I have done it, ladies and gentlemen. I have held the ever-coveted Tom Hiddleston in my arms.
And it was as glorious as it looks.
So funny story.
In August, I’d gotten bored at work and out of pure thirst curiosity, I Googled to see Tom Hiddleston’s remaining con appearances in 2018. Lo and behold, he was attending Ace Comic Con in Chicago, IL in October. I’d never been to Chicago and I have a friend who lives here and it was JUST enough time for me to save up some money to fly out for a three day weekend to meet the man I’ve been enamored with as of the last three or so years. And that’s exactly what I did. I bought a Saturday only ticket for my only 2018 “official” vacation to meet the utterly wonderful Tom Hiddleston.
Unfortunately, since I only found the con roughly two months out, all the autograph sessions were sold out, leaving only the photo op, but it’s not a huge deal and I love having photos snuggling awesome famous people anyway, as my followers know. I might be able to see him again someday in which I can say more than two things. As it stands, I probably would’ve ended up just giggling incessantly anyway if I’d have gotten an autograph from him today.
Anyone who is a veteran congoer knows that photo ops at MOST are ten seconds long. It’s simply because hundreds of fans show up and in order to cram all those photos within the time frame, it has to be that short. Therefore, I had to practice staying calm in the face of one of the most handsome bloody men I’ve ever met.
So here’s how it went down:
Me: *walks over to him and he puts one arm around me* Hi! Is it okay if we do a hug!
**photo is taken**
Hiddles: That’s a beautiful dress, by the way!
Me: ^///////////////////////////////^ Thank you so much! You are phenomenal! Thank you! *scurries off*
Doesn’t that sound easy to say to him? Trust me, it wasn’t.
First off, Tom is tall af. I’m 5′8′’ and I was wearing 2 inch heels and he still sort of dwarfs me in this photo and I have A Whole Thing about tall men. They butter my egg roll something fierce.
Second off, he has the biggest, sunniest smile and it’s like staring into an eclipse. I was almost blindsided but his compliment of my dress–keep in mind, I BOUGHT THIS DRESS SPECIFICALLY FOR HIM AND HE COMPLIMENTED IT AND OMFG THIS IS EVERYTHING TO ME YOU GUYS–is actually what helped kick my dazed little brain into remembering to speak to him. My Chris Evans photo op was heavenly, but he was so goddamn handsome and that hug was so goddamn good (he rubbed the small of my back before he let me go and I almost fainted dead away in his arms) that I got tongue-tied and didn’t get to tell him anything aside from “thank you” as I wobbled away on weak knees. Tom, however, unknowingly helped me out by complimenting me and that’s so wonderful I can’t even express it.
Third off, wow, hearing his voice up close is…hnnnnngh. There are no words. It’s like silk. It’s like velvet. Hiddleston’s voice is just plain powerful, and I don’t know how anyone is able to act opposite the man. He said two things to me in just a normal tone of voice and I wanted to just melt.
Lastly, the hug was so light and gentle. He’s a good hugger. He was very comfortable next to me and I loved that big friendly grin. Generally, I don’t photograph well and his grin was so infectious that I think it’s why it turned out so great.
I’m on cloud fucking nine. I really am. 2018 has been a hard, miserable year for me and this was finally a lump sum of good karma. I’m going to be high off of this Chicago trip for months and I can mark the incomparable Mr. Hiddleston off my Bucket List. (Although I do have very loose plans to try to catch him again for an autograph; I really do think he is an incredible actor and I’d love to tell him in detail, but we’ll see what 2019 has in store for me.)
And yes, it’ll be weeks before I wipe this idiotic fucking grin off my face.
It was difficult to describe the way it felt when I changed. It didn’t hurt…but it didn’t not hurt. I’d once told a friend that it was like peeling off a fingernail where most of the skin wasn’t attached and so you didn’t bleed. My muscles shifted around. My bones popped and cracked as they rearranged into the lithe, streamlined form of a wolf that stood perhaps half a foot taller and several pounds heavier than a real one. When I was within the city limits, I always went with my full wolf form. I could switch to a form between the two that was bipedal—the kind that normal people wrote into movies like Van Helsing or the Benicio del Toro remake—but if anyone caught sight of me, that would be that. Supernatural folks stayed under the radar, if only because humans are ruled by fear and panic, and to know that a cute black girl could turn into something that could tear them apart in just the blink of an eye would induce instantly genocide on our kind.
My fur was dark-brown, matching the color of my skin, and my mane had black streaks running through it and along my spine, ending in a tuft at my tail. A shudder spilled through me once the transformation was done and I shook out my fur, getting used to the change in senses. I could smell who had been in this alley within the last four days. I could hear the kids playing basketball four blocks away. I could taste the vile air coming off the dumpster nearby. I could see through the veil of darkness draped over the city as if it were broad daylight.
Being a wolf is where it’s at, man.
Vlad turned around and smiled warmly at me. “Such a pretty thing. I’d forgotten.”
I rolled my-now-golden eyes and he chuckled before following my lead. He turned away and rid himself of the boxer shorts.
Vlad’s transformation was smoother and faster than my own. He just sort of…melted into a puddle of dark mass and then reformed into a black-furred wolf slightly taller than me, but not as bulky with muscle, with startling arctic blue eyes. He walked over and sniffed me a bit, then nuzzled me, his shoulder bumping mine playfully. I heard his voice in my head as clear as day even though his fanged jaws never moved.
Where are we off to, my dear?
Follow me, I replied. Stay close. People are jumpy around this area and you don’t want someone to pop a cap in your furry ass.
He laughed in my head as I broke into a sprint further down the alley.
Midtown Atlanta’s nightlife was delightful. I loved it. Music pounded through the buildings, whether just a private citizen jamming in their little studio apartment or a live band a local dive bar getting it in for the night. I could smell every dish from fine dining restaurants wafting out through their front doors as new customers walked in. I could hear people on their first dates walking towards their cars, laughing nervously and flirting. I could see the cars rushing back and forth over the pot-holes, honking and screeching and filling the air with noise.
Life. That was what I liked about Atlanta. Life happened. It never slept.
Want 16 bestselling romance novels for only 99cents? Then check out our all-new boxed set Without Limits!
Love, Passion and Desire.
All powerful and often times uncontrollable emotions. Not knowing when they will strike or the depths that they’ll reach, it can be scary, exciting and in some instances completely consuming.
Exciting and scary all at the same time, love takes hold when least expected, proving that love is colorblind.
Including stories from:
Cinderella's Prince by Stacy-Deanne
The Baby Bargain by Stephanie Morris
The Descendants by Angela Kay Austin
Fort Knox by Tiana Laveen
Highland Jax by LaVerne Thompson
Bad Boss by Lolah Lace
The Colors of Love by Breanna Hayse
Hierarchy by Lori Titus
Securing Mika by Sydney Aaliyah Michelle
Scorned by Donna R. Mercer
Back to Black by Kyoko M
Love's Taken Over by Michelle De Leon
Forever Mine by J.L. Campbell
Lucas by Siren Allen
Never Walk Away by Dahlia DeWinters
Law of April by Suzanne Jenkins
As someone who watches very little television these days for various reasons, it’s always a relief when a show I enjoy makes its return. Personally, I consider Luke Cage second only to Daredevil in the Marvel Netflix show lineup. It’s got vibrant characters, a unique perspective, and some of the best friggin’ music short of a Tarantino movie.
So far, it seems that the second season has had a mixed reception. I understand why. Like last season, Misty made me want to slam her beautiful head into a wall into she got some gorram common sense, and there were just too many moments of characters doing needlessly stupid things. However, one thing I feel that Luke Cage’s 2nd season absolutely nailed was Mariah. I had already passively liked her in the first season where she was a background villain whose actions nudge her into the evil spotlight, so to speak. While I certainly missed Cornell, I feel that Mariah did a far better job as the Arc Villain than Diamondback. Plus, she presented a rather rare role: a black, older woman in a position of power in the middle of a sci-fi/superhero setting. Older black women are often pigeonholed as wise, grandmotherly caretakers in these settings, but Mariah pretty much busted most of the stereotypes related to women before her. She was (mostly) competent, motivated, and surprisingly threatening. Absolutely no one is surprised Alfre Woodard did a phenomenal job—she has long been hailed as one of the best actresses out there, and it was an absolute thrill to see her play a villain. I think in honor of her taking a spot in the pantheon of comic book villains, I should take a moment to explain why I love to hate this bad bitch.
Naturally, spoilers for both seasons of Luke Cage ahead.
In the first season, it’s clear that Mariah wants to achieve her goals by any means necessary, but by keeping her hands clean and letting Cornell do the dirty work. Unlike other villains in the same genre, like say freaking Thanos, I actually believe her when she says she wants to help Harlem. Now, granted, I do think her “help” for the community is just her helping herself. Mariah has quite the ego and she loves being seen. She loves being the all-powerful matron, not unlike Mama Mabel Stokes, ironically. Mariah makes it clear that she is high horse enough to side eye Cornell’s methods, but she certainly doesn’t mind profiting off what he does. I especially like that Shades recognizes the slumbering predator in her shortly after he continues observing their interactions. Was it some heavy foreshadowing? Yeah, sure, but it shows off how perceptive Shades happens to be, since almost everyone had been underestimating Mariah right from the get go.
Cornell’s death sequence is honestly pretty incredible. It’s well-shot and most people admit it caught them right off guard. We all pretty much knew Cornell’s hair-trigger temper would likely be the cause of his death, but for it to be delivered by the often overlooked Mariah definitely sealed it as an excellent turn of events. What’s more is Shades’ reaction to Cornell’s death, and how Mariah in spite of her shock is able to function afterward with his guidance. You can practically see the eager glee in Shades when he sees the natural affinity for violence and power after she kills Cornell. He knows she’s something special and if anyone is going to be able to both defeat Luke Cage and get him out from under Diamondback’s control, it’s her. He hitches his wagon to her and they both go on to set themselves atop the hill at Harlem’s Paradise.
I remember watching the final moments of season one of Luke Cage when Mariah stalked on over to Shades and kissed him. I remember my eyebrows going up and saying, “Ohohoho! What’s all this then?” It was an unlikely development that I ended up weirdly interested in. First off, it’s not often an older black woman, especially not in a comic book setting, shows interest in a Hispanic man more than ten years younger than her. Second off, Shades’ reaction to the kiss pretty much solidified that they were going to become my new evil OTP. He was positively giddy that she kissed him. He was shooting heart eyes at her as she walked out and it was bizarrely compelling to me. I remember hoping that this wasn’t just a one-off grateful kiss and that the two of them would become their own version of Bonnie and Clyde.
Lo and behold, season two kicked off with Shades and Mariah in an actively sexual, romantic relationship. Like everyone else, I cringed when that poor, foolish waiter called him her nephew. Yikes. Talk about disproportionate retribution. That being said, Alfre Woodard said in an interview that she was supposed to do something else in the script, but she had the sudden idea to suck Theo Rossi’s thumb and I couldn’t have cackled louder at the end result. It was flawless. The amount of evil sass in that one gesture, and the fact that Alfre is the one who thought it up, and the fact that the showrunners loved it so much they kept it, is just the best. To bring the point home, I think Shades and Mariah’s symbiotic relationship was honestly the strongest, most human aspect of the 2nd season. I know, that’s odd to say, but I mean it. The two of them seem as if on paper they wouldn’t work, and while the relationship did have a ticking time bomb on it, I like that what ends it isn’t one of them killing the other. It’s Mariah’s derailment from a cold, distant matron into the vicious nature of a gangster, one so cold-blooded that it’s arguable if even Cornell would have gone as far as she did against Bushmaster.
Now, I get why other people wouldn’t be on the ship like I am because it is pretty strange, but that’s perhaps why I ended up liking it so damn much. It’s quite rare that older black women are treated as still sexually desirable at sixty, or hell, even as early in life as their forties. I love that Mariah macked on Shades with zero shame, and vice versa. I like even more that she wasn’t doing it to manipulating him into doing what she wanted—she genuinely reciprocated the attraction and seemed to be having a damn good time as his paramour. It’s a beautiful statement not to completely write women off because of their age. Mariah, for the most part, remained classy with how she brought it to Shades, and he was crazy about her up until things fell apart. The two of them weren’t courting just to find a place to stab each other back. They got along. They trusted each other. But once Mariah went into a full tilt ruthless gangster, Shades couldn’t handle that level of cruelty after having to shoot Comanche and almost losing Mariah to Bushmaster on top of that. Their priorities naturally shifted. He realized there was still some shred of a soul left in him, and losing Comanche as well as the remaining heart of Mariah pushed him too far.
A lot of fans are apparently crying OOC for Shades breaking up with Mariah and I disagree. I felt it was the natural progression. Shades did explain what the difference between him killing Candace and Mariah slaughtering Bushmaster’s entire family: that Candace willingly accepting the bribe made her guilty and made her subject to the same rules of all criminals, man and woman alike. She made a conscious decision to accept the bribe and lie on Luke Cage, and to Shades, that meant she was open season. In his opinion, Mariah murdering Bushmaster’s family, and the method in which she did it, was just too inhuman. She saw it as retaliation for what she lost, but hell, Bushmaster (foolishly) gave her a small window of a chance to survive instead of burning alive and spared her daughter. Mariah didn’t hesitate to kill those people, and even though they were by no means completely innocent, it still was an incredibly messed up thing to do. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back. He’d already put too many shackles on his soul and he couldn’t bear another link, especially not from the woman he loved.
The reason I find Mariah so interesting is her will power. I think that she has strength to just survive the worst sorts of things anyone ever could. Even with her being a selfish, evil gangster, I find myself admiring how she made it as far as she did before the end. What’s more is that she wasn’t implacable or perfect or one dimensional. I consider the scene of her in the wreckage of her brownstone with Shades to be the best acted scene of the entire season, and possibly in the show’s entire run. I really loved how Alfre and Theo played off each other here. I love how their conversation starts out accusatory and then gets heated, and then Shades pulls her out of that downward spiral. It felt natural, effortless, and moving, in a messed up sort of way, mind you. Shades built her up in a moment of weakness and reminded her of who she was so that she could continue on as the badass he knew her to be.
I think what Mariah represents is something I hope that other comic book properties and fiction at large take into consideration. Marvel has recently been tapping into the true power of black women, to my utter delight, and I like that we’re seeing representation in the realm of evil as well as good. Same with Ghost in the recent Ant Man sequel, it’s very satisfying for me as a geeky black girl to see my sisters out there in popular media kicking ass and not just being stereotyped as baby mamas or “exotic” love interests. It’s about damn time, if you ask me. The image that will always stick in my mind for Mariah is Shades holding her face in his hands and emphatically telling her, “You are a queen.” For as short of a reign that she had, I certainly enjoyed the hell out of Mariah’s dark influence over Harlem. She had a sharp tongue and a sense of purpose that I will certainly miss next season.
Here’s to you, evil queen.
IIRC, before I found out HBO was making an adaptation of Fahrenheit 451, I had said that we don’t need one because we are bloody living it already in Trump’s puss-filled Darkest Timeline America right now. Anyone who knows me knows I’m also extremely wary of not only novel adaptations but remaking American staples in fiction. Most of the time, it’s done for either banking on nostalgia or as a weak attempt to “update” something to make it more palatable to today’s audience. Well, as you’ll see in my review, Fahrenheit 451 sort of straddles the fence in those aspects as well as those of its overall quality.
To tell you the truth, I hadn’t planned on watching this movie. I didn’t even know it was premiering. I happened to subscribe to HBONow because the second season of Westworld recently began (and to my utter exasperation, God, until we hit Maeve’s storyline again, it’s been boring as hell with nothing to say) and I had a Saturday to myself on the couch, so I decided to give it a shot.
And here’s where the fence-straddling starts.
The first half of Fahrenheit 451 is amazingly strong. Good visuals, great music, and the performances we get out of Michael B. Jordan and Michael Shannon are jaw-droppingly emotional in spots. In the first half, there are still noticeable changes that I assume were added for the whole “update” thing that Hollywood is obsessed with as of the last two decades. Some of them work well, like the social media component that wasn’t around when Bradbury wrote the novel, but others fall rather flat like having a black actor portray Montag without once (at least not that I noticed) bringing up any sort of possible conflict that could have been explored by this change. The social media component is very heavy-handed, but it’s still at least relevant and the film does a good job discussing how many people would much rather just be happy than be informed. Social media is excellent for that argument. We’ve molded ourselves into an unhealthy obsession with being heard and loved, myself included, and it’s a conversation worth having, so much so that before we hit the halfway point, I had recommended this movie to my mother.
The other reason the first half of the film is so strong is Jordan and Shannon’s performances. These two feed off of each other extremely well. The partnership and parenthood aspects shine like a diamond here. I joked with my brother that Michael Shannon has thus far played the same character in everything he’s in, but he’s so damned good at it that no one cares. He is excellent at being a closed off, intimidating, seemingly cold antagonist, but here he actually is split between the antagonist and a supporting protagonist. I admit I adore the fact that the bonding moments between Montag and Beatty were so powerfully acted. Nothing is more boring than a one dimensional evil character. Beatty has depth, and his depth lends depth to Montag. I found myself getting upset since I knew what would be in store for their relationship later on, and that’s a good thing. They both don’t have anyone else and it genuinely tears at the heartstrings once things start to fall apart.
There are smaller positive things of note, like the cinematography. I actually had to pause the film a couple times because I had such an emotional reaction to seeing books being burned. I’m not nearly as much of an avid reader as I was in the past, but I still love literature. I have two bookshelves overflowing with books. I love having them around me. I love just flipping open something and just flying off into another world for a little while. Seeing those stories burned and supposedly being lost forever did a damn good job of unsettling me, and I think any intelligent person would squirm as well. For the most part, the film has a great atmosphere. It’s harrowing and eerie throughout.
The first major change to note is they removed Montag’s wife Millie. I greatly disliked this change. As soon as I saw Clarisse, I knew why—they aged her up to be a (soft) love interest for Montag during his awakening point in the story. Even with folding Clarisse into that role, it’s a bad idea. First off, Clarisse’s character is never really that explored so she still ends up much like how she was in the novel: just a person-plotpoint for Montag to start to awaken and realize his natural instincts to resist. Second off, Millie also gave weight to what Montag had to lose and was an example of how much of the ignorance that destroys the mind can come from your very own home. Millie was completely uninterested in any of the things he cared about and eventually ended up leaving him once their home was burned to the ground. We don’t see anything of material value for Montag in the film, so when he’s forced to burn his own home down, it makes us ask “who cares?” The disgrace he suffered was more potent, being shamed in front of the whole country, but the actual house going up in flames did nothing for his character nor his character development. In the novel, he had something to lose, and here all he loses is his status.
The second major change is the real reason I ended up incredibly disappointed in the film: they changed the ending. I know, right? What kind of screenwriter thinks they know better than Ray freaking Bradbury? This is not to say Bradbury is untouchable, but there is a reason we’re still talking about and adapting a novel that came out in 1953. There are so many reasons why the ending of this film doesn’t work and broke my heart after the second half started.
To start, Montag dying rather than Captain Beatty. What makes the least sense about this change is that the film, for the most part, adapts the novel rather faithfully up until the second half. We see Captain Beatty at home writing small quotes from books and struggling with his growing suspicions about Montag. It strikes me as if they were going to go with the original ending but then some smart guy decided it wasn’t good enough and changed their mind. It’s set up with no payoff with Montag sacrificing himself and Beatty killing him. In the novel, Beatty goading Montag into killing him makes sense. He can’t reconcile what he knows to be true and what he’s supposed to do in life and it’s time for it all to end. It also robbed us of what could have been a devastating blow on an emotional level to see Montag kill Beatty.
As mentioned above, Michael B. Jordan and Michael Shannon play off each other ridiculously well. It would have hurt so much to see Montag kill him, and yet we’re given this Stupid Sacrifice moment, capped off with the fact that Beatty had a flamethrower and could have roasted that stupid bird no problem before it got away. (Side note: Have you ever seen how fast feathers burn in heat? The fire wouldn’t have even needed to touch the freaking thing—the convection alone would have roasted it like KFC. And don’t get me started on the continued Hollywood fable of being able to run into a wooden barn that is 90% on fire and you can not only see perfectly, but you don’t even cough. It is the worst kind of myth. Talk to a firefighter for five minutes before y’all keep writing these stupid scenes. Fire is no joke, and smoke kills a lot of people long before the fire does.) Montag shouldn’t have become some kind of Messiah figure. It wasn’t needed. It’s just someone’s bizarre artistic choice. Montag is supposed to represent a lot of things in the book, but a sacrificial figure is not one of them. It doesn’t add anything to the film but a sad ending. We didn’t need it. Montag’s character development has lasted through the ages for a reason. He’s a small beacon of hope that it is possible for someone who was ignorant to see the light and give up his earthly possessions and his false happiness and open his eyes to the world falling apart around and have the desire to stop it even at great cost. This adaptation completely misses the point by turning him into a sacrificial lamb.
Secondly, the entire DNA info bird thing just sounded nonsensical as hell. I hated it. It didn’t make any sense and it sounded like it was just an excuse for them to rattle off book quotes and make the rebels seem grander. It was overcomplicated and it hinged on some amazingly ridiculous things for this plan to work at all.
Thirdly, Montag burning the jealous coworker rather than Beatty also left a bad taste in my mouth, because we had already established that he was disgraced and there was zero weight to that one douchebag tattletale burning to death instead of Beatty. We didn’t’ know him, we didn’t like him, and Montag had zero relationship with him, so it wasn’t shocking or poetic or anything. It’s just a body count. It made Montag a killer, but it didn’t reveal anything about him that we didn’t already know from better elements in the story. It’s just for shock value, and it wasn’t even shocking.
Fourthly, Clarisse’s awkward and sudden departure from the film at the end. Just…why? Why build up the relationship between the two of them and then just drop it cold? She just brushes him off and disappears. Well, what is she going to do? Why did they act like she was central to the story when it completely ignores focusing on her? It honestly would have made more sense to keep it the way it happened in the book with her dying off-screen. Unlike Rando Salamander’s death, it would have greatly affected Montag. Hell, I’ll give you another change if you insist on being so artistic, movie: why not have Beatty force Montag to burn Clarisse? That’s harsh, but it’s another instance that would have left a powerful impact on the viewers and the character. Let’s have Beatty make it ‘either she burns or you burn’ and Montag can’t pull the trigger, so Beatty burns her anyway to teach him a lesson. That still would have given her more agency and a better finish than her just waltzing away from him as if he meant nothing to her.
Lastly, Montag hoarding books but the film doesn’t really get into why. This sounds like the creator’s vision and the book bumping heads once more. Montag appears to hoard them…just to hoard them. The film never explores why. We understand he’s having doubts and we understand his own father was disgraced for hoarding and reading them as well, but the film puts too much distance between the audience and what Montag is thinking. We don’t see into his thoughts and so it just comes off as tossed in there to hint at a deeper meaning that never fully gets addressed. There are other ways Montag shows us that he’s not a mindless robot like the rest of society. The film should have taken time to discuss what these books he kept meant to him and why he risked keeping them.
All in all, it’s not as if the film isn’t trying. The problem is that it’s a Frankenstein’s monster of concepts, cobbled together from Bradbury’s work and the writers/director’s vision. The two don’t perfectly come together as they should, so the message is bungled even though there are superior performances. I don’t know that it’s possible to recommend only half of a movie. I suppose weirder things have happened. It’s mostly worth the botched ending to see Michael B. Jordan act his ass off alongside Michael Shannon, but if you’re a book nerd, the ending will likely drive you crazy. Keep that in mind should you decide to feel the heat.
Is Loki evil?
Doesn’t that sound like such a simple question?
I mean, I could have answered that question quite easily back when we only had two movies to base the evidence on: Thor and the Avengers. Now that we’re at a total of five performances by the lovely Tom Hiddleston, I find myself struggling with evidence for and against this simple little question. It’s sort of made me consider that maybe the idea of good and evil isn’t as clean-cut as I once thought. I’m no stranger to grey area, but Loki has made me examine my own definition of evil now that we’ve gotten a complete scope of who he is as a character over the course of the Thor and MCU franchise. I thought it would be fun to muse over the question and see if I can draw an actual conclusion, or if I’ll remain undecided on the issue.
Naturally, spoilers for every single film in which Loki appears, including Avengers: Infinity War.
Evidence supporting evil:
But not everything.
Evidence against evil:
If we go by actions alone, the bad outweighs the good and Loki is evil. However, how do you define evil? If we go by Webster’s definition, we find that evil is: “morally reprehensible” or “arising from actual or imputed bad character or conduct.” Is evil simply the absence of good? If so, then no, Loki isn’t evil. There is good in him. There’s more bad than good, but it’s still there and in the end he chose to do the right thing rather than defaulting into his old ways. Furthermore, is he evil in part of the story and not in the rest? Possibly, yes. What makes Loki so hard to pin down is the fact that up until Infinity War it’s an ongoing story, so if you pluck him out at certain points, it’s still open for debate what constitutes as evil. He certainly is evil for large chunks of his overall storyline, but when he develops, the picture gets away blurry and hard to describe. In that case, what is the measure of evil? Is it the whole journey or the ending? Can the lives he’s taken be weighed against the lives he’s saved? What tips the balance on the scales of the soul.
I hope you guys know, ‘cause I sure don’t.
All I can safely say is that Loki is complex. He’s mostly bad, but the streak of good in him has honestly saved lives, so it’s hard to throw him away completely as the villain. He’s neither villain nor anti-hero, but just this sassy asshole who straddles the fence.
That's right, chums! The second novel in the Of Cinder and Bone series is now available as an individual title on Amazon. Here's the synopsis in case you need a refresher:
The world's deadliest dragon, the infamous Baba Yaga, is loose on the streets of Tokyo.
Dr. Rhett "Jack" Jackson and Dr. Kamala Anjali have been tasked with helping the government take down a dragon the size of a Tyrannosaurus Rex after it sends part of the city up in flames. Things worsen when they lose track of dragon in none other than Aokigahara, the Suicide Forest--a section of woods in Japan that is rumored to be one of the most haunted places on earth. They've also got the yakuza who cloned the dragon hellbent on getting her back, and they don't care who they kill in order to re-capture the dragon.
Jack and Kamala are joined by CIA field agent William Fry and dragon-hunting expert Juniper Snow as they infiltrate the forest to hunt the dragon before she can hurt anyone else. Between the ruthless yakuza hot on their trail and the growing mistrust in their small hunting party, it will take a miracle for Jack and Kamala to make it out alive...
Read the first chapter here. Add it to your Goodreads To Be Read shelf here.
Now get reading! *cracks whip*
Yep. That was my 2017.
In summary, I have enough perspective to say that 2017 wasn't as bad as 2016 by default because 2016 was nothing but a continuous stream of suckerpunches to everyone's 'nads, and since 2016 set the precedent that everything was going to be awful from now on, we knew to expect nothing but awful things in 2017. That's pretty much what we got, to be honest. It wasn't all bad, but it was pretty much mostly bad, imo.
Still, I was able to snatch just a few happy moments in this dumpster fire of a year that followed up what I considered to be the definitive apocalypse. I was able to go to Los Angeles for a week and run around being silly and doing whatever I wanted. I attended Dragon*Con and met Nathan Fillion, whom I've been crushing on since 2009, as well as Ming Na Wen, Michael Rosenbaum, and Steve Blum. I've managed to sort of dig my book sales out of its shallow grave and nudge it back towards the direction it needs to be in. I wrote a sequel to my science fiction/contemporary fantasy mashup and published an all new novella for The Black Parade series, Back to Black. I was also accepted into an anthology of black sci-fi/urban fantasy based out of Atlanta that'll be hitting your bookshelves later this summer. I moved back to my hometown of Atlanta, GA and have been happy to remember what it feels like to be somewhere comfortable that's also more conducive to my career.
It hasn't been easy. I've been through some stuff this year that I never anticipated and I'm unsure if I'm the better for having endured these kinds of hardships, but I'm happy to have made it out alive. I'm happy that you guys survived it as well and I hope that 2018 treats you even the tiniest bit better than 2017. We still have a hard road ahead for us, but if we stick together, I think we can survive another year of metaphorical 'nad punching by life.
As for the future, 2018 is going to be a weird year. I've got another Of Cinder and Bone novel on the docket for this year, though it will depend on how things go with Of Blood and Ashes in terms of if I'll write and publish the third novel (working title is Of Scales and Shadows, but it's subject to change) this year. Technically, I do one book a year, sometimes two if the situation calls for it, and Of Blood and Ashes came out January 2, 2018 in the Sirens and Scales boxed set, so I've already met my goal for 2018 publications. The third book will still get written, but I guess we'll see what happens throughout the year to determine if I'll publish it in 2018. This year and next year are probably the most flexible years in my writing career, as I have the room to decide what I want to do and where I go from here, since The Black Parade's main novels are done (might do another short story collection someday, stay tuned) and this new series is about to hit its third book.
All I can say is hang in there. I've got some moves to make and I hope you want to be around for the ride.
See you on the salt flats, friends.
The day of reckoning is finally here! The Sirens and Scales boxed set is finally out! Grab yourself a copy of 20+ science fiction and fantasy tales centered around dragons, mermaids, and sirens for only 99 cents, from New York Times, USA Today, and Amazon bestselling authors!
Yes, you read that right. My sci-fi dragon hunting first-in-series has followed in The Black Parade's footsteps of becoming a permanently free title on all sales channels. If you haven't gotten a copy already, please check below for download links and get crackin'. Remember: the more reviews, the more readers. The more readers, the more money. The more money, the more I'm able to write at a faster pace and get new books out every year. If you want more from me, make sure you leave a review and recommend the novel to anyone who might be interested.
Happy holidays, guys! See you in 2018!
Kyoko M is the Amazon bestselling author of The Black Parade and the Of Cinder and Bone series.