Monthly Archives: July 2017

Winter is never coming, not really

So, yeah, Season 7 of Game of Thrones is on, I have paid for an HBO Go subscription, and it’s Thursday and I haven’t even bothered to watch Episode 2.

It didn’t help that GRRM was all being coy again, well we MIGHT have a Song of Ice and Fire book in 2018 and it MIGHT be The Winds of Winter, but it will probably be just another damned compilation of stories about kings and dragons whom we don’t give the first crap about.

Give it up, George. If you don’t want to finish the damned books, don’t finish them. But stop playing games about it. Just admit it– I’m having too much fun living my life, the series has become a huge pain in the ass, and I don’t enjoy sitting down to write it anymore. Fine. Hand it off to Brandon Sanderson, tell him what you originally wanted to happen, and he’ll pound out a few hundred thousand words like the very good methodical worker he is. And it will all be over.

And GRRM can do whatever the hell he likes without ever having to field a question about “WHEN” ever again.

Seriously. He doesn’t sound like a man who is writing from passion, he sounds like a harried man writing with a deadline he can never, ever, ever meet, and hearing the discontent growing around him. All the while, the television series spirals into the basic equivalent of such a bad fanfic that anyone with any genuine love for the characters in the novels has long since given up on even thinking of them as the same people.

Go to Bali, George. Hand the stupid series over to Sanderson or one of those guys you actually trained and just let it go. You’ll be infinitely happier, and as long as they hit the basic touchpoints, you’ll have done what you hoped to accomplish.

And we can stop pretending that this ridiculous television version has any basis in human behavior, plot, or common sense.

 


Ye Olde Women Punished for Enjoying Sex Theme (This time in Iceland!)

Trapped_image_TV

(This post will include spoilers for the first four episodes of the Icelandic television show “Trapped” (2015) that is currently being streamed on Amazon Prime. If you haven’t watched the show and plan to, you might want to skip this post entirely. It may also mention scenes from other films or television shows. If you don’t care for frank discussions of sex, you may want to drop out about now, too. Sure, the monks in my novel are celibate, but they’re monks, lol.)

 

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***Spoiler space

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Women have a hard time of it when it comes to sexual enjoyment. No, that’s not a pun, sorry, it’s just a statement of fact. If you’re a woman and you’re having fun in bed on television or in the movies, something bad is bound to happen to you. It’s like writers have this inner script in their heads that’s been based mostly off of teenage slasher films. Sex means death!! Well, for chicks anyway.

I am always hopeful that we’ll get more media presentations of women enjoying a spot of cunnilingus without it having to be somehow twisted into something awful, but so far I have been disappointed in the mainstream media. (Note here, I don’t watch shows that are AIMED at lesbians, they may be an exception but I don’t know. And that’s beside the point, anyway. Women on women isn’t where the, ah, meat of the problem is. The problem is the depiction of men doing something which is primarily aimed at pleasuring a woman. The media has a problem with that aspect of it.)

“Trapped,” the Icelandic detective show, is a show very much in the vein of other recent and popular mysteries– Fortitude, Broadchurch, Vera, Shetland, True Detective, etc. Things aren’t always as they seem, everyone’s probably involved in some sort of extramarital hanky-panky, and there may or may not be fantastic elements. Or it could all be explained by the normal weirdness of humanity, who knows. Trapped has the benefit of being set in Iceland, which is currently a travel destination hotspot, and also the benefit of starring a bearishly adorable and sexy lead actor, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson. The muscle from Game of Thrones, Hafþór Júlíus “Thor” Björnsson, has some new competition for the most cuddlesome Icelandic guy these days.

There’s also an attractive young actor, Baltasar Breki Samper, who reminds one of a younger version of Viggo Mortensen. In the opening scene of Season 1, Episode 1, his charachter, Hjörtur, is shown blazing along on his motorcycle with the beautiful young Dagný, played by Rán Ísóld Eysteinsdóttir, clinging to the back. They’re young, they’re in love, they’re being reckless and wild. There’s no real presentiment of doom unless you’re expecting this to be a slasher film, they could just stumble upon a dead body or something, right? So we follow them into a building, it looks like a converted warehouse with a loft, and up to bed.

And here’s where it gets interesting. Ahem. They get naked, and we’re shown a lingering shot of the guy, Hjörtur, making his way down her body, trailing kisses, then a glance up as he begins, ah, his work. The shot cuts back to her face and breasts as she obviously enjoys his attentions.

And then, while she’s having a post-coital snooze, he goes downstairs to take a leak and the whole damned building goes up in flames. Hjörtur tries to get back up the staircase to save her, but it’s too late. He’s badly burned, things explode, and the beautiful young woman is burned to death. Boom, that’s the end of poor Dagný. You let someone go down on you, you die in a fire. sigh.

The havoc that this death wreaks in the community is a big theme in the next few episodes, leading to suspicions and hatred and confusion, which is all to the good in a modern mystery show. But it still seems pretty harsh that the golden-light bathed young woman, being given such attentions, is then punished by a truly brutal death. They could have just shown them going at it in the usual way, there was no particular reason to show the sex in this way. Well, Hjörtur was devoted to the girl, and her death pretty much wrecks his life. I suppose it’s the way they chose to show that he REALLY loved her.

Which says an uncomfortable lot about the way sex is both portrayed and lived in these days. I have a pretty good understanding of the numbers behind Tinder and Hinge and Bumble and all those dating apps, and the numbers are depressing. Women are participating in all this sex, but they’re not actually getting the big O from it with much regularity. That’s not just guesswork, it’s actual research, which I am way too lazy to go look up at the moment to link for you. (It’s been a long week already). So, people are hooking up, the guys are getting what they want out of the equation, and women are getting . . . what? Not oral, not usually. And not even orgasms as often as one would hope. If you’re going to all the trouble of exposing yourself to someone else’s diseases and DNA, you’d at least hope for real pleasure out of it. But that, it seems, is too much to ask.

Or, I guess, just a function of female anatomy. In television land, we apparently still live in that fantasy world where strictly penetrative sex can light off the fireworks for women, even though that’s been shown to be about 15% of us females, at best. These rare diversions into showing cunnilingus, then, should be a lot more normative, you’d think. The numbers show that the vast majority of women WANT that from a man. The majority of men claim to enjoy it and to perform it. So why is it that, on television, we can’t seem to just give it a wink and a nod and assume it’s going down (sorry, that WAS a pun)– we have to find some way to make it dreadful.

If you’ve read my previous post about this in the show “Hemlock Grove”, you’ll know that this was a huge problem in that show, too. Every incidence of a male orally stimulating a female was plagued by so many problems that it basically became its own horror subtext in the show.

In “Trapped,” so far, the only other sex we’re shown is problematic, too. One implied act of sexual exploitation of a trafficked woman, and one act of infidelity ala Mrs Robinson, with the wife of one of the civic leaders getting it on with a much younger boy who is, presumably, a student at the school she works at. Yeah, it’s not looking so good for good sex in this show right now. Is it asking too much for sex acts between people who are in love, for it to be non-coercive, non-exploitative, and not punished by being blown to smithereens?

I’ll keep watching the show, as it’s pretty good and the cuddlesome cop lead is so cuddlesome, but I’m not holding out much hope. I will, however, report back if some woman is actually able to experience that terrible power-shifting sexual experience that our television writers are so scared of leaving unpunished.


Suicide Kings

My heart is broken yet again. Another singer has killed himself, killed himself in the ultimate abnegation of his own vocal skills– hanging, a psychological end to the voice and breath itself. And I am angry. And hurt. And very very sad.

Chester Bennington wasn’t my favorite musician ever. Chris Cornell, yes, he was. But Chester was yet another tormented and talented soul, a man with a family and things to live for, an artist who was still producing new works, a human being who deserved better than a solitary end.

I don’t even have words for how frustrating this is– I know how it feels to be that alone, to feel that desperate, and to take those steps towards making the pain cease. Luckily for me, someone had my six and was able to pull me back from the brink, twice. But this is an ongoing problem for people who have suicidal impulses. I have fought my own fight with depression since 12, and with suicidal thoughts since I was seventeen. Goodness knows how long Chester fought, but judging from his lyrics and his life history, he’d been fighting the same demons since his early teens at least. And Chris Cornell, too– another artist, another life history that begins with severe mental problems in their early teens. In both cases, these talented beautiful humans lost their battle, and it isn’t right.

We need people to be able to ask those hard questions, every damned day if you have to. “How are you feeling?” “How are the bad feelings today?” “Do you feel like hurting yourself?” “Can I help you somehow?” “Do you need meds/rest/food/help?” “What can I do to make things better?”

Even if they aren’t able to vocalize a really good response, you need to ask them. For someone who you know has suicidal impulses, you need to watch their behavior. And, no, it isn’t fair. Yes, it’s a hell of a burden. But it’s what you do when you love someone who has these problems. You lock up the guns, you lock up the pills, and if they’re really low, you check them into a hospital as an inpatient so they can get the help they need.

We need to stop acting like it’s somehow shameful or embarrassing for people to struggle with suicidal ideation. We don’t bury suicides at the crossroads anymore, people. If someone you love is fighting this fight, you need to be on their side, not just helplessly standing on the sidelines.

Yes, sometimes people do this “out of the blue.” I am not discounting that. But for someone who has a lifelong history of mental problems, they can be just one sudden shift to serious depression away from an attempt upon their own lives. Even when everything else was going okay, even when they seemed at the top. All it takes is one thing going to hell in a handbasket, and that can be enough of a trigger.

Because suicide, by its nature, is not a rational act. People do this when they are hurting out of all proportion to what they feel they can endure. We will never know the full story of why these two men decided to do this thing. But they were certainly full of pain. I’m sure their families and their fans all wish they could just go back in time, say the things, find the fix. Sometimes, you know, there isn’t a way to stop someone. But we can try. We SHOULD try. We should fight suicide like we fight cancer, with all our guts and love and anger and determination. There is a cure out there somewhere, but no one seems to be looking. We need to find that cure.

And in the meantime, use your love, use every ounce of it, to hold on to the ones you hold dear. God bless.

 


Game of Thrones Season 7, Episode 1

Here there be spoilers. You’ve been warned.

Well, well, well, we’re off to a . . . stunningly slow start. Sure, the Arya-gorefest was, uhh, disturbing, but it wasn’t exactly edge-of-your-seat television. Then we went to the Citadel for . . . manual labor. Lots of it. Hey, I know CGI is expensive, but couldn’t you have given us a glimpse of a direwolf or, really, ANYTHING except the endless parade of turds in bowls that we were treated to during this season opener? And, seriously, how delicate of a stomach could Sam possibly have? If you’re emptying that many chamberpots, you’re going to have to man up at some point. Or, at least you’d think so . . ..

(Shoutout for Jim Broadbent! Yay!! All the love, Jim.)

My daughter and I were discussing the lack of “pornification” that has gradually been evolving. It’s a good thing, mostly, no more gratuitous shots of naked women that make no sense other than titillation. However, we have finally discovered the secret of how all those brothel workers kept such immaculately shaved lady parts and man-scaped genital regions– the Ancient Valyrian Steel Razor. Washed in wine in between uses, this remarkable weapon has been combating pubic hair since the time of Bran the Builder. I’m sure we’ll see it in use again, they can’t have an entire season without naked people.

This episode, however, was filled with clothing that was Making Martial Statements. People mean BUSINESS, people. Chain linked leather dresses, enough wolf fur to animate an entire pack of direwolves, and very Serious Heels on Daenerys. Honestly, they looked way too sensible, like something Hilary Clinton would wear. But maybe that’s the statement they wanted to make– she’s seriously walking across that sand. (And, yeah, she’s short and needs the boost.)

The winner of the episode, for me, was Euron the not-so-Crow-Eyed. The shirt was awesome, the reckless panache with which he wore it, the cutting remarks about Jaime and his presumed uselessness, it was all win. Sure, he’s not quite the psychotic magician of the novels, but he holds promise. The fleet, which he must have used magic to create, since the Iron Islands famously don’t have much in the way of forests, was impressive, too. I am really enjoying Euron. Right now, he’s the only character that seems to have any sense of humor.

In the North, well, Jon was slow out of the gate, but he did The Right Thing, as he so famously tries to do all the time, and it worked out well so far. I’m sure it will come back to bite him in the ass later. Ghost was still a complete no-show, which breaks my heart, since Ghost pretty much IS Jon’s heart. Budgetary reasons, my left foot. Anyway, Sansa was remarkably . . . dumb. I mean, she overplayed her hand in the clumsiest and most ridiculous way possible. I guess she really did only learn her political lessons from Cersei (and we know how well Cersei plays the game, hah. Subtle is not her gift.) The lovely young Lady of Bear Island made Sansa look like an idiot as she effortlessly supported Jon’s idea of arming girls, stripped the objection from the guy who was objecting, and did it all while looking in-control, intelligent, and truly the essence of a Northern girl. Sansa needs to take notes.

The rest of the episode was pretty snoozy. The Hound saw a vision in the flames, which again we couldn’t see because “oh, no budget for it”, Ed Sheeran sang a song around a campfire but the other guys in the party of soldiers got all the good lines, all the people around Daenerys had to stand around looking uncomfortable and saying nothing while examining a curiously-rotted castle that was occupied as of just a few months ago.

Me, I am not very hopeful yet. There’s way too much IMPORTANCE stamped on every line, and way too few lines that are just people interacting. You can see where the characters are being stampeded, and it’s frustrating me to see how things are falling into patterns that I had hoped would be avoided. I mean, at this point, are we really holding out any hope that Jon and Daenerys WON’T have sex? I don’t want them to, I think they’re a match made in hell, but it sure looks like the pathways are converging with that outcome in mind.

Ah well. Time for me to get busy writing my own Book 2, where I can promise that no cousins will have sex under any circumstances.

In the meantime, yeah, if you want to read another book about dragons, except one where it’s a lot more like the Night’s Watch meets dragons and less like the Dorne disaster, buy my book, now available on Kindle, Dragon Venom.

DragonHeadd

 


Release date: July 17th, 2017!

Okay, I’ve moved the pre-order date for my novel, Dragon Venom, up by nearly two weeks. You can pre-order it now and it will deliver to your Kindle or Kindle app on Monday, July 17th!

That means you can get your Game of Thrones fix on Sunday and then read my book the next day, in case you want your dragons to be more like scientifically plausible complex creatures with personalities instead of, say, ravening beasts. I mean, my dragons can still kill with ease, sure, if bloody dragon warfare is your thing. There’s plenty of that in my book, too. But no naked bald chicks, sorry.

So, order your copy today, or read it in its entirety on Kindle Unlimited!


No Rest for the Writer

Well, now that “Dragon Venom” is finally up on Amazon, it’s time for me to get to work on the other projects I have planned. Yes, Book 2 of the A Poison in the Blood series, “Blood of the Queen,” is in that list somewhere, but there are two smaller projects that I intend to finish before the summer is over. One of those is the memoir that I’m editing, and one of them is a YA novel that finally, finally, finally found its inspiration and framing device. It took it long enough– I’ve been carrying around that title and those images for years.

The good thing about the YA project is that it’s only going to be about a 50,000 word novel, so it’s do-able inside a month. I write a minimum of 2000 words a day when I’m working, even if it feels like it’s being ground out over broken glass and salt, so it should go by pretty quickly. And the memoir is easy– the hardest part will be transcribing all the letters and things. Even with word-recognition software, mistakes creep in, and you have to go back over it word by word and comma by comma to make sure that it’s suddenly not discussing small radish croutons or something weird.

It occurs to me that this is exactly what George RR Martin has been maligned for doing– working on other things besides his fantasy series. But, hey, unless HBO comes calling, I don’t think a one month delay in the production of “Blood of the Queen” will harm anyone.

Speaking of GRRM, I am trying to gird up my loins to hate-watch Season 7 of Game of Thrones. I’m not exactly looking forward to it– I am convinced, at this point, that they’re going to force Jon Snow and Daenerys to hook up. Which is a huge huge ick factor for me– not only is it the stereotypical fantasy ending that GRRM swore he was trying to subvert all those decades ago when he began the series, I just personally wish that Dany would take a flying leap off that dragon and impale herself on a tree. It would be very Vlad Tepes, right? Also satisfying for us confirmed Dany haters. 🙂

 


Dragon Venom now available for Pre-Order!

Despite every possible thing conspiring against me this summer, I have finally gotten my first novel up on the Kindle website for pre-order!

DragonHeadd

Dragon Venom is a fantasy novel, filled with seafaring battles, steamy dragon-haunted jungles, and warrior monks fighting for their faith and for their lives. It’s the story of Raban, a young craftsman monk, who is forced to become something more on a quest to reclaim the lost treasures of a vanished empire. Under the leadership of their Knight Vigilant, Alarin, Raban and the rest of his order will test the bonds of brotherhood, faith, and humanity in their search for Paisadal, and their dangerous hunt for the forbidden lore of dragons.

Pre-order it now on Amazon!