The road trip recap

Me dressed as Kobayashi-san, Anna as Tohru the dragon maid, and Becca as Kanna the child dragon

My goal is to sneak in a recap of Yuri on Ice episode five yet tonight, but before I got there I needed to give a full report of my week with two teen girls on the road to and from Dallas, with a stopover in Kearney, Missouri for an eclipse.

So I’ve only been planning this trip since last winter when I heard Yuri on Ice was coming to the convention–as soon as I saw the tickets were up, I bought three. Anna was psyched to go, because she loves anime as much as I do, and Becca, who watched Yuri on Ice with us as it unfolded, was happy to come along for the ride. What began as a plan to dress up in YOI cosplay quickly became a snowball, and by the time we were all said and done we had cosplay for every day of the convention. We thought we were pretty clever, but it turned out it was weirder to not be in costume than it was to be in it.

We did make some of our costumes, but most of our stuff I’ll admit came courtesy of the fine residents of China who have this stuff down to a brisk business and science.

The three of us dressed up from Black Butler

Ciel Phantomhive, Grell Sutcliff, and Finny

I mean, I don’t know how you go about making Ciel’s coat, or Grell’s. My mom did help us put red bias tape on the collar and cuffs of Finny’s shirt (thanks, thrift store), and the pants came from Amazon, as did the hat. Anna’s shoes turned out to be a real find as they doubled as her dragon maid shoes PLUS will be her favored band/concert/dress shoes from now until sometime mid-college. Becca ended up with rain boots she didn’t know she wanted for I think seven dollars at Walmart. But the wigs and the lion’s share of the costumes–especially the dragon maids and skater jackets–came from Amazon. Normally my money every month goes into formatting backlist, but for August it went into costumes and trip. I figured after a year of killing myself it was time for something fun.

And we did have fun. The drive down was pretty much a rain-soaked shitshow, but we had a great time listening to Antisocial audio. I’d asked the girls if they wanted me to start over at the beginning, they said no they were going to do their own thing, but Iggy is compelling and they got caught up in half a chapter and insisted we keep listening. They declared it “a roller coaster of emotions” and Iggy to be a genius. I knew that last part already. But I did feel pretty glowy having the harshest critics approve my book.

We did the full 11 hour drive in one day, barely stopping and so we made it in time for the raffle for Kubo’s drawings, which we did not win. But we were so glad to be out of the car it still felt like victory. There was a small panic in that our room smelled like smoke and this freaked Anna out, but her mother is no wallflower, and while the girls waited for our dinner to arrive in the restaurant I made arrangements for us to get an identical room sans smoke. Somehow we had a suite, which was nice–I guess I was feeling flush when I booked us? It was pre Samhain closure, after all. The extra space was fantastic for getting ready and laying out our gear.

I didn’t sleep the first night but for a few hours, because I was so nervous about getting an autograph, or more to the point delivering my gift to the YOI creators the next day. See my previous post for that fiasco, but I’m one of the rare few who was lucky enough to get through not only to the autographs but to the panels as well. I credit this with the fact that I am no slouch when it comes to cons and that I am a total cynic when it comes to human beings and I never trusted anything the organizers said, so I showed up anyway and when lines formed early I was present, then texted my girls and told them to join me. I usually adopted several people in line around me, but you can only help so many people, and anyway, it really was a mess. Every day because of that blog post I get messages from people devastated because of how far they came and how they got to see nothing of the people they came for, and I feel so badly for them. Honestly the US could support a major YOI only event without issue. Probably a two day weekend event with spots on each coast and a center stop in Chicago. Maybe, though, they stay the hell away from Dallas?

The three of us dressed as Yurio, Yuri, and Victor

Yurio, Yuri, and Victor (and Makkachin!)

Anyway. We had a great time despite the crappy treatment of the YOI fans and the poor organizing. We toured the dealer room, where they had all manner of anime merch and then some, and the artist’s alley, where we bought all kinds of prints and postcards. Anna and Becca checked out a few anime in the viewing rooms on the third floor, but mostly they found things they liked then went to our room and watched them on my laptop. They went to a Kobayashi meet up, which I was nervous about as I didn’t go and I worried that they would get hassled as two high school girls, but they were fine and nobody bothered them–though Anna takes no shit and would have noped out of there so fast if they would have. I also met with some patrons, which was lovely, and I got some ideas for an upcoming story simply by being at the con.

Getting to give my book to the creators was the biggest goal, and that was accomplished on day one–I even got to use my Japanese, which Sara helped me set up and which I sort of memorized but mostly read off from a sheet. Anna said they looked really impressed but honestly, I didn’t see, I was so focused on not fucking up and not getting kicked out of line by an organizer because they’d made such a deal of making us rush. I said to them, essentially, may I give you a gift (they said yes), and then I explained here is a book which I dedicated to them, because I’d been depressed but YOI got me out of it. I hoped they kept making anime and I would keep watching.

Kubo smiled at me and said thank you. Hiramatsu did the same. But Yamamoto got up, gave me this intense look, and grabbed my hands. Later I would learn that she felt so depressed/disconnected with anime that she basically stopped working and just watched ice skating, then began working on YOI and everything changed and she got her happiness back. So we understood each other, basically. It was such a circle closure. I have no idea what they will do with the books, and it doesn’t matter. I have made my offering. And now I will just keep enjoying the hell out of the show.

Edward Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist cosplay

Fullmetal cosplay! (and the infamous autograph line is in the back left)

There was so much great people watching at the event. The YOI cosplay was intense, but so many other anime were represented. I was geeking out all over the place. Anna found some great cosplayers too. We were pretty much taking turns freaking out. Becca found her favs as well, though we often went up and asked for her as she was our shy violet.

The YOI panels were wonderful, my apologies to those who couldn’t get to them. The first one was all about how they three got together to make the show, how they connected with each other, the second was some behind the scenes of the character concepts (some amazing stuff there), the third was a live draw where Kubo’s now infamous “So Hot!” was drawn right in front of our eyes,” and the last was a huge panel with the YOI creators and English voice actors. Anna had an extra special treat at the first panel where Kubo herself, when the creators were tossing out soft merchandise, chucked a Phichit pillow right to Anna. It’s now one of her most treasured possessions.

Anna hugging her Phichit pillow

On Sunday though the con had events well into the afternoon, we left mid-morning to head back home, though we would stop at Kansas City to meet Dan and his parents and catch the eclipse on Monday. We stopped and had Waffle House on the way out of town first, and Anna did some relief driving in Oklahoma–we were slower coming home, and more tired over all, but we got there. It was about 8:30 when we made it to Kearney (just north of KC), and we were very glad for our hotel bed.

The next day it was a bit stressful as the skies were first overcast and then outright rainy. But we ended up having a break in the clouds in time for the eclipse which we watched, if you can believe it, from a place called JJ’s Homestead. Anna kept playing the “Theme of King JJ” on her phone while we waited, because how do you not?

Eclipse at totality

The eclipse at totality was something else, I have to say. It was full dark outside, at 1PM. The sun was just this black circle with a white ring. It was a full ten degrees colder. But the second the moon began to move and we had so much as a sliver of sun, the brightness came back like it wasn’t an eclipse at all. Madness, I’m telling you!

You can see two totality videos here at my Instagram, plus a slew of trip photos and videos. And in case I don’t get organized enough to post a review of episode five tonight, I”m going to post the Rafflecopter stuff here below and go add another link to it now so you can enter even if I lose my mojo.

But I will keep posting more manga and anime recaps, and other things, so watch this space. I am not, though, leaving home anytime soon. Well, okay. I am. There’s a patron meet up Labor Day weekend and I’m going to Denver in October. But right now I’m staying home.


Rafflecopter giveaway: signed paperback of Antisocial, 11 x 17 poster of cover art, Natsuko Yuri!!! fan book, Eros Yuri Nendoroid

Rafflecopter link for the giveway accompanying this set of reviews/recaps. (Full explanation post, pic link as reminder of stuff on offer.)


 

A single stroke can change your world.

Xander Fairchild can’t stand people in general and frat boys in particular, so when he’s forced to spend his summer working on his senior project with Skylar Stone, a silver-tongued Delta Sig with a trust fund who wants to make Xander over into a shiny new image, Xander is determined to resist. He came to idyllic, Japanese culture-soaked Benten College to hide and make manga, not to be transformed into a corporate clone in the eleventh hour.

Skylar’s life has been laid out for him since before he was born, but all it takes is one look at Xander’s artwork, and the veneer around him begins to crack. Xander himself does plenty of damage too. There’s something about the antisocial artist’s refusal to yield that forces Skylar to acknowledge how much his own orchestrated future is killing him slowly…as is the truth about his gray-spectrum sexuality, which he hasn’t dared to speak aloud, even to himself.

Through a summer of art and friendship, Xander and Skylar learn more about each other, themselves, and their feelings for one another. But as their senior year begins, they must decide if they will part ways and return to the dull futures they had planned, or if they will take a risk and leap into a brightly colored future—together.

Buy links

Heidi Cullinan has always enjoyed a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. Proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality, Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights. She writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because she believes there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys playing with new recipes, reading romance and manga, playing with her cats, and watching too much anime. Find out more about Heidi at heidicullinan.com.

Yuri on Ice Fandom vs Animefest Dallas: Gays in Tights Edition

This is going to be quick and is mostly in lieu of me tweeting eight million tweets, which I kind of already did, but I’m a long-form girl and I’d like to state clearly, once, what’s happened here at Animefest, in once place. Other con-goers will have their own experiences and their own platforms. I encourage them too to share their stories and to express their opinions to the organizers.

For those of you here for the manga/anime reviews/Rafflecopter, I’ll get back to that soon I swear. Tuesday for sure, maybe Monday. For those just arriving and wanting a shot at a Yuri Nendo maybe scroll back a post or two.

You can scan backward in this blog and verify I became a diehard Yuri on Ice fan last fall around episode six’s airing and quickly began blogging and doing my best to sweep my readers and all of Romancelandia into the fray with me. (Much of it was already there.) I’ve also spoken of my own reasons for my passion, and to sum up, I purchased tickets last winter for Animefest in Dallas specifically because they announced Yuri on Ice creators would be in attendance. I wanted to say thank you to them because it was only because of their show I got out of  major depression and was able to work (write, I’m an author) again, and my book released this month was dedicated to them. I came here armed with copies of the book to present to them and enough Japanese to explain this.

Because I knew how popular the show was and because I knew people were coming here from all over the world for the same reason as me, I made my plans. I knew these facts by the simple feat of reading social media. I suspect if I had registration data I’d know even more, but I didn’t need it. I only needed to know my fandom. So I planned to try for the first autographing session, to arrive early, and to have a backup plan to try to present the gift to someone who could hand the gift to them for me wth a note explaining things inside in case things went wrong. I was very pleased to hear there was an autograph session planned for them each day, though I was shocked to hear it was for only one hour. I thought, I must be as close to the front of the line as possible or it will never work.

So for the 2PM autograph session on Thursday I arrived at 11AM to scope out the area, saw people in line, and immediately joined the line too. My daughter and her friend milled around a bit and I held their space, which the other people in line were fine with–everyone was very cordial and friendly and understood this was the way the game went: you want to play, you show up early. We were there fully an hour before any staffers at all even showed up to notice we were lined up. Please be aware this is a public area and it’s obvious people are lined up and what for. Any volunteer with any functional brain activity could have seen and known and acted, but it took them an hour. The man who came to mind us was flabbergasted and seemed for a moment ready to tell us to leave, to say we couldn’t begin to line up until the set time, which was 45 minutes (or maybe it was a half hour?) before the signing time. Please be aware we have already, two hours before, filled the signing area and one overflow area. Note this for later in this part of the story.

He lets us stay but moves us over to the overflow area because we can’t be in this weaving chair line area, and we’re fine with this, but now two hours early the line is full. Anyone who obeys the rules is out of luck. This is now the theme of the weekend with this convention: do not ever obey their rules or you will not get to have the experience you want.

I am tenth in line, and I’m fairly sure I get through, especially as they explain we’ll be funneled through to each guest but if we don’t want to sign with the other guests, just the YOI people we’ll be bumped down to that line. Many of the people ahead of me want to sign all of them so I feel pretty good. They keep telling us don’t ask for doodles, don’t ask questions, don’t talk at all, just put a piece of paper out and get it signed and go. I feel this is gross and harsh and I have this short thing I need to say, and I’m going to say it, so I’m ready to say it quickly and not let them stop me. Well, I get up there, and it turns out the YOI people are not interested in Animefest’s rules, and they’re doing doodles, which everyone loves. The doodles are beautiful. Here’s mine. YOI doodle by creative staff

I will treasure this always, forever. I also got to say my speech, which was basically to present my book and say it was dedicated to them because they got me out of my depression with YOI and thank you very much. My daughter says they looked impressed with my Japanese. I was just so nervous I was trying not to fuck up, and I was terrified the volunteers would cut me off.

Once I’d given the books, this was basically my main goal and the rest of the con all I wanted to do was attend the three YOI panels and cosplay with my daughter. You can check my instagram feed to see our cosplay fun, which we had much of. But I did want too see the panels too, because when else would I not only get to see them speak, all three together, but hear a translation? And after the autograph line, I thought, okay. I’m waiting early. I let my daughter and her friend walk around again, and I camped out.

At this point the Animefest staff is still clueless and doesn’t even understand that we’re lining up for these events when we are, and there’s a little bit of “you can’t do that” but when we do they seem a bit nonplussed and just run with it because they don’t know what else to do. This is a theme of day one: the volunteers are gobsmacked and try their best. Please note this when you hear about days two and three.

Please also note that the YOI staff signed not one hour but all the way up until their panel which I believe began at five. It was in a room which was at about 1/4 the capacity of the crowd which was lined up for it 2 hours before. It was not moved to a larger room.

That panel was fantastic and fun, and I was right up front. My daughter caught a Phichit pillow (they threw out merch at the end) which she’s so proud of and excited to have, and Kubo tossed it to her, which makes it all the more precious. But we got in there (as did she) because I was willing to camp out and make sure we got in. Tons of people didn’t get in at all. If you didn’t show up crazy early, tough. If you played by the rules, forget it.

Now we get to day two.

I didn’t try for an autograph again, because I had one, but I heard the autographs just got worse and worse. People I knew who wanted autographs tried to line up, told they had to leave, then came back at the right time to find the line full and overflowing. People who got in the line said they’d been told there would be tape up and monitors and there were none, only people getting in line, so what were they going to do, wait? No, they got in. Animefest’s response to this? They didn’t say, “oh, okay, we’ll make sure we have tape and staff.” They said, “We’re hiring Dallas police to monitor the line and you can’t show up until 45 minutes before.” When people pointed out this would just make people rush the line at the last second they said if things got too dangerous they would shut the whole thing down.

On the first day at the first panel Kubo asked where people had come from to attend this event. Countries named: China, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Philippines. States were from practically all fifty and from every coast. All kinds of people here for YOI are first timers here only for YOI.

There was an empty room beside the place where we lined up for the last panel today where they could have triaged autographs.  It was empty on the second day also because of the next story I’m about to tell. They chose not to manage the crowd because they didn’t want to.

Why do I believe this? Because of this next story.

On the second day, I come even earlier to wait for the second panel, assuming it will be an even bigger mess. I meet some great people in line, but my daughter, sensing the tension and not liking the waits and the jostling, sits it out. We wait for I think an hour, and at one point they try to disperse us but we tell them we’re not in line, we’re waiting to wait in line. The volunteers seem frustrated but leave us alone. One is particularly nice to us and is okay. It’s clear though that they have been spoken to by some kind of management and have been told to not let Those People get in line. It’s just that Those People are really dedicated, and we’re polite about it but we’re determined to get in our space, and we understand it’s going to be a mess and so we keep hanging out in the area. Soon there is a fire hazard’s worth of people hanging out, and suddenly we’re being jostled and moved and they announce we’re going to a new room. THey’ve moved the panel to the biggest room they have.

Now while we wait in this line I hear from a volunteer the story of what apparently has been happening, and it’s really shitty.

First of all, it was only through this person we were not, the first people in line, suddenly in the back because another volunteer tried to turn the part of the line closest to the new door into the front because it was easier on him. I”m pretty sure I was led into the room by this jerk–he tried to put the front of the room in the corner. He was disdainful and annoyed about everyone and I don’t know why he was there but he should have been off doing anything but working that event. Shoveling horse shit in Texas heat would be my vote. Thankfully he didn’t work the event alone and we were not suddenly the back of the line.

But also while I was there I heard from other staff that while apparently there are organizers who love YOI, there are other people who do not, and despite being told the presence of the creators would bring huge crowds and the events they were at would be insane, they were unwilling even after seeing Thursday’s attendance to change anything, not until the lineup in media res Friday. The quote I heard was “no one is going to come see gay skaters in tights.”

I got into that panel, which began late and was cut off on time, and which the tech for was ill prepared and barely worked, which meant half the room couldn’t see the drawings which were the focal point of the show. They didn’t move the room over either though there were spare seats on that side (this room was quite large). I could well see people trying and being told no–this is extrapolation, I didn’t see this, but given everything now, I honestly would believe anything on that vein.

Today there were two events, the live drawing and the last panel, with the creators and the English voice actors. There was also another chance at autographs. There was indeed a bunch of caution tape and police. But now you also couldn’t line up for ANY even with ANY YOI person before the assigned time, and if you so much as slowed down to check for you child (my case) near a staff member you were shouted at for loitering. So you have hundreds of people now frantic to get an autograph unable to line up in any way, lingering, hundreds of people who want to attend an event but who can’t line up and they keep shortening the time period, lingering–and then, true to form, they always cave and let the line form early, so you are reinforced to stay early. If you move away for a second that’s when they form it, and then it’s a mad dash while they yell at you. Meanwhile hours earlier you’d formed a civil line that they broke up.

I got into the live draw fine, and there were spare seats, but the autograph was a mess. I don’t know what happened there except that it was pure chaos and you could barely move anywhere and no one understood anything. All the staff did was yell. It was clear all the Animefest meetings have been the organizers prepping the volunteers on how to yell at YOI attendees and nothing on actual organization.

We dared to go to lunch because they said they wouldn’t form the line for the last event until 3. I didn’t believe this but came back at 2:10 and asked what this long line at the door was. The man at the door lied to my face and said autographs. I said, what? He repeated it. I stood and talked to people for five minutes until I realized it was the event I wanted. I managed to get around the corner, 250 people deep, and secure a space–where we waited until half an hour past the start time of the event. During that time the volunteers occasionally came by, yelled at us to stand against the wall, scolded us for making the event late (all we did was stand there. we did nothing but stand there, orderly), and then finally began to let us in. They didn’t let the event go over at all. They just cut it off. All the YOI were cut off except for the first one.

There’s one more autograph session tomorrow. I imagine it will be insane and that the staff and organizers will be total monsters. If you try to go I advise you to listen to none of their rules but be aware of them, to be around the area and aware but don’t do anything stupid because they don’t want you there, they wish you’d give up and go home. I think there’s one more YOI event, maybe? One with a creator? I don’t know, but we have to drive back home, to meet my husband and inlaws for an eclipse viewing in KC.

What I do know is that the YOI people here–creators and fans–have been amazing beyond amazing. The creators have signed and stayed and been generous and beyond what anyone expected. Gracious and giving beyond anyone’s expectations. The fans have helped each other, supported each other, met up with each other, tried to encourage each other into lines and meeting times and everything possible, made new friends and connections as much as they can.

The staff and organizers of this con, though, I think wanted the creators but not us. They wanted their YOI moment for their organizers but not the fandom. We are clearly an inconvenience and even when we are well-behaved and try to work with the system, they just wish we would leave.

Well, don’t worry. The only way we’d ever come back would be for Yuri on Ice, and even then, most of us would hit up a different con before we’d come back here. I met some great con goers. But these organizers? No thanks. I’m not sure where they bought their egos, but I hope they kept the receipt.

 

Schedule Adjustment and I’m Dallas Bound

First of all, I was going to get a whole bunch of posts queued up before I left to go on my trip, and that’s clearly not going to happen. I’m going to try to do a few from Dallas, but I’m not sure how well that’s going to work. So sorry, but don’t worry, I”ll keep up the YOI recap and anime/manga stuff when I get home.

Today I’m bound for Dallas and Animefest, where my daughter and I and her friend are going to cosplay, check out the sights, and meet the creators of Yuri on Ice. I have gifts ready for them, books for Kubo-sensei and Yamamoto-sensei, since the book is dedicated to them, and some nice Iowa beer, cider, and sausage for Tadashi Hiramatsu. I learned how to explain my present in Japanese, and hopefully nobody asks me too much Japanese beyond what I memorized, but if so I am armed with sumimasen, wakarimasen.

If you’d like to follow along on our trip down and our adventures, I’ll be chronicling mostly on Instagram. I’ll push some things to Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr, but the bulk will be there.

Okay I have to eat and pack a car. More soon.

Yuri on Ice Rewatch/Review: Episode Four – Like Yourself and Complete the Free Program

This is just hands down one of my favorite episodes. I mean, I love episodes seven and ten as well, but this one is special because in so many ways it’s where their relationship truly begins. It’s where Yuri stops putting Victor on a pedestal. It’s where Victor figures out how to coach him, at least a little. It’s their quiet time together, where they learn each other. Everything after this is full speed ahead: this is where they do the hard work.

Yuri and Victor in the bath

I’ve definitely developed habits as an author—in the middle of my novels, I like to pull the main characters into a kind of bubble and let them learn each other in the same way this episode is doing, which is why I think I like this one so much. It’s not (only) that it makes for a stronger characterization. It’s so fun to write and to experience as a reader. Normally we don’t get to see these private moments between people as they fumble around. I miss that we don’t get much behind the scenes stuff in the rest of Yuri on Ice. I’m dying to know what happened after that kiss on the ice on episode seven and when they went home after the revelations about the banquet and the ring exchange in episode ten. But at least we have this episode.

Yuri contemplating his free program on the bridge at night

I feel like the animators and Yamamoto-sensei love this episode a lot too, because it’s rendered so beautifully. There are so many shots with amazing lighting and characters set against backdrops that take your breath. Yurio training. Yuri trying to find his free skate song. It’s just so good.

And the song. Let’s take a second before we do a formal walkthrough and talk about the song. I have the soundtrack for the series, Yutora!!OST, which you can find on Spotify or buy if you pay through the nose on Amazon US as an import—one of my favorite tracks is this one, the building of his free skate song. The whole thing is beautiful.  I love how seeking the song becomes a metaphor for Yuri finding his courage and his relationship with Victor, not as an idol but as a coach and something closer to an equal, and that we get to literally hear the progression through the background soundtrack.

Yuri puts headphones in Victor's ears to hear the new song in bed

Okay, now that I’ve rambled on, let’s actually walk through the episode.

I still love how Makkachin has already bailed on Victor and is sleeping with Yuri. I mean, salt in the wound, dog, because that’s where Victor wants to be, and you abandon him too? Harsh. And then notice how Victor is standing away from Yuri as he enters, still and quiet, and we don’t see him until he turns around, looking all cool and fine—but is he really? That’s his false front. We still have fake Victor here, I think. It’s not until later that he lets Yuri see his true self. He’s still treating him like everyone else.

Yuri and Victor holding hands in the onsen

But Victor is already seeing things about Yuri and trying to help him as a coach—he’s not making the right calls, exactly, but they’re getting the job done because they’re pissing Yuri off and motivating him into confidence. And then we get the naked stretching in the bath. I mean…the stuff you know Yamamoto would have shown us if she could have…

There’s just so much here about Yuri trying to return to his old ways of being hesitant and deferential and Victor, directly and indirectly, not letting him go there. Indirectly by annoying him by trying to get him to lower the difficulty of his program, directly by insisting he produce his own program. Directly by trying to get him to say, directly, what he wants Victor to be to him. And Jesus, poor Victor. How smitten is he—he’s basically saying, “I will be what you want. What do you want? Please want me for something…”

Victor and Makkachin on the beach

And Yuri says, “I want you to stay yourself.” I’m surprised they didn’t have to bury Victor at that beach.

I kind of jumped ahead there. Yurio’s training is good for him too—I like to see him getting serious, and Lilia is good for him. He needs her hard edges, but she has softness too. I really love the evolution of Yurio and Lilia’s role in it.

And Phichit. How do you not love Phichit? He’s the best wingman ever. Encouraging, positive, plus he’s got his own arc. Go get your song, Yuri. You can do it.

Angry Victor in the doorway of Yuri's bedroom

The sequence when Yuri avoids Victor—when Victor wants Yuri to stop doubting himself, then steps in it by bringing up he’s never had a lover—I love that moment when Victor is in the door, fury on his face that Yuri can’t see, and then he smiles brightly and says they’re going to the beach. I feel like that’s so overlooked. There are so many moments when Victor is bright when I don’t think he is, ditzy and ridiculous when it’s nothing but an act, a cover for his real feelings. He’s hurt, he’s angry, he’s over it with Yuri here.

And now it’s time for the beach scene. One of the best scenes in the anime.

Victor and Yuri at the beach

It’s so important that Victor starts their time at the beach together—this precious time alone he finally got Yuri to agree to take—by confessing a weakness, a vulnerability. Victor has figured out Yuri admires him and knows he needs to tear down this image of himself as a godlike figure, but he has no idea how much of a figure he is. And at heart here too, Victor is just trying to get close to the man he loves. He shares a vulnerability and then invites Yuri to do the same.

And god bless, but Yuri takes him up on it. He tells the story of the girl in Detroit who was clearly into him but didn’t understand Yuri, who wanted him to be who she wanted, not who he was. Even though Yuri’s actions with her surprise Victor, he’s cool with it, and lets Yuri continue to explain why her misguided attempts at affection upset him so much, made him feel so confined and judged.  But then he undoes these feelings a bit, loosens their laces so to speak by pointing out that Yuri isn’t weak and no one sees him that way. That this sense of failure is in his own head only.

Victor reaches out

Then we get to the most brilliant moment. Victor’s confession, in a quiet way, unnoticed by Yuri, and yet he gives the best answer ever. Victor wants to know what Yuri wants. He’s willing to be whatever Yuri says. And this is the way Victor has always been: please other people. He wants to be with Yuri, is drawn to him, and if Yuri had been in any other state, it probably would have ended poorly. But because Yuri was so adamant about not letting Victor become any of those things—because he wanted him to stay who he was, to be himself—Victor had a freedom he’d never had before. Who had ever told him this? What a wonderful gift. How much did Victor fall in love at this moment?

Now Yuri asks for his song to be redone, and in the meantime he (and Yurio) practice their jumps. Everyone is working hard, getting closer, learning from each other. And Yuri is finally shedding his worship of Victor, and Victor isn’t a constant smiling fake machine. The difference between how they behave together from the beginning of this episode to the end is incredible. They’re real with one another. Teasing. Pushing. Challenging. God, it’s just so damn good.

Yuri and Victor head to head

And the theme is on my love. Of course it fucking is. God bless.

I love the closing section of this episode, both the silent section where Yuri is practicing and then we go through the bit where we get the assignments for the Grand Prix, and then the very end where “Yuri on Ice” is playing and Yuri is begging God to please give him this time with Victor and to let him make the most of it, acknowledging it’s limited and that something like this will never come again. From a directorial standpoint, it’s brilliant because it sends us out of this opening sequence and this protective bubble: from here on out it’s nothing but skating sequences and competitions. No more private worlds.

Yuri and Victor name his free skate song

But we get this last moment with them where they enjoy each other, this retrospective. You see these routines they’ve been working on all summer, the distances within themselves they’ve traveled. The goals they’ve set for themselves. This is the episode that makes the series so rewatchable, because both the romance and competition arcs are so drawn out here, and they move perfectly in sync with the episodes before and ahead of it.

Can’t wait to revisit the next set with you.

 

Rafflecopter giveaway: signed paperback of Antisocial, 11 x 17 poster of cover art, Natsuko Yuri!!! fan book, Eros Yuri Nendoroid

Rafflecopter link for the giveway accompanying this set of reviews/recaps. (Full explanation post, pic link as reminder of stuff on offer.) Are the new blog post links working? Are you able to leave more comments now and get more entries, or not? Let me know, because if you are, I’ll keep adding them.


 

A single stroke can change your world.

Xander Fairchild can’t stand people in general and frat boys in particular, so when he’s forced to spend his summer working on his senior project with Skylar Stone, a silver-tongued Delta Sig with a trust fund who wants to make Xander over into a shiny new image, Xander is determined to resist. He came to idyllic, Japanese culture-soaked Benten College to hide and make manga, not to be transformed into a corporate clone in the eleventh hour.

Skylar’s life has been laid out for him since before he was born, but all it takes is one look at Xander’s artwork, and the veneer around him begins to crack. Xander himself does plenty of damage too. There’s something about the antisocial artist’s refusal to yield that forces Skylar to acknowledge how much his own orchestrated future is killing him slowly…as is the truth about his gray-spectrum sexuality, which he hasn’t dared to speak aloud, even to himself.

Through a summer of art and friendship, Xander and Skylar learn more about each other, themselves, and their feelings for one another. But as their senior year begins, they must decide if they will part ways and return to the dull futures they had planned, or if they will take a risk and leap into a brightly colored future—together.

Buy links

Heidi Cullinan has always enjoyed a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. Proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality, Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights. She writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because she believes there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys playing with new recipes, reading romance and manga, playing with her cats, and watching too much anime. Find out more about Heidi at heidicullinan.com.

Yuri on Ice episode 3: I am Eros and Eros is Me?! Face-Off! Hot Springs on Ice

Three posts in one day today. Don’t get used to this.

Back in to the anime and manga reviews, and back into Yuri on Ice, where we’re all the way to episode three.

What I love about this episode is it’s the turning point, the moment where Yuri stops being a big freakout and reveals that he can, in fact, fight, and knows how to do so in his own way. He’s still awkward and unsure and full of self-doubt, but he can also be determined and has the capacity to draw fire out of himself when he needs to.

soft Victor

I also, every time I watch this show, particularly this episode, see more and more signs that Victor is a lot softer and less the super playboy than we initially thought. Basically, Yuri’s tale of the playboy who comes to town? We all know later this is the story of Yuri and Victor, but man, it really is the story of Yuri and Victor. Victor wants to be that woman swept off her feet, and Yuri only needs someone to help him free himself so he can be that playboy.

I’m absolutely never tired of this story. Ever.

Yuri and his sad broccoli dinner

But poor Yuri, having to eat broccoli and udon while everyone else eats katsudon. Seriously.

I love watching Victor train them, especially knowing where they both end up. You really do understand how far Yurio has to grow and why Victor was so hard on him here. Victor truly wasn’t the right coach for him, and I don’t think anyone could have reached him until Yurio’s pride was so bruised by Onsen on Ice. He also couldn’t see that Yuri was ready to be his friend from that first moment, and that Victor truly was trying to help him this whole time.

I cannot wait until these people get the time to tell us stories IN A MOVIE.

Aside: there was a moment when I’d studied my Japanese enough I almost could read some of the stuff in the background of the rink, but this summer kicked my ass and I forgot everything. I’m gonna get it back, dammit.

The joy Yuri has as he goes through Victor’s costumes is incredible. I love how he doesn’t hold back and how he’s basically living the dream. You quickly forget he’s spending the whole skating season in his idol’s outfit, in the one he was wearing when Yuri fell in love.

Yuri selecting his eros outfit

Also…this bit where Victor is in the weird tourism getup and he “forgets” again that he said he was going to go with the winner? I mean…he was never going to leave. Really. And another random aside—I know nosebleeds are a thing in anime, but the one Yuko gets when seeing Yurio’s outfit is just insane. It makes me think they’re poking at the genre.

Sometime I want to watch the evolution of Yuri and Yurio’s short and long programs thorugh the series and watch their improvement. I bet it’s incredible. Listening to Yurio’s internal monolog here…he’s just not brining it, is he? Not like he’s going to later.

And then Yuri and his freakout that Victor stops with personal attention and declaring he loves pork cutlet bowls…God, we had no idea where that was going to go at the time, or what he was really saying. How much and how deeply he was really saying, “I love Yuri Katsuki.” And Victor had no idea how little Yuri understood his subtext because he didn’t remember the banquet.

This damn story.

Yuri skating at Onsen on Ice

And Yuri is so pretty here as he skates. His expressions, his face, his movements. His voice. Honestly I haven’t listened to the dub but a few times when it first came out and only the first few episodes—anything but the sub doesn’t sound like YOI. And only Toshiyuki Toyonaga is Yuri to me.

Yuri Victor at Podium

I love the way Victor holds Yuri at the podium. I love the way Minako cries. And I love the way Yurio determinedly stalks off.

 

And I love episode four so much. We will discuss it tomorrow.

 

Rafflecopter link. (Full explanation post, pic link as reminder of stuff on offer.)

 Rafflecopter giveaway: signed paperback of Antisocial, 11 x 17 poster of cover art, Natsuko Yuri!!! fan book, Eros Yuri Nendoroid


A single stroke can change your world.

Xander Fairchild can’t stand people in general and frat boys in particular, so when he’s forced to spend his summer working on his senior project with Skylar Stone, a silver-tongued Delta Sig with a trust fund who wants to make Xander over into a shiny new image, Xander is determined to resist. He came to idyllic, Japanese culture-soaked Benten College to hide and make manga, not to be transformed into a corporate clone in the eleventh hour.

Skylar’s life has been laid out for him since before he was born, but all it takes is one look at Xander’s artwork, and the veneer around him begins to crack. Xander himself does plenty of damage too. There’s something about the antisocial artist’s refusal to yield that forces Skylar to acknowledge how much his own orchestrated future is killing him slowly…as is the truth about his gray-spectrum sexuality, which he hasn’t dared to speak aloud, even to himself.

Through a summer of art and friendship, Xander and Skylar learn more about each other, themselves, and their feelings for one another. But as their senior year begins, they must decide if they will part ways and return to the dull futures they had planned, or if they will take a risk and leap into a brightly colored future—together.

Buy links

Heidi Cullinan has always enjoyed a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. Proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality, Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights. She writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because she believes there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys playing with new recipes, reading romance and manga, playing with her cats, and watching too much anime. Find out more about Heidi at heidicullinan.com.

Love Trumps Hate: With Recs

I’m still continuing my steady stream of anime and manga rec, but in light of the recent events in Virginia, Minnesota, the ones we haven’t heard about, the ones I missed because I was trying not to listen to the news, the ones we were distracted by because our government is wanting us to be overburdened, burned out and distracted, etc, and because none of this is new, it’s just newly in white people’s consciousness…I’m going to add this extra post. It is not full of any kind of wisdom on my part. I am out of wisdom, if I ever had any. I am out of rants. I’m not much good for more than a few bursts on social media and then a flatten out. And even if I had a lot of fire in me, it wouldn’t be appropriate for this. There’s pretty much nothing you need to hear from a white lady right now. But what I can do is advise you on some great reads: Here are some recs of romances by women of color I know and love. I encourage you to give them a try.

I’m recommending these authors specifically today as women of color, but in no way do you need to be POC to enjoy these books. As white people, all too often we say we aren’t overlooking these books as “not for me” but we are. I am. I do. Or rather, I have had to work to overcome that muscle that the entertainment industry has trained me to believe that “white” is “normal” and “nonwhite” is for “nonwhite” and that we should use words like “normal” and “nonwhite” and I am still working because there is so much whiteness around me. It’s so easy for me to reach for white works and only consume white story. It’s an old habit and without consciousness, almost impossible to break, because the industry isn’t breaking it for me. It really sucks, too, because it’s made me miss out on a lot of great books for a long time.

There are a lot of people who try reading/viewing challenges for periods of time where they deliberately consume nothing but POC entertainment during that time. You might consider doing the same. Bonus points for you if you can get queer POC in there at the same time.

You can find all kinds of great POC books and recs, but these are the people I know and read and recommend and who are literally lying around my desk and desktop/kindle at the moment. There are others I will later go, “crap, I can’t believe I forgot them” but there’s not much to do to help that. Happy one clicking.

Rapt cover by Cremant

Laurel Cremant

Jessica Sinclair has spent the last year tip toeing around her new boss Lucas Wright. She wants him and he knows it, but she has no intention of giving into temptation. She’s always enjoyed a little pain with her pleasure, but she never thought denial could feel so good. Every meeting drives her to a sexual edge and yet they’ve never shared a simple kiss. Resisting him has become a delicious game.

Lucas Wright has enjoyed playing the waiting game with Jessica. The sadist in him enjoys every quip and parry they share. But every man has his limits and he’s officially reached his. He’d never thought that he would find his perfect match in a woman as stubborn as Jessica, but every teasing encounter has convinced him it’s time to put an end to their games and show her just how sweet surrender can be.

Discount on author’s website. Also so many other books, including shifters. Go get yours.

A Distant Heart by Sonali Dev

Sonali Dev

Born to her parents in Mumbai as a result of prayer, pilgrimage, and every fertility treatment known to modern medicine, Kimaya is the first of her mother’s babies to survive after seven miscarriages. Needless to say, her parents treat her like the miracle she is, and short of putting her in a bubble they protect her from anything outside their mansion at the top of Pali Hill in Mumbai overlooking the ocean. But she develops a rare form or aplastic anemia at the age of ten that severely compromises her immune system and requires her to be isolated in a Laminar airflow room.

Trapped in her ivory tower with nothing more than the Arabian Sea churning outside her window for company, she befriends the boy who shows up to wash her windows when he makes the math homework that befuddles her magically easy to understand with his brilliant mind.

Rahul Savant was thirteen when his father died in his arms after taking a bullet for Kimi’s politician father. Rahul was left to take care of two younger siblings and his mother. He accepts Kimi’s father’s mentorship on the condition that he works off the charity by being a servant in his home. As he struggles to take care of his family in his poverty-ridden, crime-ridden neighborhood he loses his beloved younger sister to illness and learns that blocking out his emotions is the only way to survive loss. He believes staying detached is staying strong and it’s the only way he can be focused enough to keep his loved ones safe. But his friendship with Kimi is something he can restrict to the few hours he spends with her across the plastic curtain of her isolation room.

As the years go by Rahul and Kimi develop a unique and deep friendship. He becomes her eyes to the outside world and she becomes his refuge in a cruel world. With Kimi’s encouragement, Rahul makes his way into the extremely selective Indian Civil Services Police Cadre. When Kimi is given a new lease on life via a life-saving procedure, she and Rahul must navigate their undeniable attraction, their lost friendship, complicated family dynamics, and a web of lies that cut too close to home to learn the real meaning of courage, loss and love.

A Distant Heart is up for preorder now but everything Sonali writes is amazing. See my Sweet Spot review with Damon Suede for an extensive report on Dev or try her out yourself.

Love's Changes by Laquette

Laquette

A near-fatal shot through his chest teaches Lieutenant Bryan Smyth of the NYPD two things: He wants to live to see more days and he wants to spend them with his estranged husband, Justice.

Poor decisions made under the strain of grief split the seams of their marriage. Now it’s up to Bryan to show Justice there’s still enough of their love left to salvage from the ruins, still something worth the battle ahead.

Bryan’s shooting has opened Justice’s eyes to new lessons too. The first, tomorrow isn’t promised, the second, life’s too short to live in misery. Justice has watched Bryan shuffle back and forth attempting to balance the man he is at home and the man he has to be at the precinct for too long. Now, he’s done. The only problem is, Justice’s heart is having a hard time adhering to the exit strategy in his head.

I love Laquette and her books too–start anywhere, try everything.

The Sweetest Taboo by Harper Miller

Harper Miller

Like many single women who reside in the city that never sleeps, Micah Foster has had numerous encounters with undesirable men that make her want to renounce love. Just when she’s on the verge of calling it quits in her quest to find love and a sustainable relationship with a Dominant man, her friend Kisa requests her company for a girl’s night out at Spanxxx, a local fetish club. Both Kisa and Micah are seasoned submissive players in the BDSM lifestyle. Micah has been involved in the scene since her early twenties, but she has yet to meet a Dominant she meshes with and takes seriously. Now, at age thirty, she continues to search for a connection that repeatedly eludes her. Under duress, she crosses paths with Dominant Rick Thomas. Unusual and dire circumstances bring the pair together, and he’s exactly what Micah has been searching for

Harper likes it hot, and Harper keeps it real. Give her a spin.

Lock and Key

Sasha Devlin

Shane Willet has been crushing on his roommate Jake for as long as he can remember with no relief in sight. But as studious as Jake is explosive, Shane has given up hope of catching his friend’s eye. In an effort to get over him, Shane allows Jake to drag him to a Key Party—a sex party where men are thrown together by chance. Shane can only hope that hot sex with a virtual stranger will help him forget.

Key Parties are nothing new to a player like Jake Ritter, but tonight he has his own agenda. It involves leaving all other men behind and finally getting Shane in bed. Unbeknownst to Shane, Jake’s rigged the party for them to end up together. Under the cover of darkness, he will indulge in every kinky act that he’s been imagining over the past few months in a bid to bind Shane to him with sex.

Reality more than lives up to fantasy, and both men are left raw in the aftermath of their night of pleasure. Jake may think he knows all there is to know about men and sex, but Shane is going to teach him a thing or two about love…

I dare you not to one click that. I dare you.

Melissa Blue Bluest of Blue

Melissa Blue

When her ex shattered her privacy, revealing all of her secrets to the world, Sophie Lake made a few unspoken promises to herself:

1. Never have sex with a client. Again.
2. When a man tells you who he is, believe him.
3. Never give a man the power to break you.

For two years she’s managed to live by those rules. She has a career to focus on. Celebrities reputations to fix, and her newest client may be her biggest PR challenge. Promoting an observatory should be a cake walk and would be but for Dr. Wade Addison. The former boy genius is prickly, impatient…handsome…sexy as sin… more interested in how her legs look in heels than in pretending to be a people-person.

Asshole, F**ker, Pain In The Ass…

Wade Addison considers those fairly accurate alternatives to his name. He’s not normal, he’s an outsider and he prefers it that way, which is why Sophie is his own personal hell. She wants to take all his knowledge and quirks and turn him into a sound bite for the observatory. She’s his nightly wet dream. The sound of her voice can get him off. He hates her—her wit, her smile, her legs, her kissable mouth.

Hate turns to lust and lust turns into an affair, but the skeletons in both of their closets start to rattle. And they refuse to be ignored.

Give Melissa and her books a try!

The Betting Vow by KM Jackson

KM Jackson

Leila Darling is past done with the supermodel thing, especially the mega-parties and high-profile flings that have done nothing but leave her alone and jaded. She’s got the talent to be a serious actress, but the industry sees her as a high-maintenance, impulsive party girl with a reputation for leaving men in the dust—especially TV producer Carter Bain.
 
Carter’s had his eye on Leila for years, so when a bet gives him a chance to get close to her, he accepts. With the goal of getting Leila the image makeover she needs and Carter the star he desires, the game is on. Get married and stay married for six months. If Leila lasts, she gets her pick of his A-list roles. If Carter wins, she’ll take the hot sidekick part he’s offered.
 
But as their “I do” turns up all kinds of heat, Leila and Carter find they have more in common than they ever imagined. Are these two prepared to put business aside and surrender the ultimate prize, their hearts?

You cannot go wrong with Jackson. Give The Betting Vow or any of her books a try!

Deadly Sexy by Beverly Jenkins

Beverly Jenkins

Everything Ms. Bev writes is wonderful. You can’t pick a bad book. It’s not possible, and there are so many books to choose from. But you can also support her in an extra way by donating to the cause to get one of her books turned into a movie. Talk about a gesture that would mean a lot more than ever right now.

Take the Lead Daria

Alexis Daria

Gina Morales wants to win. It’s her fifth season on The Dance Off, a top-rated network TV celebrity dance competition, and she’s never even made it to the finals. When she meets her latest partner, she sees her chance. He’s handsome, rippling with muscles, and he stars on the popular Alaskan wilderness reality show Living Wild. With his sexy physique and name recognition, she thinks he’s her ticket to the finals—until she realizes they’re being set up.

Stone Nielson hates Los Angeles, he hates reality TV, and he hates that fact that he had to join the cast of the The Dance Off because of family obligations. He can’t wait to get back to Alaska, but he also can’t deny his growing attraction to his bubbly Puerto Rican dance partner. Neither of them are looking for romantic entanglements, and Stone can’t risk revealing his secrets, but as they heat up the dance floor, it’s only a matter of time until he feels an overwhelming urge to take the lead.

When the tabloids catch on to their developing romance, the spotlight threatens to ruin not just their relationship, but their careers and their shot at the trophy. Gina and Stone will have to decide if their priorities lie with fame, fortune, or the chance at a future together.

I can’t wait for this book. Alexis is fabulous and I’m sure her book will be even better.

Brenda Jackson Locked in Temptation

Brenda Jackson

Police detective Joy Ingram’s connection to elite security expert Stonewall Courson is instant. Undeniable. Electric. But her commitment to protect and serve has always come first. Everything else is secondary—especially when she uncovers an underground surrogate baby-making ring. Joy can’t risk a distraction during the most important case of her career, not even one as sexy as reformed ex-con Stonewall. 

There are few things Stonewall values more than a strong woman. But when Joy’s investigation draws her into a deadly conspiracy that goes deeper than she ever imagined, he must convince her that he’s the best man to protect her. And while he puts his life on the line to save hers, the insatiable attraction between them becomes the one danger neither of them can escape.

Jackson has so many books covering so many great tropes. You can’t go wrong. Pick up anything and dig in.

Her Secret Lover Covington

 

Robin Covington

Forbidden fruit is the sweetest. . . .

Kelsey Kyle will do whatever it takes to get into the management trainee program at the casino where she works. So when she’s given the opportunity to get a VIP customer’s endorsement for the program, she jumps at the challenge. All she needs to do is arrange a one-on-one fan experience with the woman’s favorite author, tall-dark-and-intense Micah Holmes. 

An entire week at a Vegas romance readers’ convention, surrounded by hundreds of people, is Micah Holmes’ idea of hell. But one look at Kelsey, his assigned hotel concierge, and the attraction is immediate. Maybe this week won’t be so bad after all…

Anything beyond a “strictly professional” relationship will get Kelsey fired, but she needs to get close to Micah to get the super fan experience her client wants. Hot sex in her apartment pool begins a game of “undercover lover” that quickly escalates to something more. But when Micah discovers her secret agenda, all bets are off.

Robin is such a wonderful woman. I love her to pieces, and her books too.

Piper Huguley

1935. Champion Bates left poky old Winslow, Georgia when he was seventeen years old. He had promised to elope with his childhood sweetheart, but pressured by other influences, he took an earlier train leaving his Delie behind. The pain at leaving her behind has tormented him for the seven years he fought as a ham and egg boxer, trying to make himself worthy of her. He had no chance for the big time until now. He has a fight with a contender boxer–a white man. However, he has been told more fighting will possibly blind him.

Back in Winslow, Cordelia “Delie” Bledsoe is out of luck. A teacher in the local school, she has the care of several children who have been abandoned by their parents. She’s offered $200 to take the children out of Georgia. She wants to take them to her family in Pittsburgh to live on a family farm, but Champion Bates shows up, insistent on helping her. She does not want to trust her old love, but has little choice.

Champion wants to redeem himself with his former sweetheart and doesn’t expect much, but the hair and eyes of one of Delie’s young children tugs at his heart. In this story of sacrifice, Champ and Delie struggle to learn about love and both must grow A Champion’s Heart.

I love everything Piper writes. This book is particularly great–I need to schedule a reread of it soon.

Fast Forward Xio Axelrod

Xio Axelrod

As a nineteen-year-old, wunderkind doctoral candidate, Ian Waters had little interest in social interaction. Books were his companions, and that had suited him just fine. Then a hurricane named Jessen Sørensen blew into his life, throwing Ian off his axis.

On the cusp of rock stardom, Jessen had burned brightly, and Ian had fallen heart-first under his spell. But Ian soon learned he was only a temptation, a pit stop on the road to the rocker’s dreams, and Jessen was gone as quickly as he’d come. Ian buried his heartache in academia, the only home he’d ever known.

When Ian encounters Jessen at a party, the seven-year separation seems insurmountable. There’s too much pain, too much distrust. But Jessen declares he has a new dream, and that’s a life with Ian.

Again, nothing from Xio is anything but a fantastic ride. Pick this and everything else up from her today.

Farrah Rochon

Farrah Rochon

Trust doesn’t always come easy…

As the maverick of the New Orleans City Council, Mackenna Arnold has spent the last four years dismantling the council’s “politics as usual” mentality. Never one to shy away from a challenge, Mack now has her sights set on an even bigger prize: the mayor’s office. But only when the time is right. And only if she can get the pesky freelance journalist hell-bent on investigating her for corruption—who just so happens to be one of the sexiest men alive and her best friend’s younger brother—off her back. But when Mack suspects that her longtime mentor and the city’s current mayor is up to no good, she must convince Ezra Holmes to help her investigate the mayor’s office.

Ezra can admit to having had a thing for Mackenna in his younger days, even though she barely knew his name back then. But his past feelings for Mack have nothing to do with why he’s so committed to exposing her. He suspects she’s used her influence as a public official to cut private deals, and breaking this corruption story would be just the thing to jumpstart his fading career. But what is Ezra supposed to do when he discovers Mack isn’t the one who’s a crooked politician? There’s only one thing he can do: join forces with the woman he’s been crazy about for far too long.  

Farrah’s books always feel like a cozy blanket to me. Danger, excitement, sensuality, but they always feel so safe and cozy and full of community. However you enter her world, you’ll leave feeling happy and wonderful.


So now that I’ve impoverished you…you’re welcome.

Manga & Anime Rec: Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid

Continuing my steady stream of anime and manga posts with a few notes. First, apologies for missing yesterday. It was a conflagration of events. We had a family issue in the evening, and it required my attention to be elsewhere, but mostly yesterday was dedicated to this.

handmade Tohru cosplay tail

This, in case it isn’t immediately obvious, is a handmade cosplay dragon tail. My mother drove here yesterday and my daughter, my mother, and I devoted the day to cosplay construction but mostly making this beast. Anna will be wearing this under her Tohru skirt at Animefest. She is incredibly excited. We have three cosplay costumes, but she and her friend are most excited for Miss Kobayashi, because the costumes are cute and ornate. (I’m playing the dyke lesbian human, so mine is pretty boring. I’m fine with this.) I’m most nervous about this day, because I will be in charge of two pretty teen girls in cute costumes in a con full of strangers. Anybody so much as looks at them wrong and they’re going to find out who the real dragon in the cosplay team is.

Now, you may have heard me say dyke lesbian in the last paragraph and thought, what exactly are you playing at there, Heidi? And the answer is, I’m telling you, this anime is the cute domestic tale of a lesbian office worker who finds a female dragon in the woods and invites her to become her maid, and she accepts, and then they adopt a dragon child and then more dragons into their lives and amusing hijinks ensue. And a few that are not so amusing and you wish weren’t there, and may make some of you hard pass. I shall now explain.

Image of Kobayashi and Tohru

Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid (Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon)

Streaming on Crunchyroll. Manga also available. Dub on Funimation.

Kobayashi is an office worker who, one night after drinking with her coworkers—and by drinking I mean getting herself so smashed she misses her stop and ends up in the mountains—wanders the woods and encounters a dragon. When Kobayashi drinks she’s aggressive and tends to rant about maid culture, which she loves (this is a thing in Japan), and so when she finds a huge green dragon with a sword in its back, she simply takes the sword out and begins to lecture. When the dragon is defensive and threatening, Kobayashi is undeterred, because she’s drunk, and eventually invites the dragon, who admits to homelessness, to live with her as a maid. Also, during this exchange the dragon takes on human form, Kobayashi begins to flirt (well, as much as Kobayashi does), and basically, the dragon—Tohru—is toast. She’s already in love. She’s decided she’s staying in this world and living with Kobayashi.

Tohru feeds Kobayashi her tail

Unfortunately, when Kobayashi wakes up she remembers none of this, which is how the anime starts. And Tohru has zero idea of how to be a human, let alone a maid. She’s really good at worshipping Kobayashi, but Kobayashi doesn’t want to be worshipped, so they have a problem right off the bat. Kobayashi does, however, have a big heart, and can’t bear to turn Torhu out, so she lets her stay on as a maid and begins to train her. As the episodes progress, they learn how to love each other, though don’t hold out for a kiss. This is domestic bliss only.

Tohru and KanaMore dragons show up from the world Tohru has left, looking for her—she was a seriously powerful dragon where she had been, which becomes clear as she defends Kobayashi’s home from burglars and play-spars with other dragons. Every dragon that arrives becomes assimilated into the domestic Kobayashi sphere: Kana, the child dragon, becomes Tohru and Kobayashi’s adopted child, and the rest of them become their friends. Fafnir seems to have some potentially gay/gamer/bro/who knows relationship with one of Kobayashi’s coworkers, Elma is cute but a bit of a mess, and then…then there’s Lucoa.

Shota and LucoaThere are definitely people who will stop watching/not want to watch Miss Kobayashi because of Lucoa. I’m going to present the facts and my take on it, and then you can make your own decisions. Here’s the details on Lucoa. She’s an Aztec dragon goddess who’s a friend of Tohru’s but who lost her divine status years ago. She happens to be incredibly well endowed and likes to wear as little clothing as possible, showing off her figure. She is summoned in the series and is living with a fifth-year male student named Shōta, who is a mage and is convinced Lucoa is a demon.

Lucoa is constantly cooing over and flirting with/teasing Shōta, and his face is always ending up near her breasts, especially in their first episodes. Lucoa is eleven. This is all that happens, and toward the end of the anime, it’ firmly settles on mother, and to be clear, they are absolutely never in any kind of a relationship.  This is not an uncommon theme in Japanese anime, in my experience, this love of tit. There’s a huge fixation on it in many anime, how big breasts are, having them popping out of clothing, even in anime that have nothing to do with sex, even in anime meantTohru, Kobayashi, and Kana sleeping sitting up together
for young boys—of Shōta’s age. I have no idea if this is meant to be some kind of commentary in Japan or if this is more of the same nonsense. But it’s there, and you might not like it. We here at our house just roll our eyes and tolerate it. It’s not much and it’s certainly not worth dismissing the rest of the great anime for, in our opinion. But yours may differ.

Mostly though this show is a fun, adorable anime and snuggly walk through domestic snuggliness. I have the manga as well, though I haven’t read it yet. More is on the way, and I’ll keep up with it largely because I worry there won’t be any further anime. But if there is, we here at our house will watch it. And next week, we will be cosplaying it.

Okay, a housekeeping note on the Rafflecopter: so, I really thought you could enter the blog thing each time I did a post, but I guess not? So I’ll just keep adding new blog post entries until they say, “Look, you can’t have that many blog post entries.” I can’t do it while I’m gone, so that’ll slow it down, but for the next few days I’ll keep adding one, and then when I get back as well. So keep checking the Rafflecopter to see if there’s more. There is a new one today. Plus I added a Facebook and Twitter, and you can always tweet again and again. Good luck! The Yuri Nendoroid arrived today, so he’s waiting for you.

Yuri on Ice episode three later today.

Rafflecopter link. (Full explanation post, pic link as reminder of stuff on offer.)

 Rafflecopter giveaway: signed paperback of Antisocial, 11 x 17 poster of cover art, Natsuko Yuri!!! fan book, Eros Yuri Nendoroid


A single stroke can change your world.

Xander Fairchild can’t stand people in general and frat boys in particular, so when he’s forced to spend his summer working on his senior project with Skylar Stone, a silver-tongued Delta Sig with a trust fund who wants to make Xander over into a shiny new image, Xander is determined to resist. He came to idyllic, Japanese culture-soaked Benten College to hide and make manga, not to be transformed into a corporate clone in the eleventh hour.

Skylar’s life has been laid out for him since before he was born, but all it takes is one look at Xander’s artwork, and the veneer around him begins to crack. Xander himself does plenty of damage too. There’s something about the antisocial artist’s refusal to yield that forces Skylar to acknowledge how much his own orchestrated future is killing him slowly…as is the truth about his gray-spectrum sexuality, which he hasn’t dared to speak aloud, even to himself.

Through a summer of art and friendship, Xander and Skylar learn more about each other, themselves, and their feelings for one another. But as their senior year begins, they must decide if they will part ways and return to the dull futures they had planned, or if they will take a risk and leap into a brightly colored future—together.

Buy links

Heidi Cullinan has always enjoyed a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. Proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality, Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights. She writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because she believes there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys playing with new recipes, reading romance and manga, playing with her cats, and watching too much anime. Find out more about Heidi at heidicullinan.com.

Rewatch Recap/Reaction — Yuri on Ice Episode Two: Two Yuris?! Drama at Yu-topia

Continuing my rewatch and recap/reaction of Yuri on Ice, cross-posting on my blog, tumblr, and Patreon. I realized yesterday this is actually my third recap—somewhere on my blog is my reaction post post-episode ten, a retrospective once we knew what Victor had been hiding.

The people who used to follow my blog for rants and deep thoughts have to be so frustrated. Sorry.

Anyway. This time I watched the stream first, so I’m watching the BluRay while I type this. The first thing that got me was how Victor made the promise to Yurio but not only didn’t say goodbye to him but let him find out he’d left the country and quit skating by reading social media. How cold, man.

Yurio lying on his bed in Russia with his cat, Puma Tiger Scorpion

Puma Tiger Scorpion!

The second thing that hit me, thinking both of episode ten’s revelations and Victor’s total characterization in general, is how much I love that they gave both Victor and Yuuri a mix of feminine and masculine traits/stereotypes. There’s no uke/seme dynamic here at all. Overall I would say Victor has more feminine flashes than Yuri, but neither one of them takes a role. They move in and out with a grace and ease that all people of any orientation should and do, but that is so important to see in a gay romance. It’s not that there aren’t very feminine gay men or very masculine—and Victor has some seriously soft moments—but I love this representation, that they’re so both, so comfortably.

Victor reveals his shoulder as he wakes up, looking feminine and sexy

But seriously, though—how obvious is it now that Victor is trying desperately to flirt with and get Yuri to respond to him in this episode? You can see him searching for the guy who pole danced and dipped him and it’s like he’s here and totally gone at the same time, and he’s like…what is happening to me right now.

I love so much that it’s that this moment they bring in Yurio, giving Victor an escape. He could bail now. He has an out. I wonder if he ever planned to take it? If Yuri hadn’t brought his A game? I don’t know. But man. The first four episodes are gorgeous in so many ways. The brilliance here blows me away. They know their structure. It’s so seamless and invisible, but it’s there, and so important.

Love Yuri getting sassy when Yurio tries to bully him. “Yeah, I’ve got Victor, so what?” But I do wonder. Until Yurio showed up…was Victor doing his routine thinking, “I’ll give this to Yuri, or was he practicing thinking he’d go back to competing because this was going poorly?

Victor skating the eros routine

I also love that A) Victor has a picture of himself in his room and B) Yurio is sleeping in his closet.

The scene where Victor hunts Yuri down and finds him skating is one of my favorites. I love everyone giving him pieces of Yuri, and Victor seeming to calm down then, as if he finally understands the man he’s come all this way to claim. He’s already figured out it’s not going to be as simple as showing up; now he knows how he has to draw the man he fell in love with out. And he’s helping Yurio too. Everyone wins.

But seriously. Remember when we all thought Yuri would never be able to skate eros, that he didn’t have it in him? Remember that?

What I truly love, though, is the way Victor’s face gets all soft and excited when Yuri says what he wants if he wins is to eat katsudon with him and that he’ll do his best to win. It didn’t make sense at the time. But now it does. It was like he said he wanted a date, a victory date. And he said he was going to try hard to win. And Victor really wants him to win.

Victor closeup looking happy and proud

Happy sigh. This show. It’s always good.

Tomorrow is episode three.

Rafflecopter link if you want to play along with that. (Full explanation post, pic link as reminder of stuff on offer.) For today’s question, you can just talk about this episode, YOI, or make whatever comment you want, or do any of the other prompts it gives you. Just make sure you go THROUGH the Rafflecopter or it won’t log your entry. Simply leaving a comment here first isn’t an entry.

 Rafflecopter giveaway: signed paperback of Antisocial, 11 x 17 poster of cover art, Natsuko Yuri!!! fan book, Eros Yuri Nendoroid


A single stroke can change your world.

Xander Fairchild can’t stand people in general and frat boys in particular, so when he’s forced to spend his summer working on his senior project with Skylar Stone, a silver-tongued Delta Sig with a trust fund who wants to make Xander over into a shiny new image, Xander is determined to resist. He came to idyllic, Japanese culture-soaked Benten College to hide and make manga, not to be transformed into a corporate clone in the eleventh hour.

Skylar’s life has been laid out for him since before he was born, but all it takes is one look at Xander’s artwork, and the veneer around him begins to crack. Xander himself does plenty of damage too. There’s something about the antisocial artist’s refusal to yield that forces Skylar to acknowledge how much his own orchestrated future is killing him slowly…as is the truth about his gray-spectrum sexuality, which he hasn’t dared to speak aloud, even to himself.

Through a summer of art and friendship, Xander and Skylar learn more about each other, themselves, and their feelings for one another. But as their senior year begins, they must decide if they will part ways and return to the dull futures they had planned, or if they will take a risk and leap into a brightly colored future—together.

Buy links

Heidi Cullinan has always enjoyed a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. Proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality, Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights. She writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because she believes there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys playing with new recipes, reading romance and manga, playing with her cats, and watching too much anime. Find out more about Heidi at heidicullinan.com.

 

 

 

 

 

Yuri on Ice, Episode 1: Easy as Pirozhki!! The Grand Prix Final of Tears

A reminder this is the second time I’ve recapped this episode, and this is a more casual version, though also far more informed. Probably this is best consumed if you’ve seen the show, though you’re free to wade in if you hadn’t But you should watch the show.

So I watched this on my BD because I can’t ever stand to watch it streaming now that I have the high quality version—I put on the Crunchyroll stream for reference while I type this response up, and the difference is intense. Of course, I’m missing all the subs, which is an issue. I’m going off my memory, and since I almost never watch the version with text, it’s increasingly hazier. Though I notice more when I don’t have the words at the bottom, so.  I always read the signs around them and pay more attention to the details of the animation.

This time the first thing I noticed was, poor Cao Bin from China—he finaled last year but wasn’t even a blip on the radar this year. Will he be a dark horse next season? Time will tell.

Also, I love chibi Yuri. Like, I love, love, love chibi Yuri.

The next thing that occurred to me for the first time (I’m probably the last person to get this) is that Yuri Plisetsky didn’t burst into Yuri Katsuki’s stall to be an asshole. He did it to jerk him out of his downward spiral. Or…maybe it wasn’t that deliberate—maybe he really was just mad at him for flaking. But I don’t know. Maybe it was deliberate.

We get to the bit then when Victor shows up after the show’s over, dragging his suitcase, talking to Yuri P, offering a commemorative photo to Yuri K, and I just sigh, thinking, man, the journey you two are going to take. I’m already squishy and we’re like two inches in.

Now we’re at Hasetsu, and Minako is picking up Yuri—why is she wearing a ring around her neck? All of a sudden I’m imagining all kinds of backstory. Is she a widow? Is that her mother’s? Grandmother’s? Is this just a fashion thing? This is the sort of thing that’s going to keep me up at night.

And meanwhile Victor is in Tokyo. Honestly, was he expecting to run into Yuri? Hoping? How hard was he pining at this point? Also filed under “things keeping Heidi up at night.” Additionally “things fueling her fanfiction.”

Oh—Minako’s “Ahhhhhh!” in the scene where she finds out how much weight Yuri’s gained? That’s the first Japanese I ever read! That was my first moment of comprehension. I realized that was the letter A and it was Ahhhhhh and everything clicked and I felt so cool.

(This reaction thing is a little disjointed because I’m basically watching a second time and typing up my reactions. If you queued it up and played along it would track.)

I love the Yuutopia hot spring, and I want to go to an onsen. It’s on my bucket list now. In a big way.

Okay now I’m after the break, Yuri going to Ice Castle Hasetsu to skate for Yuko, having the flashback. I do love the moment baby Yuri has his gay awakening. Like, he doesn’t even quite get it’s his gay awakening. It’s mostly his Victor awakening. “I’ll just be a complete Victor nut. That’ll cure this.” Uh-huh. Just you wait, kiddo.

I’ve always found it significant, though, that Yuri doesn’t stay to pine over Victor’s performance but instead goes to make his own. That speaks so much to his drive and his forward momentum. If he were truly stuck, he’d be at home imagining what he’d be doing, not going out and doing it. I mean, he could have said, “I’ll go see Yuko after Victor skates.” No. He went while. That’s my boy.

God, but what in heaven is going to happen when Victor and Yuri skate on the same ice? It will melt, I think. Well, and Chris will ejaculate on it.

I love showing people who haven’t seen YOI episode one. I love how it captivates them. The story of a guy totally fucked over who decides to skate his idol’s routine for no reason except to lift himself up, and then his friend’s kids humiliate him online in a huge way and he wants to die, except this somehow gets him his childhood idol and secret gay crush and also skating rival as his new coach. Also, he gets to see Victor buck ass naked.

I mean. Everybody keeps saying Victor is extra. I would say Sayo-sensei and Mitsuro-sensei are the extra ones.

I love though how everyone takes him back in, how the Nishigori family adopt him and give him a private rink, how he watches Yuri and Victor training in St. Petersburg and gets jealous and determined (oh honey, just you wait). I love how the two twins cry when scolded and the other just sits there smiling serenely at the laptop. I love everyone’s reaction to the viral video, especially Victor’s determined expression. I mean, it’s like he just gets up and packs up his dog and takes off.

And then Victor in the fucking bath. That scene. That wink. That ass. Iconic as hell.

Oh—I FORGOT, yesterday. I think again I’m the last one at this party, but somehow I did not know that Georgi is the guy who sings the end credits? This blows my mind. I know that’s not uncommon for voice actors to sing the theme songs, but I totally didn’t see that one coming. He came out and sang it during Yuri on Stage and my jaw hit the floor. The things you learn.

THAT’S GEORGI. FOR REAL.

So, that’s episode one rewatched and in the can. I don’t know how many times this is. We’re definitely over twenty. That seems really low, too. It’s a lot. It’s still a great show. It’s a fantastic show. It makes my heart sing. And this episode is still like the first dance step in falling in love.

Tomorrow we shall go onward to episode two.

Rafflecopter link if you want to play along with that. (Full explanation post, pic link as reminder of stuff on offer.) For today’s question, you can just talk about this episode, YOI, or make whatever comment you want, or do any of the other prompts it gives you. Just make sure you go THROUGH the Rafflecopter or it won’t log your entry. Simply leaving a comment here first isn’t an entry.

Rafflecopter giveaway: signed paperback of Antisocial, 11 x 17 poster of cover art, Natsuko Yuri!!! fan book, Eros Yuri Nendoroid

 


Cover art of Heidi Cullinan's novel, Antisocial. Manga style cover with two young men standing in a manga panel, looking up through cherry blossoms. One is in a suit, no tie, the other in a plaid shirt. The cover is pink and very soft.A single stroke can change your world.

Xander Fairchild can’t stand people in general and frat boys in particular, so when he’s forced to spend his summer working on his senior project with Skylar Stone, a silver-tongued Delta Sig with a trust fund who wants to make Xander over into a shiny new image, Xander is determined to resist. He came to idyllic, Japanese culture-soaked Benten College to hide and make manga, not to be transformed into a corporate clone in the eleventh hour.

Skylar’s life has been laid out for him since before he was born, but all it takes is one look at Xander’s artwork, and the veneer around him begins to crack. Xander himself does plenty of damage too. There’s something about the antisocial artist’s refusal to yield that forces Skylar to acknowledge how much his own orchestrated future is killing him slowly…as is the truth about his gray-spectrum sexuality, which he hasn’t dared to speak aloud, even to himself.

Through a summer of art and friendship, Xander and Skylar learn more about each other, themselves, and their feelings for one another. But as their senior year begins, they must decide if they will part ways and return to the dull futures they had planned, or if they will take a risk and leap into a brightly colored future—together.

Buy links


Heidi Cullinan has always enjoyed a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. Proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality, Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights. She writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because she believes there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys playing with new recipes, reading romance and manga, playing with her cats, and watching too much anime. Find out more about Heidi at heidicullinan.com.

 

 

 

 

Heidi’s Month of Manga and Anime: Yuri!!! on Stage & Yutora!!! O.S.T.

I was all set to start off my first post in this series of anime and manga by rewatching Yuri on Ice, and then yesterday I get this package in the mail from September Scanlations.

The layout of my Yuri on Stage and Yutora OST BluRay and soundtrack from September Scantilations

I don’t know what the little blue Makkachin clip thing is. Weirder, it lights up. At three levels.

This is, basically, a proxy service, which bought and shipped Yuri!!! On Stage and Yutora!!!O.S.T. to me after purchasing it (you can’t buy it internationally). I didn’t realize it was going to come with that amazing signboard—how perfect as next week I’m heading to Animefest where it’s my intention to stand in line at every opportunity to meet Sayo-sensei and Mitsurō-sensei and get their autograph and present my book as thanks. I honestly have no idea what they will do with the book, but I just need to present it like an offering, say my thanks (I have my speech in Japanese, thanks to Sara, and will be practicing), and then the circle is closed. Then I can go make new circles. I have no expectations of anything—I’m fully prepared to not even get to meet them and have a backup plan to hand the book to a handler—but I just want to close this circle. That’s my whole goal. I just need to say thank you somehow and present this thing they helped make. Then it’s done.

Anyway. Yuri on Stage. We’re going to talk about that and Yutora today instead, because I ingested them first. Tomorrow I’ll start a viewing/walkthrough of Yuri on Ice, and then I’ll continue through other manga and anime.

A quick word of how this is going to go: I really am going to do this every single day from now until the Labor Day, and there will be a Rafflecopter link each time, giving you a chance. (I know a lot of you are after Eros Yuri. I would be too. I hope you get him!) If you’re just joining me, though, and you don’t know a ton about Yuri on Ice (rare few, but there are a couple of you), I suggest you go back to my recaps from last November quick and read those, and better yet, watch the show. Bear in mind, though, that I know a lot more now than I did then and I will be having entirely different responses now.

I will try to respond to comments if people have them, but especially once we get into next week I’ll be bad about it until after the 22nd because of the convention. (I’ll be setting things up in the queue while I’m gone.) If you’re going to be at Animefest too, please let me know and say hi, okay?

Anyway: here we go. Let’s talk about this stuff!

Yutora

Yutora!!! O.S.T. cover

As soon as I heard there was going to be a release of the Yuri on Ice soundtrack, not just the skating music but the background music, I knew I had to have it. I love soundtracks, absolutely adore them, so the idea of having this one was a no-brainer. I found a link to it on Spotify, and another playlist that seems to have the entire YOI oeuvre on there, if you’re into that.

I listened to this with my daughter as we drove around town running errands, then again as I made dinner, which happened to be katsudon. We’ve taken to making it anytime we have something to celebrate (yesterday it was the release of my 25th novel) or whenever my daughter can talk me into it. It’s great background music in general, but it also made me super nostalgic, because of course I kept pausing and remembering the parts of the series the music came from. “Oh, that’s the part before the end credits in that episode. Oh, and that’s that bit from when Yuri thought his eros was katsudon.” I first heard “At the airport” as I was going to the grocery store, and my whole body got soft. I sat in the car listening as it finished, resisting the urge to curl into the steering wheel and sigh.

A lot of the songs are more fleshed out than what I remembered from the show, or at least they sound different with no dialog. I’m really excited to watch with the soundtrack fresh in my head and hear it more loudly now that I know it better. And I’m super psyched to have it on our road trip to Dallas.

Yuri on Stage

So this was a little more challenging to take in—this, for those who don’t know, is the recording of the live event this GIF of Junichi Scwabe touching the top of Toshiyuki Toyonaga's headsummer where the voice actors from the series appeared on stage with Mitsurō Kubo and performed some skits and then a new scene with the characters. There’s a translation of the scene online, which I watched so I had a better idea of what they said, but the rest of the BD I had to sort out with guesses and my incredibly poor Japanese. There was one part that was a skit where I think they were trying to translate something from Russian into Japanese via teams—I know they were joking that one team was “Team Glasses,” because I know megame is glasses and also Phichit’s actor, Kensho Ono, was the only team member who didn’t have glasses and kept making fake glasses first with his fingers and then this odd Styrofoam thing. Mostly though I didn’t have a clue what was going on.

What I did enjoy, though was seeing the actors interact. Some of them were very different than I would have guessed—I had no idea Minami’s actor was crazy fluent in English, or that Chris’s voice actor was basically Chris in real life—and seeing Junichi Schwabe ham it up with a stuffed Makkachin was great. Also, Toshiyuki Toyonaga is incredibly stylish and…honestly, very Yuri. I loved watching them all on stage. I will watch again, wishing I knew what they were saying, but watching all the same.

Honestly the whole thing felt like a great warmup to rewatching the series. I’m so primed now, so ready to dig back in and remember why I love it so much. I’ve deliberately not watched for some time (several months) so I can have it fresh again, and I’m just so. Ready.

That review will come tomorrow, in this same place. In the meantime, here’s the Rafflecopter link, if you’re looking to enter again, and a picture/listing to remind you what’s at stake. And if you just got here, here’s the initial post explaining the Raffleopter so you know what’s going on and why. Ganbatte kudasai!

ETA: Leave a comment below (after clicking through the Rafflecopter link) and that should count as an entry, I think. I don’t think it’s only commenting on the first link, I hope. Sometimes I don’t understand Rafflecopter. You don’t have to answer the question Rafflecopter asks, either. It’s just about getting logged into their system.

Rafflecopter giveaway: signed paperback of Antisocial, 11 x 17 poster of cover art, Natsuko Yuri!!! fan book, Eros Yuri Nendoroid


A single stroke can change your world.

Xander Fairchild can’t stand people in general and frat boys in particular, so when he’s forced to spend his summer working on his senior project with Skylar Stone, a silver-tongued Delta Sig with a trust fund who wants to make Xander over into a shiny new image, Xander is determined to resist. He came to idyllic, Japanese culture-soaked Benten College to hide and make manga, not to be transformed into a corporate clone in the eleventh hour.

Skylar’s life has been laid out for him since before he was born, but all it takes is one look at Xander’s artwork, and the veneer around him begins to crack. Xander himself does plenty of damage too. There’s something about the antisocial artist’s refusal to yield that forces Skylar to acknowledge how much his own orchestrated future is killing him slowly…as is the truth about his gray-spectrum sexuality, which he hasn’t dared to speak aloud, even to himself.

Through a summer of art and friendship, Xander and Skylar learn more about each other, themselves, and their feelings for one another. But as their senior year begins, they must decide if they will part ways and return to the dull futures they had planned, or if they will take a risk and leap into a brightly colored future—together.

Buy links


Heidi Cullinan has always enjoyed a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. Proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality, Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights. She writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because she believes there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys playing with new recipes, reading romance and manga, playing with her cats, and watching too much anime. Find out more about Heidi at heidicullinan.com.