicidal tendencies. I tried taking my life three different times as a teenager, but I was lucky that my mother and grandmother had been there to save me from doing something drastic. By the time I got to college, I thought that I was getting better. I was in a good place. I was attending college, being the first in my family to do so. I was being courted by agents for my writing work. I was in the middle of my first serious relationship. I was happy, for the first time in my life. I was truly happy, but then I lost that happiness hard. My father has a stroke and becomes a shell of the man he used to be. I had to drop out of college. Those deals turned to shit before my eyes. My romantic relationships suffered. The woman I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with turned out to be the biggest user I have ever come across, and our relationship was purely toxic. I get sick. My body belongs more to a ninety-year-old woman than someone in her early thirties. My father dies, and my little family struggles to get by. All this during the last fifteen years, with no break in between. My depression is worse now than it has ever been, and in some ways, I feel my brain is broken. It’s just dust and broken glass. I’m a broken mirror trying to put herself back together.

Living like this, it makes doing the things that you love more difficult to do, and one big one for me is writing. It’s funny, writing is normally that safe harbor. It’s the blankets I can hide under when the world gets to be too much. Had that bad day? I can write out my frustrations in a bit of prose or poetry. But with depression, it zaps that desire to do so. Add chronic pain and fatigue to the mix, and it makes it worse. Some days, the most I can do is either spend my time reading, coloring or getting lost in front of the PS4, playing endless matches of Dead by Daylight or Overwatch. I want to do more with my time. I want to live more, but my brain and body get in the way of me doing so. I think that Dante missed a level of hell when he wrote The Inferno. I’m in the missing level, where the days repeat themselves, and I berate myself for things that are out of my control.

But, at the same time, I’m stubborn. I’m probably one of the most stubborn people you’ll ever meet. It might be a product of my upbringing (my entire family is stubborn as well) or it might be because most of my zodiac is divided between Scorpio and Capricorn, two of the most stubborn signs in astrology. I don’t know, but stubbornness is hard-wired in my DNA. It’s hard for me to let go of something, no matter what presents itself. The world could be tumbling down, and I’d still be out there, trying my best. I believe in fighting, and fighting hard. And, I’m not going to let depression take something that means so much to me. It’s already taken enough.

So, for me, it’s still trying. My output this year hasn’t been the greatest. I’ve written plenty of drafts and notes, but nothing that I consider a finished project. But I’m still doing it. I’ve been teaching myself one important thing: do what you can. One of my problems is I set that bar so high. I know I’m an ambitious person, and there is so much that I want, but I don’t have to do it all in one day. If I sit down and I write, even if I only write a paragraph, it’s doing it. It’s accomplishing it. Yes, it might take a while to write a story, but I’m still writing it. I’ve also been letting myself learn that it’s okay to fall down sometimes. There that day where I don’t write anything. Yeah, I might spend that day doing something else or nothing at all, and guess what? That’s okay. I’m not at my best. I’m working with a broken brain, and you can only do so much. Pick it up the next day. That’s the most important thing, is that you don’t let it go.

The other thing I’ve been trying to teach myself is to let go of that inner critic. It’s one of the most detrimental things I deal with, and it goes beyond writing. I have that little voice inside my head, ripping me apart at all hours. Nothing I do is good enough. If I eat that candy bar or piece of cake, my little voice makes sure to tell me how fat I am, and how I’m never going to lose weight. If my back flares up, and moving in any position feels painful, that voice tells me that I’m lazy and I don’t contribute enough. It’s a vicious, horrible thing, and it’s hypnotic. I try so hard not to listen, but I listen and make myself feel worse. The one thing I want to do, so much, is to disregard that little voice. That little voice is nothing. I know it is. I know it is just my brain trying to make my life suck just a little bit more. It’s hard to let it go, but I know I have to. I have to destroy the barriers that I create for myself.

Most of all, with writing, right now, I’m doing it for me and me alone. I’m trying to allow it to be that escape, that safe harbor it had been in the past. For example, one thing I’m currently working on is a paranormal lesbian romance. I’m trying to write short stories that appeal to my interests. It’s been a bit bumpy, but I keep trying, again and again. Or yes, I am writing fanfic again. I’ve written fanfic off and on for the last fourteen years, and it is something I do love to write sometimes. I’ve been exploring the worlds of some of my favorite video games and adding my own twist to it. That’s what I’m doing, and I feel that doing what I enjoy is most important right now.

For now, it’s all about trying and doing the best I can. It’s all I can do. I know it won’t always be this way, and when I get the help I need, I will be a bit better. It’s getting through the here and now that really matters.

P.S. For the astrology nerds reading this, I do know Taurus is actually the most stubborn of zodiac signs. But Scorpio and Capricorn can also be very stubborn, and my actual star sign, Aquarius can be as well too.

EDIT 9/20/2017: I’m currently not working on the Belle/Simone story. I know I mentioned it when I first posted this, but it’s actually not working out right now. Back to the drawing board.

 

 

 

Review: Every Heart A Doorway by Seanan McGuire

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Title: Every Heart A Doorway

Author: Seanan McGuire

Genre: Fantasy, Mystery

Rating: ★★★★★

 

Every Heart A Doorway by Seanan McGuire is one of the best fantasy novels I’ve read in quite some time. Original and heartfelt, this short novel reads like a love letter to fiction, and shows that fiction can be a useful tool in coping with life’s problems. This book is a great reminder of how great and moving fantasy as a genre can be.

The story’s focus is on a young woman named Nancy, and she had recently traveled to another world, a world much like the Underworld in Greek mythology. Unable to adjust to life back in the real world, Nancy is enrolled at “Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.” The residents and staff have been through the same ordeal as Nancy. They have visited various magical worlds and returned to the real one. The home, therefore acts as a safe space for these young people to deal with their situations. That is until mysterious murders go down, and threatens the institution’s existence. For such a short novel, I was surprised by how much was packed in those pages and how it all neatly came together in the end. It was fast paced, and to the point, without sacrificing plot or character development. I also found the ideas presented here really clever. It gave a unique answer to the question: what happened to characters like Alice, after they left Wonderland? Which felt, at least to me, something different and original. I like different and original.

The characters in the book were very engaging and full of life. I particularly gravitated towards Jack and Jill for obvious reasons (and I’m excited about reading more about them in the second book of the series), and I loved seeing a quirky group of friends emerge. It’s one of my favorite tropes. I also liked as well, that even though these were teenagers with extraordinary experiences, a lot of the same politics arose. Queen bees, the outcasts, usual high school stuff permeated the social lives of that characters, and it felt more real. Also, Seanan McGuire has such a way with words. Her style was simple but melodic, and verged on poetry at times. I fell in love with the line, “She was a story, not an epilogue,” and there’s plenty more of that in the pages of the book. It’s always great to read such beautiful writing.

Another good thing about the book is that it did touch on some real issues, and done so in a way that is smart and sensitive at the same time. It was rewarding to read a scene where two female characters discussed sexual matters without falling into the usual traps that accompany it, such as slut shaming, etc. Masturbation was even discussed and it was discussed as a natural act. Other issues in the book were handled the same way, and I loved it. I hate when people want to talk about issues in the fiction they write, and it becomes nothing but soap-boxing and preaching, even when I agree with the views given. This book did none of that and wish more could do the same. I also loved the diversity featured, especially when it came to sexual diversity. The main character was asexual, and a very prominent supporting character was a trans-man, two types not often found in a lot of media. Their inclusion was much welcomed.

Every Heart A Doorway was an amazing read in every way, and I can’t wait to read more in the series.

Buy Every Heart A Doorway @ Amazon

That First Paragraph

Whenever I decide to sit down and write, especially if I’m starting something new, one particular thing likes to rear its ugly head, and slow down my own creative process. It’s something simple but insidious. It’s beginning to write that first paragraph. It always happens the same. I write down a few lines in my notebook (I like writing by hand), and I’ll look down, and think to myself, “this is awful,” and proceed to rip out the page, crumple it up, and start anew. I might do this process three or four times before I finally feel like I wrote something good enough to move on.  Even writing this paragraph, I stopped and started, until I got this much out. It’s frustrating, but sadly a part of my writing process.

It’s funny, and different with note-taking and editing. I can dive right into those without a second thought and get things accomplished. My best writing days fall into those categories. But starting a story, starting that first paragraph, it’s difficult. I know for some people, it’s intimidating to start filling words onto that blank piece of paper, or computer screen. I’ve heard that plenty of times before.  I know for me, it’s something different, although I’m pretty sure that it’s a rather common thing.

The way I look at it, bear with me, my analogy is strange, but the way I look at it, is that I want to be a March of the Toreadors kind of writer. Yes, March of the Toreadors, that famous piece of music from Carmen by Bizet. If you listen to that particular piece, it starts out with this great, bombastic sound. It has such a strong opening, and as a writer, a strong opening is a perfect way to start a story. So, I’m trying and trying to make this great, bombastic opening, and wind up frustrating myself in the process. Me, I’ve been trying to learn a different tactic.

Instead of being a March of the Toreadors kind of writer; I’m trying to be more of Pachelbel’s Canon in D Minor kind of writer, or a Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring kind of writer. With those two pieces of music, if you listen to them, they do not start with any kind of dramatic opening. True, with the type of compositions they are, they’re meant to sound like an ongoing stream of music, but why I mentioned them, is they have this consistency. They are beautiful from beginning to end, and have this nice, even tone. Something I think I should bring into my writing process. Keep it steady, consistent, and come to a nice ending point. I can leave the bombast until the editing phase.

Now, I just need to put this into practice. Un-learning bad habits is quite hard.

Also, just as a notice, I didn’t post a new Fiction Friday post last week. I was feeling under the weather. Here’s to hoping this week will be different.

Review: Abzu

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Title: Abzu

Genre: Adventure, Art Game, Simulation

Format: Playstation Plus

Rating: ★★★★★

Abzu is one of those games that’s not so much a game, as it is an experience. The basic premise is that as the player, you guide an underwater explorer through both the ocean and the concept of the Cosmic Ocean. It has little in the way of objective, and isn’t the kind of game that you win. It’s an experience, like I said above, and it’s an amazing one at that. Abzu is a shining example of when video games become art, and shows that video games can be a powerful outlet for both artistic expression and storytelling.

The graphics and design of Abzu is stunningly breathtaking, and one of the most beautiful games I have ever seen. It’s design isn’t one based around hyper-realistic graphics. This looks like a mosaic brought to life. Smooth lines, a mixture of soft and bold colors, and attention to geometry gives this game such a mesmerizing look. There is so much attention to detail that it’s unreal. The game is so short, but with the sort of detail it has, you could spend hours just looking at it. The game encourages you to do this. In the different areas in the game, there are little spots designated for “meditation.” In these spots, the game’s action is halted and you can take in all the scenery around you. The scenes of the Cosmic Ocean are also gorgeous to behold. They capture this strong sense of peace and healing. This game is so beautiful. I can not say it enough.

Music is another amazing presence in this game. Soothing, evocative, and yet again, beautiful, that makes for quite a soundtrack. At times, there is an almost spiritual quality to it. Some pieces even sound like hymns. I also loved that the music had a heavy emphasis on strings. I’m a sucker for strings. The soundtrack itself would be great to use in meditation or study.

Gameplay is mostly centered around puzzles and getting through small obstacles. It’s interesting that with things that can hurt you in the game, such as these triangle-shaped bombs, they do not kill you, or take away health. You can still keep going, but in my case, it still made me try to avoid these things. There’s this strange emotional response to it. With playing something like Mario, you get aggravated if you fall off of a cliff. With Abzu, you have these feelings that if your little explorer gets hurt, it’s disconcerting. I knew that for myself, I hated seeing the explorer get hurt, and I strived to clear the path with the least amount of destruction done. I will admit that at first, I had trouble with the buttons, as in keeping what button did what straight, but it was short-lived. There were also little things in the game that were a delight to play. For one, the game allows you to ride on the backs of certain sea-life. Getting to ride a dolphin put a huge smile on my face, and made my night. I was saddened I couldn’t ride the large turtles or the squid that I found. Also, following the jet streams were a blast, and a huge highlight of the game.

Another unique factor in the game is the storytelling aspect. The game has no real, defined plot. It’s not exactly Final Fantasy with its complex plots and story arcs. Instead, Abzu relies more on feeling and imagination. At the heart of Abzu, it bases the game around the Mesopotamian myth of Abzu, god of freshwater and Tiamat, the sea goddess. The myth of these gods is that Abzu and Tiamat “mingled their waters” and created the world. It is a myth that ties into the idea of the Cosmic Ocean. I loved that they used Mesopotamian mythology, since it is highly under-utilized in fiction. Also, a lot of the moments in the game have so much emotional impact. I won’t say what, because I don’t want to give any spoilers, but what I will say, is that this game made me cry. It really is an emotional game, and the ending feels so rewarding.

Abzu is an absolutely wonderful game, and a game that I would highly recommend to people who aren’t gamers. With its soothing atmosphere, music, and emotional moments, it can be of great use to people dealing with stress, depression, or anything of that nature. It is available for computer use, so if you want to buy it, you don’t have to invest in an expensive console. I have no doubt that this will be a game I’ll revisit often.

Buy Abzu at Amazon.

Review: Magic and Romance + Gretel by Niamh Murphy

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TitleMagic and Romance

Author: Niamh Murphy

Genre: LGBT, romance, historical, adventure, fantasy, contemporary, paranormal

Rating: ★★★★

 

Fresh off of reading Mask of the Highwaywoman and falling in love with that novel, I decided to give a go to more Niamh Murphy’s work (and not to mention, she’s also a really nice lady on top of it), and I decided on reading her recent short story collection next. Magic and Romance is a collection of short stories from Murphy, with stories ranging from contemporary fiction to fantasy based around Arthurian Legend. It is very much a eclectic mix of work, and to be honest, some stories were excellent, while others fell short.

In Rhythm: A contemporary piece to start off the collection, based around a pair of ballroom dancers and an upcoming championship. A very fun start to the collection, and an enjoyable bit of fluff. Not to mention, Ruby sounds quite stunning. It reminded me of a lesbian styled “Hallmark movie,” but it was very a delightful little piece.

Enthralled: A paranormal short, and my absolute favorite in the collection. Sapphic vampires are a weakness of mine, so of course, I’m going to be drawn to it. But, it was to me, the best of the entire collection. The pacing was spot-on and had a great, heavy tension to it. I also loved the theme of not being able to let go, and the uncertainty of it all. The final sentence in the story packed a punch. A damned good story and the highlight of this collection.

Is She?: Another contemporary and yet again, very fluffy and fun. Claire’s naivety was adorable, and I loved the shout-out to the movie, But I’m a Cheerleader. Also, yet again, Jasmine, the object of Claire’s interest sounded lovely.

The Lady Edris and the Kingdom in Cave: A fantasy story based around Arthurian Legend, and the story I feel a bit mixed about. I did love it a lot. Lady knights, mythology, fantasy, I love these things, but my problem is I really felt that this story needed to be a bit longer. I wanted some more development, more padding out. I wanted to get to know Lady Edris, Linette and the Witch Queen more. I just wanted more. I’d love to see this story get the novel treatment and be expanded. It would make a dynamite lesbian fantasy-romance novel.

Reason to Stay: A contemporary YA short, and for me, the weakest in the collection. But I may not be the best judge of this, to be fair. I’m not much on contemporary YA, no matter the subject matter. So, I’ll leave it at that.

Mask of the Highwaywoman: The short story that inspired the novel.  I really loved the novel, so it was nice to see a bit of background with it.

The Black Hound: A gothic short story based around werewolves. My problems with this one is the same problems I had with The Lady Edris and the Kingdom in a Cave. It really needed to be expanded. I didn’t really connect with the characters and with how short it was, it felt convoluted. I did love the atmosphere, though.

Delicious: A contemporary piece to close out the collection, and makes sense, since it started with contemporary. For me, the story didn’t interest me much (might be my own personal bias), but I really loved the moment when Nadia asked Charlotte if she wanted “her to be her resolution.” It was a nice way to close out the story.

So, for me, Magic and Romance had its hits and misses for me, but short story collections work that way for me. Overall, it felt like taking a look at the author’s earlier works and seeing the roots that they planted for themselves. I love getting to see that, and what the book carried a lot of, was potential. This author has a lot of potential and I am excited to follow her works.

 

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Title: Gretel

Author: Niamh Murphy

Genre: LGBT, romance, fairy tale retelling (Hansel and Gretel)

Rating: ★★★★★

I’m also reviewing Gretel as well, since I read that after Magic and Romance, and since it’s a short piece, I’m including it as part of this review. Gretel is a retelling of the fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel, and after reading it, it was one of the best LGBT fairy tale retellings I’ve ever read, and also a really good retelling in general. It was one of those short works that just delighted me, put a huge smile on my face after reading it, and will probably be re-reading it again in the near future.

The characterization of Gretel was so wonderful. One of the great things about fairy tale retellings, is that fairy tales feature stock characters. With them being stock characters, they lack personalities of their own and work more as a plot function than anything. So, when doing your own take on one of these classic stories, you get to fill-in-the-blanks. Not going to lie, yours truly here loves writing fairy tale retellings of my own. But with Gretel, I loved her. I rooted for her, and seeing her own personal strength grow through out the story, was rewarding.

Also, I loved the Witch. I’m not going to say too much, as to not give too much away, but the Witch falls into a lot of my favorite character tropes, and I walked away from it loving her to pieces. Wild witchy women with a strong connection to nature, these women make me happy. The relationship that grows between the two women is sweet and wonderful, and I am deeply impressed that the relationship had that much depth in a story with such a short length. Gretel and the witch stole my heart.

One thing I’ve grown to love about this writer’s work is her sense of atmosphere. The deep, dark woods where the witch lived and the unique place where her cottage was located felt so real, while reading it about it. I love that. Murphy has this real nice appreciation in her works with nature and surroundings, and I really connect to that. Lush, green, rustic, wild spaces, it draws me in. Sometimes, I do look at setting and ambiance as its own character in a piece of fiction, and they become my favorite characters. I really loved it here.

Then, lastly, how the story came together in the end, and the final sentence. I won’t spoil anything, but yet again, the last sentence packed a punch.

Just a wonderful read, and a great retelling.

 

Buy Magic and Romance and Gretel at Amazon.