Wednesday, 26 September 2012

What Are You Waiting For? Blogfest

So, this is the first time I have ever particpated in a Blogfest! Today is the "What Are You Waiting For?" Blogfest, hosted by Elisabeth Kauffmanover- check out her blog, Fairbetty's World to see other entries!:

You post a 300-word max flash fiction piece in which one of your characters faces a decision and resorts to flipping a coin.

I am working on a rough idea for a sci-fi short story submission for later this year, and so this little piece is based on my character, Shaari.


Shaari stood at the crossroads.  There was little time to make a decision before her pursuers caught up, and she was panicking.

To the left, the road wound back into the canyons, into the Ganyx town.  Before this day she would not have hesitated down that path, without giving the right a backward glance.  There, her people had their dwellings, markets and businesses set up in a warren of stalls and caverns.  In the past, she would have been welcome; maybe she still would be.  Maybe even a shamaness would not be regarded with suspicion.  But after the attack, she was unsure of who to trust.

But to the right…

She’d seen the Fetyx cities only a few times.  She had always thought them ugly and cold- monstrously huge buildings of gleaming black metal and glass, sparkling in the darkness.  Huge spires pierced the heavens; she could barely regard it a city. 

Her pursuers would not follow her into the Fetyx city.  Ganyx and Fetyx always regarded each other as alien and segregated themselves.  She had once seen Fetyx peoples- tall pale beings with dark eyes, forever laced into bio-mechanical suits.  It was these suits, their life without true skin-to-skin contact that always led Ganyx to see them as abominations.

But as Shaari rapidly considered her dwindling options, it occurred to her that regardless of their differences, Ganyx and Fetyx were all still human.  So now she had to choose…sacrifice safety for familiarity, or sacrifice any comfort for a stronger chance of escape?

She fumbled in her pouch- a copper coin.  The circle side would be for the left, the lined side for the right.  Hands shaking, she tossed the coin; she could not be sure whether or not she felt dread or relief as the line came down face-up…

Tuesday, 25 September 2012


Synaesthesia is something very difficult to explain to people who don't have it in one way or another themselves, and I only became aware of what it was a few years ago.  Until I knew what it was, I always assumed that other people felt songs and music had "colour" and that numbers and even time periods were percieved in ribbons and shapes.

While not everyone percieves the world in this way, many other people do, and so I've decided, prompted by fellows who also see music in shape and colour, to share this on my blogs.  You see, when I wrote notes for music reviews, I have a tendency to put the colour down in my notes as well...I'll write something about the instruments, the vocals, the feel, and then "blue-green" or "glittery gold" or "pink and purple rain" or something equally apparently nonsensical!  It never ends up in the music reviews, because that would just sound crazy :P

But I may post little notes about what else I've noted when doing music reviews and the like, just for fun, and if anyone else thinks that they may have synaesthesia and would like to join in, then go ahead! :)

In the meantime, if you're interested in synaesthesia, check out the wikipedia link:
(PS I loathe to call it a "condition" because that almost sounds like there's something wrong your brain.  Its never done me any harm, although I will admit that it is difficult to perform mental maths when you're trying to add up coloured ribbons :P )

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

What am I doing at the moment?

I have been super busy recently, and even though I only just set up this blog, I haven't really had much time to work on it (I'm hoping to change that shortly!).  But there has been lots going on recently!

I'm currently working on 2 short stories to send off (and the deadline for one is on Monday- eek!), and I'm also diving back into art and scribbling away.  I am designing some wedding invitations for family at the moment, and I want them to be perfect, so its requiring a lot of my attention.

When things calm down, I'm hoping to write a book review post of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, so that I can say I review good books I actually like as well ;)

At the moment, I'm just so stoked about writing, getting my short story "Alone In The Dark" published in Siren's Call eZine, and the upcoming FEAR anthology by Crooked Cat that will also feature my short story "Candlelight".  Now I'm furiously typing away with hopes of more success!  This is only the beginning!

Right, off to do a lot more work!  I think I'll need a holiday soon!

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Book Review: Fifty Shades Darker

This review was also originally posted on my Tumblr blog: , and this review in particular was very scathing.  I had tried my best to be fair with Fifty Shades of Grey, but there was no way I could fluff up this book and review it postively.

I don't actually give ratings (I give verdicts), but if I did, I'm sure I would have quoted the Gerbil from Joe Cartoon and said "I give this two thumbs down and a fart."

Maybe the next time I do a review, it'll actually be for a good book ;)

I’ve been writing reviews and articles for EGL Magazine ( You can follow us on Tumblr too!) for some time now, and I don’t think I’ve ever written such a negative review.
I ended the Fifty Shades of Grey review by saying that its sequel, Fifty Shades Darker, had a promising start…and that is true. I also said that I had decided to lower my expectations, that I was just going to enjoy a veg-out book to curl up with, maybe get a little naughty thrill and guilty pleasure out of, without expecting too much of it.
So why, oh why, am I still utterly disappointed with this book? It’s more of a disappointment than its predecessor!
There was so much promise, so much potential! This book picks up literally where the previous left off, in such a way that I was actually slightly annoyed to begin with, as it has carried on with absolutely no time period in between, and the way that the little bitch-fit from the end of the first book is resolved literally later that week made me inwardly groan. It served to make the (admittedly) unexpected actions at the end of the previous book look less pivotal and significant, and had pretty much turned it all into a childish, teenage tantrum. But, we are able to gloss over that, as we have other things being presented to us to make up for that, right?
Oh, these promises are certainly dangled temptingly in our faces; two different coinciding plots involving the potential for some real, compelling conflict begin very quickly; I was genuinely intrigued. One plotline actually was rather tense and almost frightening, and the other seemed more covert, dark, underlining. I was actually expecting the latter to be more serious and dynamic, rising from the shadow of the distraction that was the first plot. I would tell you what I thought was coming, but E L James might want to steal the idea from me (not to mention, it would grossly spoil that for you, and I am trying to avoid that).
And for a good three quarters of the book, I was turning pages eagerly to see how those conflicts and plots would be resolved, how they would culminate in excitement and climatic drama- they certainly had all the foundation for it…but then it all fizzled out with all the pathetic splutter of a crappy wet firework.
When the first conflict was resolved, I still kept going, flipping through pages of repetitive immature arguments, clichés and not-exactly-stunning sex-scenes, eager to see what happened next. Then the second was resolved with little climax and only a small amount of amusement. I had expected something much darker and drawn out, and then it was all over, and we were just left with a bare skeleton of a story, which had basically become a bunch of childish lovers’ tiffs and idiocy.
Ana and Christian seem to be perpetually having the same discussion and getting no further in it. You forget that such a short period of time has truly passed- I’m ready to admit that disagreements in my love life tend to follow certain patterns, but my fiancé and I certainly don’t have the same argument everyday over the period of a week, apparently resolving the issue, and then re-dressing it again the very next morning. This is basically what Ana keeps doing, and while I understand that her position is supposed to somewhat uncertain and overwhelming, she has become an extremely irritating character because of her apparent forgetfulness when regarding conversations with Christian. Some sentences seem to be repeated almost word-for-word, and I’ve lost much of my sympathy and support for this couple.
The dialogue, such a relative strong point in the previous volume, doesn’t seem as witty and real-to-life as before- it is contrived and- here it is again- repetitive! It’s not even a case of it becoming just corny or predictable; Ana no longer seems as clever and sardonic anymore, and has turned into something of a vacuous bimbo, completely not noticing things as blatant as repeated block-capital letters reminding her yet again that she ought to use her Blackberry at work and to not keep using her surveyed work-email (and yes, it was a plot device in the end, but I had no sympathy for her, and was itching to smack her across her stupid face). Also, I am now utterly sick of the saying “Mighty fine” and I might punch someone if I hear it in real life ever again.
And what’s more, the sex did absolutely nothing for me this time around! It involved very little of the kinky BDSM element, and while that wasn’t necessarily a problem, so much had been built around that element that without it, the erotic scenes fell flat. They still could have been steamy, but once again, felt clichéd. The rather tacked-on involvement of a spreader bar was weak and the inclusion of anal sex was distinctly uncomfortable; and once again, Ana has done yet another U-turn She was very uncomfortable with the notion of anal sex to begin with, and then totally goes along with what Christian wants after he rather romantically tells her that he wants “own” every part of her…last time I heard a man say he wanted to “own” an orifice, I don’t believe it was a romantic statement! My personal feelings aside, I really don’t feel that Christian (and in effect, James herself) really tackles the suggestion tactfully or considerately.
And that thing that had been niggling me during the last book, the implication that only fucked-up people could enjoy BDSM or fetish- well James has gone one step further, by actually using the word “depravity” on more than one occasion to describe Christian Grey’s tastes. In fact, the further development of Christian’s back story serves to hammer this flawed notion home, and while I should have been sympathising for him, I was instead feeling insulted at the suggestion that a kinky sex-life must indicate being absolutely messed up. Learning more about Christian’s motivations was quite important, but I couldn’t help but think that he now seemed more akin to a stereotypical serial-killer instead of a tortured soul. He is more detestable than before, despite some serious attempts to show his truly vulnerable side. There was one scene were he really does tug your heartstrings genuinely, but this one tiny spit of gem was far from enough to save the character- and the writing- from my contempt.
I found the last quarter of the book ridiculously hard to read. It dragged, and I was frustrated from disappointment, bad writing and un-engaging plots. One “major” event was so sadly clichéd and predictable that it almost hurt to read it, and it seriously felt like the book totally ran out of steam. Then another event was put in…it really ought to have been hugely emotional and revealing…well it was revealing alright! Everything regarding that little plot “twist” was concluded within a matter of pages and left me yawning. In any other book, it would have served as another sharp exhilarating bend in the roller coaster, but James clearly lacks the skill to lay down a plot well, or use even exciting events to her advantage.
Then suddenly, in what basically felt like the last five minutes (I do know that I only had a sliver pages left to battle through), a whole bunch of things kicked off- two more potential conflicts, both done and dusted with ridiculously quickly, the first feeling absolutely pointless, and the second feeling utterly ill-timed. And then tacked on rather shamelessly at the end was a passage to indicate that an earlier antagonist was not out of the picture. That was predictable also, but the tag-on to the end of an otherwise non-climatic narrative is a shameless hook to keep readers going. James seems to promise action and dynamism in the next volume after utterly failing to deliver them where needed.
I am not looking forward to reading the next book at all, although I am sure I will end up doing so, mainly out of politeness to the kind colleague who has been lending the books to me. However, as it seems I am reviewing these books now, perhaps my reviews can actually save some of you poor souls from this book at least.
My conclusion so far? Fifty Shades of Grey was weak, but enjoyable on some levels. It is a guilty pleasure, and I don’t entirely regret having read it. Fifty Shades Darker on the other hand is seriously the worst book I have read willingly. It starts out so promisingly- if it had fulfilled all those promises, it would have been, like its predecessor, okay! I was actually enjoying the first third or so of the book until I realised that I had built my expectations overwhelmingly high- but hey, can you blame me? I read the likes of Gaiman and Rowling, and other authors who know how to write!
I really shouldn’t be so frustrated over this, but I feel like I defended the first book- it’s not a great book, and for me, the hook (the BDSM) wasn’t shocking and new, but I was able to sit and enjoy the book. I was even very able to see the appeal of it. I was actually looking forward to this book as well, in the same way you might look forward to watching a veg-out movie at the end of a long week. Fifty Shades Darker led me up the garden path with all the build up to something really engaging and then it all fell flat.
I could tell myself that Fifty Shades Freed will be better…unlike the end of Fifty Shades of Grey, there really is a cliff-hanger of sorts, rather than an abrupt end. This really should indicate something worth noting will happen in the next book. But with how truly abysmal E L James’ writing ability is turning out to be, I won’t hold my breath.
Verdict: Better suited for toilet paper.
(Images are not mine, this review only reflects my own opinion, and is written for entertainment)

Book Review: Fifty Shades of Grey

This review, I originally post on my Tumblr blog , and looking back now, and seeing how my review for Fifty Shades Darker turned out, this review actually came out a little too kindly! 

Since I bought the book myself (boo!), I've been lending it to friends so they don't have to waste their money on this...

I hadn’t really been intrigued by the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy until I saw the pretty front covers for the two later volumes- yes, yes, I know we shouldn’t judge books by their covers, but clever marketing does seem to ensure that we will!  With a silver masquerade mask on one and a silver filigree key on the other, the aesthetic choice was very appealing to the Goth in me.  However, I don’t buy a book based on how pretty the cover is, and I found the blurb to be very unrevealing.  It wasn’t until a colleague of mine had told me how much she had enjoyed it that my interest was piqued.  She told me upfront about the kinky, BDSM element to the story, and as someone with an interest in fetish, I decided I’d give it a look-see. 
 It was only very shortly after beginning the book that I heard some of the more negative reviews, and I’ll be honest- I can see why some of those reviews are negative. 
The book doesn’t begin badly, and as the “surprise” element had already been revealed to me, I was expecting something quirky, like the movie The Secretary.  In all honesty though, it feels a little more like The Secretary-meets-Twilight.  It didn’t shock me like it seemed to intend to, and there were quite a few similarities to Stephanie Meyer’s vampire novels.   
I have read the Twilight series- my opinion of them is for another day, but to sum it up, I think they are neither as bad nor as good as the haters and the fans respectively say.  In this, Fifty Shades is very much the same.  It has its good and bad.  But similarities do not end there- for starters, Fifty Shades is set in a very similar part of the US to Twilight (mostly northern Pacific West Coast).  Main character Anastasia Steele does bear some similarity to Bella Swan- brunette, slightly awkward, inexperienced, slightly dysfunctional parents, clumsy and annoyingly unaware of her own attractiveness.  In turn, Christian Grey does put me in mind of vampire Edward Cullen. 
Sadly, another similarity is sloppy writing. 
I need to be fair- the writing isn’t terrible, but then again I have read far worse.  The book begins relatively well, and the use of present-tense prose is daring, but not poorly executed.  However, this unconventional method is not a common first choice for most authors for a reason, as it can often be awkward and un-flowing, as well as feeling a little unnatural.  For the most part, however, James makes the best of it, although it can make the passage of time more forgettable.  Although I commend James for this unconventional writing style, there does seem to be something lacking.  I think it would be fair to say that James has potential as a writer, but I feel she could do with more practice. 
Things happen relatively quickly, and I did find this a generally comfortable read.  It wasn’t un-enjoyable, and it was quite quick and easy to read, but it is with prolonged reading that flaws become more evident.  Some of the non-erotic scenes felt almost irrelevant, almost put in place just to give an actual passage of time between sex scenes.  The lack of conflict just seemed to present the story as a series of sexual encounters punctuated with some day-to-day tasks. To be honest, after a while, this book is very much riding on the sex scenes, which are quite hot, but even they become clichéd and contrived.  They try very hard to be super hot and kinky, but they became somewhat predictable and almost…scheduled, right down to the pillow talk Ana and Christian use toward one another. 
The sex scenes themselves were very steamy, but in all honesty, I have read far dirtier (heck, I’m going to admit that during my teenage “fan fiction” phase, Ive written far dirtier!).  They did not shock me as much as the reviews had promised, and I found the fetish element relatively light.  Perhaps this is because I already have an interest and some knowledge in the scene and the book is aimed at women who, like Ana Steele, are completely uninitiated in it.  But I also suspect that the reason behind this, for me, was that it was a little unbelievable; it feels, for me, that James’ experience boils down to research on Wikipedia (which is also suggested to Ana in the narrative), but nothing personal.  In fact for me, the most erotic moment in the book involved a very passionate kiss in an elevator that did not conclude in a sex scene; it felt quite real, and was really quite hot!
The characters aren’t terribly fleshed out, although not terrible in themselves.  It is, however hard to connect with the characters outside of the main affair, and I found I could take or leave all supporting characters.  Ana is cute and likeable, bright and witty, despite being amusingly prone to brain-to-mouth-filter failure, but what bothers me is the rather clichéd tactic of giving the desirable heroine a complete lack of understanding of her own desirability and- even worse- an “adorable” clumsy streak.  While many ducklings do become swans and take a long time to realise is, the tactic is overused or not cleverly utilised by writers today (especially romance writers), and the ability to conveniently fall over like a drunken prat at the strategic moment is not something I personally admire in my heroines!   
What makes Ana more annoying and less believable is a very contradictive attitude towards sex.  At the beginning of the book, she is a twenty-one-year-old virgin, but within a few days, she is not only no longer a virgin, but has indulged in some eyebrow-raising sexual acts that some people may not be aware exist!  I find this set up extremely conflicting with her own behaviour and attitude towards sexuality…if she truly is such a monogamous “waiting-for-the-right-guy” kind of gal, why does she jump into bed with the questionable Mr Grey after only a matter of a few days? Going from my own experiences, it seems very unlikely to me; sorry to say it, but a girl who has clung onto her virginity that long does not relinquish it so readily for an almost complete stranger who has already demonstrated “stalker tendencies”, and certainly would be more anxious about doing so.  She seems to be completely unconcerned by any complications or unknowns, unlike a real virgin. 
I can believe that virginity was a way for James to portray the innocence and naivety of the character, in which case, it was another example of lazy writing, as it actually makes less sense in the long run.  Also, I find it highly unlikely that she has highly convenient day-long periods with minimal bleeding and cramps (you’ll see what I mean- menstruation has to be short for convenient sex scenes after all!).  I also suspect James had very little personal understanding of how the contraceptive pill actually works. 
Christian Grey is potentially an Edward Cullen rip-off, going by the vague description, moodiness and convenient access to all sorts of lovely material goods such as flash cars and helicopters.  At times, I found him an extremely dislikeable character, even more so than Edward, because he is more arrogant, privileged and controlling, and at first seemed without an evidently sorrowful element to make it more palatable.  However, later on, Christian’s vulnerability is revealed, giving far more depth to the character, prompting me to want to find out more about his motivations.  Sadly, at times he seems to only fill the role of a one-dimensional, lady’s wet dream of a character.  I can’t truly picture his face because James seems to think continuously describing him as “beyond handsome” is enough of a description.  I’m sure it could be argued that giving him the background as an adopted millionaire with vast sums of wealth is to show that he’s hard working and successful, but also not truly a dream catch because of his personality flaws. Instead it only seems to serve the image of a distorted dream boy crush, a pure fantasy, who has anything he wants. 
As already mentioned, I don’t feel that James’ research into BDSM and fetish lifestyle was particularly in depth, as it feels that perhaps she has only used a few sources, and not taken from real life experience.  The sort of relationship she has set up rarely works as such in the real world, and I also strongly dislike the implication that people with such particular kinks are somehow “fucked up”, as it were.  From my own personal experience, and from knowing several loving couples (actual couples, not just playmates), this is something they do for fun in the bedroom.  They may extend a scene outside of the bedroom as part of the game, but it does not dominate their everyday, regular life in an unhealthy fashion. 
A stronger element of the writing was the dialogue, which was the most natural part of the narrative, and was very amusing in places.  The back-and-forth banter via email produced some genuine chuckles, and managed to flow very realistically in some places.  However, the conclusion was somewhat bewildering.  It would seem the lack of conflict prompted the ending, but suddenly, everything does an almost inexplicable one-eighty, and abruptly finishes.  It has compelled many readers to continue with the series quickly, including myself, but also left me feeling annoyed at such a lazy ending- I’m left feeling a bit cheated.  I’m now reading Fifty Shades Darker (which has been lent to me by my colleague), and it has literally picked up where it left off in such a way that it feels more like reading an extended ending or next chapter rather than another book. 
So to sum things up, I think I have been rather critical about Fifty Shades of Grey, and I’ll be honest- I’m very glad I didn’t pay full price, and I don’t think this will be a volume I will read repeatedly, if again.  But at worse it was only mediocre, with the potential for more.  Ultimately, I was a little disappointed as I had been expecting something far more grown up, containing real conflict, but it feels far more like a “first love” story.  It isn’t a terrible book, but by now, we should all know that a book that is really making waves for its erotica is not going to be a masterpiece.  And there’s nothing wrong with smut, I just don’t like it dressed up to be something it isn’t! 
But on the upside, I am now borrowing Fifty Shades Darker (I didn’t want to pay out again!) and so far, there is promise of more engaging narrative, substance, actual conflict and consequence!  I hope I’m not setting myself up for disappointment, so for now I’ll settle for a fluffy book to curl up and relax with, rather than expect a challenge…it may end up surprising me.    
Verdict: Borrow from a friend of the library, don’t pay full price.
(Disclaimer: images are not mine, and this review expresses my own personal opinions, and written for fun).

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

My new blog!

Hello everyone, this is my new blog!  I have recently started trying to reach out and have gotten myself fixed up with Tumblr and Twitter, and thought I'd add a new blog/networking tool to my collection!

For those who don't know me (although at this point, I'm sure the only people who are reading this have been directed here by myself already XD), I am a fantasy and horror writer, and my name is Laura E Brown.  I am also known as Blackavar, a name I've been using online for a couple of years now.

I am a writer and artist, and have just embarked on a fiction-writing career.

I have been a writer for online alternative lifestyle magazine, EGL Magazine, since October 2010, in which time I have learned a lot of writing skills, written reviews and articles, and even gotten to interview some really fab people (including the likes of Emilie Autumn and Joe Black). 

I am also an artist, although my DeviantArt account remains somewhat neglected in recent years (unfortunately, there seems to be a virusy ad stuck on my gallery.  If anyone wants to take a risk and look, my username there is chibi-black-rabbit). 

I have designed tattoos, apprenticed briefly as a tattooist, and created artwork and illustrations for local musicians, created wedding stationary, plenty of commissions for friends and family, and also provided illustrations for EGL Magazine.  I am open to commissions, and my specialities include (but are not limited to) fantasy, comic, tattoo, pin-up, portrait and analytical drawing.

I have recently been published as an author for the very first time- my short story "Alone in the Dark", features in Siren's Call Publication's August edition eZine.  I have another short story, "Candlelight", due to appear in Crooked Cat Publishing's Halloween Anthology, FEAR, later this year.

Sometimes, for fun, I like to post book reviews on my blog, and I am a guest writer for dreamy girl's blog I Dream With Alice, run by musician Becky Jerams.

As you may have noticed, I have something of a rabbit-theme going on ;)

So that's pretty much me in a nutshell.  Please check out the links below leading to my other networking tools/profiles/sites etc, see my work for yourself, and spread the love!