Jessica Jones

Jessica-Jones

I finished watching Jessica Jones roughly a week after it came out on Netflix. I kind of enjoy the binge-watch that Netflix’s release schedule (as in: dump it all on at the same time) permits, mostly because they don’t put too much up for one season. 13 episodes was about my limit really, across 4 days. Any more than that and I start to get stressed out about not getting other things done but also really wanting to know what happens…which is why I don’t go back and watch tv shows that I have missed and now have 6 seasons to plough through because the stress would probably split me in half.

And by that I mean I’d just watch it all and do no marking.

So, uh, spoiler free review, I guess? Or more really just random thoughts about it.

I really liked Jessica Jones. That is to say, I found it compelling and well worth the time spent watching it. It was not a comfortable watch. It was challenging, and more than once I found myself having to press pause and think about my own reactions. And that more than anything else makes me want to recommend it as a show.

It’s not a perfect show – there are more than a few points where the curves of telling a superhero story and telling a story about surviving abuse do not sit on a shared tangent – but in the broad context of the MCU and their spinoffs it is making a *really good effort* to give rape and abuse the serious treatment they deserve. They do a really good job of creating one of the most terrifying (and powerful) baddies on screen without requiring that he want to rule/blow up the Universe, and then putting him in situations where you begin to feel…if not sympathy, then pity, at the very least…and then confront you with how sorely misplaced your pity has been. I loved the show for the wringer that it put me through.

Other things:

Krysten Ritter does good work with a really tough part. The mask of deadpan misanthropy that shows just enough of the damage behind it? *Patrick Stewart saying “ACTING” GIF here, please*

Mike Colter’s ridiculously perfect face and torso is a joy.

David Tennant turning on the charm where almost ever other actor in the world would have gone full ham.

It’s *almost* 50/50 women:men on the writing team (5/11, damn you Edward Ricourt and your 1 ep credit)!

Manuel Billeter’s cinematography. Shot by shot, the series is like a class in how to create tension through POV and palette. Flashes of purple, shots that create ambiguity about who Killgrave has (or might have) control of? YES. Looking forward to seeing what they do with the Luke Cage series now. Really looking forward to it.

 

Tower, this is Ghost Rider requesting a flyby

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*blows dust off blog* Hey. Hey there. Long time no see.

So I was going to let the blog just wind down. With the move and the new job and the daughter and everything else, it just felt like a thing that I could drop and not really need to worry about. Then I got an email from the hosting company saying something about their seasonal offers and I wondered – “when exactly does my hosting wind down?”

2017. It runs out in 2017.

So how are things? Let’s keep it simple.

Kidney transplant: ticking along smoothly. Bloods are good. Need to drink a smidge more and work on my stress and sleep levels but really that feels more like a problem everyone has than one unique to my special snowflake self.

Location: Stockholm. We have a flat, both Lisa and I are working, Aoife has a good daycare where she goes outside a lot and runs round the local forest.

Life stuff: I really need to work on my time management. I really need to get to the gym more often. I need to work on my Swedish A LOT. Other than that things are pretty good: getting our weekly cooking situation under control, we’ve cracked out the slow cooker, and my office/workstation is coming along nicely. Bought a new keyboard with mechanical switches so it sounds like I’m at a typewriter when I’m writing.

Writing: took a bit of a hit at the start of the year. Recovery and house/country move? Not that good for getting work done. Still, managed to finish a novel and get that sent off to be torn to bits. I’ve not really written anything small in the gaps and I should really get back on the short fiction train again. I miss writing things that get the job done in such a short time. Kingdom’s Fall did really well on Wattpad – almost 110k reads now! – but I am at a bit of a loss as to what to do from there. Hopefully I can think of something as it would be a shame to just leave it at that. If anyone has any ideas (save for writing a sequel, which will have to wait a bit) then I am all ears.

 

When fire burns, is it at war?

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I haven’t finished a single-player game since completing Mass Effect 3. When it came out, Lisa and I put an entire weekend aside to finish it in one complete play through. For the record, we were fine with the original ending (we chose Synthesis). As I later put it, the entire game felt like an ending, played out over a series of very emotional hours. The line “Had to be me. Someone else might have gotten it wrong.” still gives me major feels.

But still, I haven’t really picked up any new games since then. While I appreciate the growing power of narrative in gaming, something in me just isn’t drawn as much towards them any more. I still like multiplayer games, and quite enjoy the social aspect of sitting down and having a stressful time with friends while other friends (or even complete strangers) trounce us over and over. I’m not very good at games. I was all right at Starcraft once,* back when I was procrastinating over editing a novel and playing game after game of it could fill the time quite nicely, but now I just feel angry and disappointed as everyone else seems to have mastered their sub-15 minute builds while I’m still dawdling over which building to make.

I don’t think I can play a MMO again, either. I enjoyed World of Warcraft when it started but by the time we stopped it had passed through feeling like a job (or an obligation, making sure we were ready to raid every evening) to something that we just happened to fill our evenings with, like Eastenders or trips to the local. Not that there’s anything bad about any of these things, but I was starting to get that itchy feeling at the back of my head, that feeling that I was spending all my time consuming and not doing a whole lot of creating. It’s no coincidence that I started writing almost as soon as I stopped paying my subscription. Your milage may vary on that sort of thing – certainly there are plenty of creatives who can and do juggle their time effectively – but nevertheless: that’s at least one thing I had to do to get my arse in gear.

But I still like games. I’d like to play more, or at least to have opportunities to play more. I’ve had it in my head for a little while that I would really like to build a little arcade table…well, build is a strong word. I’d like to drill a bunch of holes on a suitably-sized piece of easy-build furniture and put two arcade sticks in, then hook it up to a dedicated computer so that I could play arcade games on the tv with my other half or anyone else I could trick into coming to the house. Nidhogg looks like the most fun ever and I know there are other games that would equally fit the bill.

On that note, I think Johann Sebastian Joust would be an incredible convention game. It’d be hell getting it on the official programme (Health and Safety nightmare, or what?) but if someone were to suddenly start carting round a laptop and some Move controllers, I could well imagine a few people would be well up for it.

*Bronze league “all right” which is just north of “acceptably poor”.

 

Ambience is everything. Or nothing.

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One time, I wrote an entire novel to the Batman Begins OST played on a loop.

A while back, I rearranged one of the upstairs rooms and set up a writing table. I talk about it here. However, since then it has gone into a slow decline. Firstly, we keep “tidying” the house by moving things into other rooms so that one of them looks presentable by the standards of other human beings. As a result, the clean and fairly minimal (for me) space ended up as two monitors and a keyboard jostling for space among a mountain of books. Secondly, with Aoife now up to the point of crawling, it has made more sense for me to sit downstairs for the majority of the time, working on the laptop, so that I can easily jump up and grab her when she tries to escape the living room/lick the radiator.

It’s not the best for writing, really, or at least it’s taking me a while to get used to it. Part of the problem is the chair – a cheap IKEA dining chair – that is fine for short term use but after a long session at the keys it really does feel like my arse is sliding inexorably forward off of it. The other part of the problem is my tendency to leap onto any other source of stimulus to avoid having to think up the next sentence. It’s the same reason I don’t – can’t – listen to songs with lyrics in while I write: I end up writing the lyrics out. And while my other half does her best not to interrupt me and watches tv with the sound fairly low, she’s still there and I could totally talk to her right now.

Part of me longs for silence and space, that perfect vacuum to sit in while I stare off into the middle distance and think really hard about what that word was I wanted to use. The rest of me knows that situation is now a joke. I’m better off changing my habits than thinking I can only work when the conditions suit me – if I let myself come to that conclusion, then eventually the conditions will never suit.

Also, I should really think about tidying this place up.

Tales of the Fox and Fae

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The second Bushy Tales anthology from Fox Spirit Books has gone live! Well, partially – hard copies are available, with the ebook to follow soon. In any case, the ppb editions can be bought from Amazon here, and I’ll update once the ebook is available.

I’m quite proud of this one. I’m proud of all my stories, but this is the first one to open a collection so I’m reserving a special place for it. It’s short, but intentionally so, and I’ve tried to cram as much as I can into the small space it occupies. And while I’d normally leave it to speak for itself, I thought it would be nice to talk about at least the influences that went into it.

I love Scottish folk tales. I didn’t hear many when I was little, my family weren’t big on the traditions of storytelling, but I made up for lost time the instant I got my library card.

The term “folk tales” covers a lot of ground: everything from a young lord running away and winning the heart of a giantess to the faery flag of Dunvegan: clan McLeod’s greatest gift, and eventual doom. And yet there are always common elements:

Shape-shifters are Jung’s Shadow, a mirror held up to reflect the worst – and best – in our natures. See the kelpie, or water-horse: a creature of brutal desire and violent avarice. Or the selkie, her true skin hidden above the mantel, the call of her blood and home forever drawing her seaward.

The faeries, though, are truly the Other. Ancient and mercurial, what little benevolence they are willing to grant (be it spinning yarn, like Whippety Stourie, or simply cleaning the house, like Ainsel) is often mercenary in nature and swiftly withdrawn at the slightest offence. They hold power beyonds limits, and the draw of it seals many a fate.

When it came to writing a story for the Fox & Fae, I couldn’t resist putting the two together. Like I said, it’s a short tale, but I tried to stick to the spirit of the stories I remember: short, and vibrant, full of imagination and more than a little magic. I hope you enjoy it!

The Copper Promise – review (kind of)

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So, the fullest of full disclosures, because I know people like these things up front when they see the word “review”. Jen and I are friends. We also have the same agent. I was a beta reader for the novel, and I bought the original novella back when the cover looked like this:

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For the record, that is still an awesome cover. it screams “indie”, but in a good way, you know.

Anyway, my point is that you should probably start from the assumption that my review is going to be generally positive. If I didn’t like The Copper Promise, I would conspicuous in my silence.

The second thing you should realise is that I’m going to drop some GIFs. Phone browsers be warned.

So. First question, to which I think you already know the answer. Is it good?RizzoliYes

It is good. Aaron Frith, Lord of Blackwood and last of his line, seeks out a pair of mercenaries to help him explore an ancient, haunted labyrinth. Wydrin – the Copper Cat – is famed for her quick blades and quicker wit, while Sir Sebastian Carverson wears the mark and mantle of an Ynnsmouth knight. They toddle off to the Citadel and – oops – unleash Y’Ruen, God of Destruction and Chaos, in the form of a dragon. 

If it was played entirely straight, the setup would drop like a lead balloon: adventurers meeting in a tavern and arranging to explore a dungeon with only a fragment of a map for guidance? Really? Here, though, it works. The narrative is sufficiently self aware that it is fun to read, but never dips to the level of mugging at the reader. Frith means business, no matter how insouciant Wydrin is about it all, and that balance of wit and purpose drives the story forward.

Danger(The Citadel is on the left, obv.)

 On the topic of self awareness, The Copper Promise wears its influences proudly. I know the author cites Fritz Lieber’s Lankhmar as an influence, but as an immediate point of comparison you have to look to Dragon Age. The characters are all know exactly how to get on one another’s nerves, and they are pin-sharp throughout the entire book.

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I’m not going to dive too deeply into the plot as I’m keen to avoid spoilers, but what I do like about it is that so much of the story comes from Frith, Wydrin, and Sebastian. Yes, there’s a bloody big dragon casting a shadow across the whole thing, but the vast majority of the book deals with the fact that to be an adventurer takes not only bravery, but also a particular kind of arrogance:

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And those issues are hell to overcome, even when faced with a world-ending calamity.

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So yeah. The Copper Promise is a great fantasy title. I saw one of the mini-blurbs for it described it as a “romp”, and I think that’s pretty much the exact word that applies here. It’s funny, imaginative, cracks along at a fair old pace, and is great fun to read. Do so. It comes out in February 2014, and you can pre-order it here.

Wait. What’s missing? What else do reviews need? Am I meant to give it a mark out of ten or something?

Okay, okay. I give it Tom Hiddleston Dancing out of Ten.

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Halloween Shorts: Team Mushens at WFC edition

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So! As promised, the Halloween Shorts are almost here. This year, Halloween coincides with the World Fantasy Convention in Brighton, and I thought it would be really fun to tie the two together.

It just so happens that my agent, Juliet Mushens, will be there along with ten (TEN!) of her clients. She will be appearing on the Not-So-Secret Agents panel on Saturday at 11 am in Hall 04, and otherwise will be generally there at the convention. Since there are so many Team Mushens authors there, I asked the others if they would like to write or offer up a Halloween Short and post it on their ‘blog over the next 4-5 days leading up to the start of WFC. Everyone has been quite busy, but nevertheless there was a great response! Starting Saturday, spooky tales will begin to coalesce out of the ether for your entertainment. We’ll be flagging them up on Twitter and other social media, but I’ll do a round up of links at the end just in case you miss them.

In the meantime, though, here are all the Team Mushens authors who will be attending WFC!

Lou Morgan – author of Blood and Feathers and Blood and Feathers: Rebellion (Solaris)

Amy McCulloch – author of The Oathbreaker’s Shadow (Doubleday Children’s) and upcoming sequel, The Shadow’s Curse

Den Patrick – author of The War Manuals (Gollancz) and The Erebus Sequence (also Gollancz), beginning with The Boy with the Porcelain Blade

Liz de Jager – author of The Blackhart Legacy (Tor), beginning with Banished

Laura Lam – author of Pantomime (Angry Robot) and upcoming sequel, Shadowplay

Jennifer Williams – author of The Copper Promise (Headline), first in an as-yet unnamed Fantasy trilogy

James Oswald – author of The Inspector McLean mysteries: Natural Causes, The Book of Souls, and upcoming The Hangman’s Song (Penguin) and upcoming fantasy series The Ballad of Sir Benfro (Penguin)

Richard Kellum – newly-signed author of Fantasy and Horror.

Stephen Aryan – newly-signed Fantasy author and encyclopedia of all things comic-related.

 

 

Stay awhile and listen!

Warning: picture heavy. Mobile users beware.

Today the family unit took a trip to Riveaulx Abbey. I saw it mentioned on Twitter a while back and realised it was fairly close to where we live, so we decided to go. It was such a nice day for it, as well, it seemed a shame to spend the day moping and playing rock, paper, scissors over who has to do the chores.*

So, we drove up to Helmsley. Well. We drove up to Malton, got diverted by a closed road and went in a big circle but eventually we got to Helmsley. Lots of narrow roads, lots of 14% inclines – before we did anything else I had to go sit in the cafe.

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After a spot of rejuvenating tea, we made our way out to the abbey itself.

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It is massive. Even with all the drawings and plans mounted around the place, we struggled to imagine what it would have looked like when it was complete. It’s just so big! There’s an exhibition centre off to the right of the path that starts off talking about how the lives of monks were austere and spartan at first, but after a couple of centuries they just went wild. Wild for a Cistercian monk, that is.

The audio guide was good, but I was so disappointed to discover that no-one had slipped a Diablo gag into it. Not even a whiff of impeity!

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Aoife was so impressed.

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Yeah. So she’s a bit young for it just yet. I was impressed. Everything about the place just screams “epic sword fight AND/OR spooky ghost location”.

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Ghosts! Sword fights! Inexplicable inclusion of kung fu and parkour moves! Lightning!

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We even found the remains of the stairwell from the Kurgan/Ramirez fight from Highlander.

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Bonus Aoife picture!

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I thought it was unusual that the website listed the cafe as one of the high points of the giant ruined abbey, but it was. Giant pot of tea! Chutney and brown sauce made at the abbey! Local bacon and sausages! One of the staff coming out of the kitchen and taking Aoife for a walk so that we could eat in peace! Brilliant stuff.

As a special treat, Lisa bought me a notebook that I intend to use as a bible for all the random fantasy novel worldbuilding facts that I think up.

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Just look at it! Notebooooook. So exciting.

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So, yeah! Lots of fun. Next time, Castle Howard!

*spoiler: me. I do.

Important thoughts on space and boundaries.

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I know it’s controversial to say this, but kittens are not welcome in bedroom space. Bedroom space is a sacred, protected area where I should feel able to sleep and not have to chase kittens out of and down the stairs every three hours because they want to wander up and down the bed in search of a good sleeping spot.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Some cats know how to behave in the bedroom space. Some cats pad in silently and snuggle close in the night. Some of them even purr, in a comforting and peaceful way.

But these cats are in the minority. Is it worth it, I ask you, to welcome cats into the bedroom space when they are given to indulging themselves in such behaviour as door-scratching, pulling up the carpet in the corners of the room, chewing through headphone cables, fighting with one another and sometimes themselves, digging under the duvet in search of treasure, and noisily licking a plastic bag from Waterstones?*

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Kittens. They need to learn to respect my boundaries.

This message is brought to you by a less-than-restful night’s sleep.

*seriously, what is with that?

You know what movie I’d like to watch right now? Sneakers.

Odd title I know, but really it just popped into my head. Sneakers was a pretty fun movie.

Anyway. My friend Vicky is celebrating her one year blogoversary over at Vicky Thinks. I’m usually all over the portmanteau action, but I must admit that I’m not a huge fan of “blogoversary”. Mostly it’s because I can’t type it first time (unlike the best portmanteau of all, slorphanage) and for a few minutes there it seemed as though she was celebrating the anniversary of bolognese.

So. as part of the blogoversary, Vicky had a “Find out more about me (but not too much because honestly this is the internet)” post, and at the end of it she was very kind to link here and put up a list of questions for me (among others) to answer. And what kind of person would I be if I didn’t answer them? A monster, that’s what I’d be.

A monster.

So, here goes:
What quality/talent do you admire most in a writer?

I admire the ridiculous levels of motivation and tenacity that other writers demonstrate. I find putting my bum in the seat very hard going sometimes, and I admire anyone who has put the hours into mastering that part of themselves.

If you could pick any character from a film, TV series, book, or game to give a piece of your mind to, who would it be?

Do I have to pick just one? There’s a particular format of tv show – usually sitcom but sometimes in drama, too –  that I just cannot watch because the entire premise hinges on a main character jumping to a ridiculous conclusion and I find myself switching the tv off in disgust. Ooh, you know what? Ross from Friends. That’s my choice. Ross. He is the epitome of television’s disdain for cleverness – a paleontologist who is by turns whining, self-aggrandising, awful, and just generally the butt of everything.

What’s your favourite sandwich filling?

I don’t eat many sandwiches, really, but I do like a nice classic cheese. Salt and vinegar crisps are good, too, as is corned beef and salt and vinegar crisps. Food of the Gods, my friends. Food of the Gods.

Mary Sues… just misunderstood or really annoying?

Annoying. Just…I can’t even crack the spine of the Belgariad without steam boiling out of my ears these days.

If you could live in any country besides your own, where would you live?

Sweden! It’s a nice place to be.

What’s the most meaningful thing that’s ever happened to you?

In about a month’s time I’ll be a dad, so I guess that’s going to be up there at the top of the list. Other than that, sitting down in a consultant’s office late 2008 to be told that I have advanced, chronic kidney disease and that there is nothing I can do about it was pretty damn big. It was the push I needed to get me writing things.

Present tense in fiction… like it or loathe it?

It’s…fine? Like any choice you make in writing, it can either turn out awesome or fall flat on its arse. I’m not a massive fan of second person, although again it depends on the author – If on a Winter’s Night A Traveller is brilliant, although I suspect unique in that if someone tried to do the same thing it wouldn’t be half as good.

An author is going to write the story of your life. Who would you like it to be?

Stephen King. I’d like to think he’d get bored ten pages in and write a much better version.

Think of your favourite book. Got one? Now, what would that book be if it were an animal?

A cuttlefish.

Flame powers or water powers?

Water powers. I’d be able to summon water and that would be an enormous boon to the human race. I would stand in a special box to summon it. I would call it my powers booth.

Recommend me a favourite song!

I have two for you! An instrumental piece from The Fullmetal Alchemist movie OST – Requiem by Michiru Oshima – and the acoustic version of Beast by Nico Vega (which – along with the full version – was used on one of the trailers for Bioshock infinite).