Image Comics: Age of Auteurism

“You’re not a real geek if you don’t read comic books.”

If I had a dollar for every time this sentiment, or something like it, has been spat at a female geek by some ignoramus, I could retire in style and have enough left to form a kick-ass, “let’s get more girls in STEM” charity. There’s nothing geeks love more than to accuse some newbie of not knowing the secret handshake (see: #Gamergate). So, I’m hear to say it, loud and proud: I am a geek, and I do not read comic books!

Except… now I kind of do. And it’s all because of the stellar, creator-driven output of Image Comics.

First, let’s backtrack a bit. It’s not that I’ve never, ever read any comic books in my life. I had a brief flirtation with Wonder Woman in the late ’80s. I remember a Twilight Zone-like horror comic that I picked up at random at the library and which scarred me for life (seriously, I remember every suffocating panel of that thing). A few years ago, I read an article on Alan Moore and decided to finally read Watchmen, which, if you haven’t read it, drop what you’re doing now and Go. Read. It. That book is the blueprint for everything that’s come before it and after, and better than whatever the next generation will dream up. I also somehow fell into Y: The Last Man, and didn’t come up for air until I had read every last one (Filmmakers: Jennifer Carpenter is still young enough to play Hero!). That is when I discovered the beautiful mind of Brian K. Vaughan.

Before the holidays this year, I was reading The Mary Sue’s geek gift guide when, lo and behold, they recommend a new comic series by Brian K. Vaughan called Saga. And that, friends, is when I fell down the rabbit hole.

Saga and many other awesome comic book titles are published not by the big two, Marvel and DC, but by the number three comic book publisher, Image Comics. But unlike the big two rivals that we never stop hearing about–especially now that their Greeks vs. Trojans-level war has bled into their own respective cinematic universes–Image gives their creators free reign to let their imaginations go wild. They also allow them to own the rights to their comics and characters, something Marvel and DC would never permit (understandably, since it would be insane to let a single comics writer own Batman or Captain America). Much like the great auteurs of the cinema, this gives these writer/artist pairings the leeway to create original, complex, and fantastical worlds, full of multi-faceted characters of every color, gender, sexual orientation, or creed under the sun–or, you know, the three moons of Endor.

(Calm down, I know Endor doesn’t have three moons. It sort of is a moon. Maybe. The cannon is unclear.)

Image titles have women who equal men in their power, ferocity, and flaws—like in ODY-C, a phantasmagorical re-writing of the Odyssey by gender-switching the characters. People of color who are regularly cover stars—like in the pop fantasia The Wicked + The Divine. Queer characters—like the many trans characters in the dystopia Trees. Female creators allowed to push things to the limit—like in Kelly Sue DeConnick’s new series set in a woman’s prison in outer space, Bitch Planet.

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Take Saga, a space opera with imagination to spare and themes as profound as any play by Shakespeare. Specifically, it references Romeo & Juliet in its story of two lovers from warring civilizations who have found each other despite cultural differences and being force-fed propaganda about the other since birth. But Alana and Marko are only the beginning of the story, which spans across galaxies but always stays with the impromptu family at its heart. It has warrior mommies, TV-headed closeted alien princes with short fuses, a disembowelled ghost nanny, a lie-detector cat, a tree spaceship, and just about the ugliest-looking spider assassin woman your worst nightmares couldn’t dream up. Most of all, it’s the story of two houses, both alike in savagery, who have been fighting so long that they couldn’t stop even if they could see the end of the conflict. But it’s so much more, and artist Fiona Staples jam-packs each frame with such atmosphere it’s as if you’re dreaming her panels, not reading them.

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I also picked up Sex Criminals, a bawdy and hilarious title by their number two go-to guy, Matt Fraction, and artist Chip Zdarsky. The best way to describe it is as some kind of X-rated rom-com noir, with a female lead character who is in charge of her own sexuality and is not shamed for it. If anything, she’s actually more in control and self-aware than her male love interest (no, that is not one enormous typo). The premise is insane (and I won’t spoil it), the artistry is moody and sensual—but best of all, it’s hella funny.
Whether your jam is personal stories or fantastical allegories, space tragedies or pop culture philosophizing, I’m betting there’s something here to tickle your synapses. Diversity. Originality. Author-controlled creative works with no boundaries save the limits of imagination. These are the kinds of stories we’re always begging Hollywood for. Well, Hollywood better get in line.

So, what are you waiting for? Dive in!

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Five Things I’m Loving Right Now

This post is an act of thievery. I fully confess the crime. One of the things I look forward to seeing on my reader the most is one of Josh Lanyon’s occasional “Five Things I Love/Am Grateful For” posts (read the latest here), because I am all about sharing the love. I love that he shares his loves, and I love to share my loves. So get ready! (And apologies to Josh for the pick-pocketing.)

I am, to put it mildly, an enthusiastic person when I latch on to something great. I tell everyone I know about it (my friends can attest to this; I usually tell them at least five times each). I shout it from the rooftops. When I’m enamored by a person, place, or thing, I am like a cheerleader punch-drunk on pep and a gallon of Red Bull.

But.

These infatuations of mine usually have a shelf life. Exclusivity + frequency – availability / distraction X work overload, or something. This is not to say that I stop loving these things–far from it–but that my enthusiasm powers down enough to let something else shove a spoke into the hamster wheel that is my brain. All this to say that, every so often on this blog, I’ll write a post about some things that I love. But I’m giving it a little twist so that the lovely Mr. Lanyon doesn’t sue (please don’t, I’m a writer. I literally have some sunflower seeds and a 15-year-old TV to my name), in that these are five things I’m loving right now. As in, if you see me this time next week, I’ll still like them. But I (probably) won’t go full-on Tracy Flick on your ass.

So, without further ado, here are Five Things I’m Loving Right Now:

1. It seems fitting to get the party started with the author who inspired it all. One of the first M/M anthologies I ever read was His For The Holidays, because I am a sucker for holiday-themed romance at Christmas time. I am normally one of the biggest bah-humbugers of all time, so the fact that I love nothing more during my few late-December days off than to cozy up with a cuppa and a smutty Christmas tale confounds me. But it’s truly one of my great loves of the season. I quickly hunted down Men Under the Mistletoe for the same reason. But the past few Christmases, there haven’t been such anthologies–or maybe just not of that caliber.

This year, Santa has been especially nice because this Sunday, the anthology Comfort and Joy is being released. It features the estimable Mr. Lanyon, as well as my faves Harper Fox, Joanna Chambers, and L.B. Gregg. Four presents for the price of one! If I read one a week, it’ll be like a literary advent calendar. But who am I kidding? I’m waiting for my Boxing Day mug of chai.

2. The Flash/Arrow crossover episodes, “Flash Vs. Arrow” and “The Brave and the Bold”.

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Best crossover in TV history. Exciting, angsty, and funny as hell, featuring hot guys in tight leather, science-girl power, scintillating sidekicks, formidable foes, and some touching, thrilling writing. If you’re not watching these shows, binge from the start!

3. London theater on demand. I thought it was a dream come true when I could go to my local cinema and see productions by the National Theatre live, like the incredible version of Frankenstein Danny Boyle directed, featuring Benedict Cumberbatch and Johnny Lee Miller. Now there’s a web site that has a library of older productions you, like me, might have missed because… Oh, you live thousands of miles away and barely get a vacation every two years, if you’re lucky. Well, lady fortune has whammied you today, my theater-loving friends, because you can now watch “the best of British theater” in your jammies! Just subscribe to Digital Theatre, and let the streaming begin! It does cost a wee little something… but a lot less than a trip to London and a ticket, even from the half-price booth in Leicester Square.

4. This Medieval Princess Bathrobe from Think Geek. Because don’t we all want to pretend we’re Galadriel every once in a while?

5. I won’t often use this space to self-promote or talk about personal things, since it’s meant to be an exercise in fun, but I have just put out a new book and, as a consequence, I’ve had to confront some experiences that I’d been dreading for months. Namely, the reaction of my friends and family when they discovered I write M/M, and exactly what that means. I think most bookish introvert types like myself can relate to the fact that few of our online adventures spill into the real world, especially if you have a family that has very rigid/conservative ideas about things (I don’t mean that in the political sense). The point of it all is that it’s your private play time (though of course a lot of good can be done in the process) and people in your real life don’t know that much, if anything, about it. This was the case for me.

But when you publish a book, well, how can you keep that a secret? Especially from the people who love you. When I decided to focus on writing M/M, I knew that one day I would no longer be able to hide behind my computer. That actual living, breathing people I talk to on a regular basis would learn about this side-profession of mine, and I’d have to talk to them about it in the flesh. I should mention that I am not in any way ashamed of what I do. But I confess I was a bit nervous about how this all would play out.

Turns out, I didn’t need to be. My uncle joked that he wanted me to start writing M/F/F and my sister read some of the sex scenes to her friend over the phone. When I tried to hedge by saying that I know it’s weird, my sister corrected me and said it’s not. My mom read the book in two days and loved it. Something that had me quaking in my boots turned out to be no trouble at all, and I am so very grateful for that.

Hopefully you can find something in there to inspire you!

Selina 😀

Like Stars Out Now!!

Friends,

Once upon a time, on a sun-drenched balcony in Nicaragua, on what for them was considered a ‘cool’ day, I decided I couldn’t dither with this book idea any longer and started to write Like Stars. I still have those first sweat-mired pages, though their scribblings little resemble the actual first chapter of the book (mostly because my handwriting, then as now, is illegible). Still, the architecture is there. A hooded man rides through the dulcet town of Haversham. Dr. Wesley Douglas thinks he’s seeing a ghost–the ghost of his long-dead lover–and is shocked to the core. The game, as they say, is afoot.

That was hardly the beginning of my journey as a writer, and the publication of the book is hardly the end, but for me, it was the moment I got serious about living my dream. It was the moment that led to today, one of the best days of my life.

Like Stars is on sale now!

Here are the buy links:

MLR Press (I will shamelessly say that I make the biggest royalty if you by it here, directly from the publisher, which offer both ePub and Kindle-friendly formats and all the necessary instructions. Just remember to scroll down the purchase page for details.) http://www.mlrbooks.com/ShowBook.php?book=SKLIKSTR

All Romance eBooks (this has a greater variety of formats): https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-likestars-1681035-340.html

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Like-Stars-Selina-Kray-ebook/dp/B00PM6TQRU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1415998270&sr=8-1&keywords=selina+kray

And if, after you read it, you felt like showing me some star love or writing a review on GoodReads, I wouldn’t complain: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23561956-like-stars?from_search=true

I couldn’t have done any of this without the support of all my family and friends, my writing group, the amazing staff at MLR Press, especially Laura, Kris, and my editor Jen, and all of the incredibly dedicated bloggers who helped me organize the tour and were so generous with their time: JJ, Marc, Evaine, Dani, Mark, Brandilyn, and Ëresse.

What started so many years ago is now yours to enjoy. I hope you end up loving Wesley and Nathaniel as much as I do.

Much love,
Selina 😀

Like Stars Blog Tour Schedule!

Beautiful Friends,

*Deep breath.* So, we are less than a week away from the start of the Like Stars Blog Tour and two weeks away from the release of Like Stars! My 14-year-old self can’t believe I just typed those words. My XX-year-old self would like to reassure you that this is the second-to-last post about the book unless something mega happens. But if you can’t promo your book on your own blog, where can you promo it, right? Well, see below. All that to say, thank you for your patience.

But I do think that the posts I’ve written for the blog tour will be of interest to you, and I hope that you’ll learn a little more about the book, about me, and about some of the things that obsess and confound me along the way. Also, a brief programming note to say that links will be updated to the actual posts once they are on the respective web sites. So, without further ado, here is the schedule:

Nov. 7th – Joyfully Jay hosts a discussion of the Mysterious Stranger trope

Nov. 10th – I’m at Rainbow Gold Reviews asking: When is a comet not a comet? (Kind of a trick question, this)

Nov. 11th – The ladies of Coffee and Porn host an introduction to the ladies of Like Stars

-And the kind folks at Love Bytes let me talk about Inspiration

Nov. 12th – How can you miss a post entitled the Eroticism of Edwardian fashion at Sinfully Sexy Books, with visuals?

-The penultimate stop is a discussion of Perspective at Prism Book Alliance

Nov. 13th – At the lovely Eressë’s Live Journal, the tour concludes with a post about the tale of Martin Guerre on which the book is based.

A huge thank you to everyone who so generously agreed to host this tour! There will be giveaways at every single stop on the tour, so don’t miss out! 😀

-Selina

Announcing: Like Stars, Historical M/M Romance Out November 14th, 2014!!

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Friends,

It is my tremendous pleasure to officially announce that one month from today, November 14th, 2014, my first novel, Like Stars, a historical erotic M/M romance, will be published by MLR Press! The cover you can check out above, the blurb and the trailer below. I am doing a Blog Tour from November 7th to the 14th, with details about posts, giveaways, and other fun stuff to follow. I hope you will all join me in celebrating the release of Like Stars!!

The blurb:

What if your true love walked back into your life five years after his death?

Nathaniel Thredgold has finally returned from the war. Or has he? His lover, Wesley Douglas, isn’t sure. Wesley must put aside his engagement, his disbelief, and his anger to give his professional opinion. The truth about their relationship isn’t an option. But is this stranger really the Ravensworth heir and Wesley’s long-lost love? When your heart’s at stake, there’s no room for doubt.

Set in the Edwardian era, Like Stars is a tale of mysterious identities, scandalous family secrets, and lovers in a dangerous time.

Many thanks to the kind folks at MLR Press for making this possible, and to Michelle Cary for the amazing cover art! It’s such a thrill to finally be able to tell you all the good news!

-Selina 😀

Last Night at Chapters Centre-Ville

The man who entered the four-storey-spanning glass elevator looked like any other: corduroys, boots, trench, scarf. Male pattern baldness. But as the doors shut and the car began its ascent, it was like being locked in a peep show booth, except he was the star of the show, his own private dancer. He dropped his pants, loosed his privates, spread his arms wide, and started to… pee. And dance. And pee. And dance. On the glass walls, for everyone to see.

The employees at Chapters Centre-Ville Montreal, of which I was one for almost four years, came to know him, not surprisingly, as the Dancing Pee Guy. He was one of our less savory regulars, and the bane of J. on the second floor’s existence, for obvious reasons. Involving a bucket, a mop, and a whole bottle of Windex.

My station was the information desk, a sort of mini-fort beside the cash. It was, to my mind, the best of both worlds. Proximity to the cash significantly reduced boredom, which happened when you were alone on one of the upper floors with little to do. The hub of the store, it gave you the chance to interact with customers, managers, guests, and fellow employees from all the other departments. For every pithy interaction with someone who couldn’t understand why a book with the word ‘hospital’ in the title might be hard to search for, there were the hours spent with serious book-lovers, discussing philosophy, art, literature, cinema.

Our store was special. For one, it looked like an old-fashioned library, all faux mahogany stacks and attractive but uncomfortable chairs. Little nooks that became your oasis on a snowy day. Unlike the Indigo down the street, it was a haven for artists who needed a day job that didn’t entirely stifle their souls and grad students who didn’t want to just punch a clock while they completed their degrees. We were, as a group, way too smart of their own good. I spent many a break involved in a passionate debate in the staff room, many a weekend going to someone’s poetry reading, concert, or exhibition. These people knew their books—if you knew what you wanted, they would give their all to find it for you, even if that meant a special order or calling another store. Of course there were nights where we dicked around—what’s the point of having a retail job if you can’t occasionally dick around?—but we were devoted, to the books if not always to the company.

We resisted the top brass’ desire to cut down on books and amp up the home decor section for as long as possible. When we found out that the web site was selling a book by a local psychologist that explained how to de-program gays, the staff—a good 50% of which were LGBTQ—collectively wrote a letter of complaint to the CEO (Chapters-Indigo famously has a policy against carrying hate literature). Ditto decorating the entire first floor in rainbow balloons for pride.

It wasn’t all sunshine and roses, of course. There were break-ins and broken hearts. You grew to love some books so much you’d pimp them to every customer (Shadow of the Wind), but despise others simply because of the amount of copies they sold. I used to joke that if I got paid a nickel for every Da Vinci Code I sold, I could have retired at thirty. The night of one of the Harry Potter launches, when everyone was celebrating, I accidentally miscalculated the change required from the bank to the tune of losing us $200, and spent a good hour crying in the office, terrified of being fired (spoiler: I wasn’t).

And now comes the news that my store, our beloved store, the one I love to revisit a few times a year even though I haven’t worked there for almost a decade, is closing. In its place? A Victoria’s Secret. If that doesn’t perfectly exemplify what’s wrong with our contemporary world, I don’t know what.

I visited last night, for the last time. It closes tomorrow. The cliche was true, it was a shell of its former self. All the upper floors and the basement were closed off. The Starbucks had already moved out. The last of the stock was collected on the first floor, where the bestsellers and recent releases used to be, divided into sections marked by handwritten signs taped onto the edges of tables, the sides of shelves. The two front doors were flung wide open, as if they didn’t even mind if you stole.

Though I was sad, I couldn’t help but smile. So much of the person I am was formed between those walls. There, I got my first taste of real responsibility, real challenge, real camaraderie among co-workers. I don’t think I’ll ever work anywhere where I like the people so much ever again. Chapters gave me one of my best friends, a lifetime of dinner party repartee, the courage to dip my toe into the publishing waters, and, with any luck, fodder for at least one madcap novel/television series.

I checked the elevator, but the Dancing Pee Guy wasn’t there. His legend, like the store itself, is now a thing of memory.

Coming Soon to an M/M Publisher Near You…

It’s Labor Day weekend, peeps. I’m sure I’m not the only one thinking, “When did that happen?” The temperatures for early September are already looking on the chilly side. I just bought my first sweater of the year (short-sleeved, but still). Doo-doo just got real.

Here at Chez Selina, it’s been one tough summer, and I certainly don’t feel like I’ve caught my share of rays. So, in order to get myself excited for fall—which, really, is usually my favorite season, and this year may just feature the release of a certain book by a certain blogger (AKA me!)—I’ve decided to list the M/M books I’m most looking forward to reading. Nothing wrong with giving some of my favorite authors a little free promo, either, right? (*And* I’m fairly sure you weren’t exactly salivating for another recipe post. There are a couple of pop culture pieces in the pipeline, but probably won’t see the light of day until my schedule relents a bit—see the aforementioned rough summer.)

So, without further ado, here are the titles that have got my eyes twinkling, my fingers itching, and my loins… well, you know. In other words: Can’t. Bloody. Wait!

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Flight of Magpies, KJ Charles and Bloodline, Jordan L. Hawk, here and here. I’ve mentioned my love for these ladies’ work before, and I am beyond eager to dive back into their respective series.

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The Boy with the Painful Tattoo by Josh Lanyon, here. Never miss a book of his! Can’t wait to dive back into the lives of Kit and J.X. (now played by Benedict Cumberbatch and Andrew Scott in my mind palace).

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Fever Pitch by Heidi Cullinan, here. I have to pass on a lot of Heidi’s books, not because she isn’t a kickass author (she so is), but because of the kink level, which makes her less kinky books that much more precious to me. That we get to read more about Kelly and Walter only sweetens the deal.

Unjustified Claims by Kaje Harper (no cover or link yet). I was always a vampire girl, until a JesseWave review convinced me that Ms. Harper’s books were different. I love all her books, but have a special place in my heart for her wolves. Can’t wait to meet the new members of the pack.

But the most exciting news of all, though so many details are still very much TBD and this is not an official announcement, is that one of the books on my In the Works page will soon be in the works no more! More concrete information to follow…

In the meantime, show some of these authors some love and pre-order these tantalizing new titles!

Cheers,
-Selina