Monday, July 7, 2014

Battle of the Cakes!

I had a brief, friendly argument on Facebook concerning the difference between Pig-Pickin' Cake and Better Than Sex Cake. I'll give you the two recipes I've used or at least have eaten after having it baked by others, and let you decide.

Note: I'm darned if I can find the cookbook with my mom's recipe in it (it was one of those fund-raising cookbooks that gather recipes from ladies at the church), but here's one I found online. They're all pretty much the same, so no one's feathers should get ruffled.

Pig-Pickin' Cake
Called such because this is the cake you eat at a pig pickin'. That's where an entire pig is barbecued in one piece, poor thing, and the crowd picks from the poor, delicious corpse. Of course there's potato salad, slaw, corn on the cob, and sweet tea (with hard liquor available out in back of the barn) to accompany.

1 box yellow cake mix
1 11-oz. can mandarin oranges, undrained
4 eggs
1/2 c. oil
1 3.5 oz. pkg. vanilla INSTANT pudding mix (a very few recipes use a 6 oz. box)
1 15-oz. can of crushed pineapple, undrained
1 12-oz container of Cool Whip
OR an 8-oz can of pineapple with a 9-oz. Cool Whip, depending on how much frosting you need.

Preheat oven to 325°. Mix cake mix, oranges, eggs and oil. Batter will be thin!

Divide batter into three 8-inch pans (for the classic version) or two 9-inch pans or one 9x13 inch pan. Bake 30 min. or until cake tests done.

Combine pudding mix and pineapple (with juice). Fold in Cool Whip. Spread on cooled cake. Don't frost the sides; just slap the stuff between the layers and on top. Oh, you can frost the sides if you want to and have enough frosting. You have my permission. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

VARIATION: Ooh, I need to try this.

Before frosting, poke holes in your layers and pour the pineapple juice over them. Don't bother with the juice in your actual frosting.

Cake must be stored in fridge!

(Picture approximate to what I remember it looking like, without the chocolate scribbles, and substituting pecans for the walnuts shown. Also in making three layers, not four, and it being a yellow cake base and having the frosting between the layers and… Well, it looked sorta like this, in a cakish way.)

Better Than Sex Cake

1 box yellow cake mix
3 oz. vanilla instant pudding
1/2 c. water
3 eggs
1 1/2 c. oil
1 c. sour cream

Blend and beat well (probably in the neighborhood of 2 minutes once it's mixed). Stir in:

1 bar German chocolate, grated fine
6 oz. chocolate chips
1 c. chopped pecans, because you can't have a sex cake without some nuts

Grease and flour three 8- or 9-inch pans. Bake at 350° 35 to 40 min.

8 oz. cream cheese
1/2 c. butter
1 box confectioner's sugar
1 Tbsp. vanilla

Use a mixer to mix it until it's frosting consistency. This one gets frosting on the sides as well as between the layers and on top. If you're feeling creative, sprinkle a little toasted coconut and/or nuts on it all.

Monday, June 9, 2014

My Writing Process (A Blog Tour)

Thanks to Reese Ryan (< please visit her site), I get to grab the metaphorical baton and provide a stop on a blog hop. This should be short & sweet.

I have to answer 4 questions. Let's get started!

1) What am I currently working on?
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
3) Why do I write what I do?
4) How does your writing process work?

Hm. Pronoun switch on question 4. Sometimes it's not fun to be a grammar nazi.

Let's mash this all together. This year is special for me. At some point early in 2013 I looked at the "last opened" dates on my novel files and was SHOCKED!!!! with multiple exclamation points at how VERY long it had been since I'd last worked on the stories I considered important to get published toot sweet.

Also, for the past year our local writers' group, HCRW, and other sources had been stressing getting our work processed in a professional manner in order to stand out from the self-published crowd and make sure we were presenting our best work.

So beginning last December, I've been re-issuing old books, this time professionally: with pro covers, pro formatting, pro editing, with actual, bought-for-me ISBNs (those are inventory-type numbers) and copyrights. (And lots of money doled out to pay for all this.) I also planned to finish the first major arc of my Three Worlds superhero fantasy series. I've given myself one year to get everything (including website) in order. With Vol. 3 I'm running six weeks behind schedule, but all should still get done by December.

My writing process is thus different this year, as most of this is editing mode. The unpublished books were sitting already written, but they were written long ago and in need of serious updating of style (and tech) as well as cutting. Usually my goal is to write for one hour each day. Most people have daily page count goals, and perhaps when I retire I'll be able to do that, but for now I go by time. On difficult days I employ a timer. On really difficult days I disconnect from the Internet.

My Three Worlds work may be contemporary romance, but it's got these superheroes in it. I like to take über-powerful heroes and ask, "How would they work in the real world?" It's kind of like The Incredibles, but more so. As a fan from way back of superhero comics, I have favorite kinds of superheroes, favorite kinds of superhero organizations, but always thought they weren't operating logically. Now I can make up my own. My organizations have money problems, PR units, med techs who accompany the action teams, transportation problems, and lots of cool gadgets. The biggest problem with that last item is that our own tech is advancing so rapidly that I have to keep changing things to make them futuristic.

A few others write superhero romance, I've noticed, but these are more romance-oriented than mine (though this first arc is pretty romantic), and most of the ones I've read haven't set up as intricate a universe as I have to. I'm settling back for a long series! Also, Three Worlds has a lot of paranormal/New Age stuff in it: telepathy, ghosts, angels, "how do we relate to the universe?" questions.

That's because I'm really interested in that kind of thing. I've always been fascinated with the paranormal, and even attended a psychic school for 3 years way back when. These days I'm a member of the Rhine Research Center Book Club, which is immersing me in the latest scientific explorations of psychic phenomena. It's sooo cool! And some of the people in the group can do amazing things!

So that's it for these questions. Hope you'll try my books. (If you like 'em, please write a review. If you'd don't like 'em, please write a review.)

I'm passing the baton on to two other bloggers. Check 'em out next week! Here they are:

Maggie Maxwell is a speculative fiction writer with a love for adventure, superheroics, and a good laugh! She's over at the Wandering Quille.

Selena Blake is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of 20+ erotic paranormal and contemporary romances. Fans gobble up her Stormy Weather series. She's a fan of action movies, green tea, Milky Way bars and thunderstorms, not necessarily in that order. Find her online at

COMMENT ON THIS POST TO WIN! I'm giving away a free ebook to a commenter. If you also want to be put on my mailing list (like an email a couple times a year), please include your email address, camouflaged from spambots by putting things like "@" and "." in brackets and spelled out: [at] [dot].

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Livin' is Easy

(6) $50 Amazon or B&N Gift Cards

Comment with your name and email to be entered into the Grand Prize drawing. Comments without name and email will not be counted. Commenting on each and every stop will increase your chances of winning.
Winners for the (6) Grand Prizes will be drawn and announced on THE ROMANCE TROUPE blog by June 10th.

Before we begin, let me announce that from the 4th through the 6th, you can buy Lost in the Stars (vol. 2 of the Three Worlds saga) for just 99¢ on Amazon! Sorry this price couldn't stick around until the 8th and thus the full run of this blog hop, but Amazon has conditions on its sales.

Welcome to my stop within the "Summer for Love" Blog Hop! Hope you enjoy it. Stay tuned to the bottom of this page for a chance to win a FREE EBOOK!

SUMMER! Astronomically, it occurs between June 20th-ish and September 22nd-ish. But that's if you live in the Northern Hemisphere. In the southern one, summer happens while we northerners are having winter.

Thus it is that our two lead characters in the superhero romance, Touch of Danger (vol. 1 of the Three Worlds saga), find themselves meeting and romancing during summer, even though it's February. Being that they're in the tropics doesn't hurt either.

Lina O'Kelly was just starting her own vacation...
. . .

White fear washed through her like ice, and once again Carolina O’Kelly asked herself if now wasn’t a good time to take another step back from life. She couldn’t think straight. This was all getting too real, and if she got flustered she’d die.

The hotel was burning down around her.

Wishing wouldn’t stanch the smoke. She shivered in the heat of the tropical morning.

Come on, do something! she ordered herself through the numbing daze. Focus on goal A. Okay, this is me now, doing something. She sat frozen on the bed.

The hotel posted no fire instructions on the door that allowed tendrils of smoke to curl into the room, despite the wet towels stuffed under it. No fire trucks had yet shown up here in the middle of nowhere.

Hard reality was that no matter how anxiously she wished, the ParaNet was probably on the other side of the world stopping some war or another. The harder reality was that Lina O’Kelly was too damned unimportant for even the most minor of ParaNetters to care about.

It was up to her to save herself. As usual.

“This is not funny, God,” she muttered, and the flames of righteous indignation blazed through her inner freeze.

She jerked the knot on the sheets in her lap tighter, letting out an “umph!” for her efforts. It didn’t feel secure to her. She stepped on one sheet and pulled up, testing—and the knot slipped.


So she reknotted it and pushed the thought of failure away as if it were a physical thing. It was five long stories to the ground from this rapidly-crumbling firetrap someone had advertised as a hotel. A bitter, dark fume oozed out of the electrical outlet next to her.

She set to work on the next sheet, tying it to the thin blanket with renewed determination. All she had to do was plan and take action: one, two, three, like all the Zig Ziglar motivational speeches she listened to.

Goal A? Get out of hotel. Alive.

Dying was not on her list of life goals. Sure, she might break a leg on the way down, but if she did, she’d still be able to crawl to safety.

She tugged on the new knot. This one held—good. Hope bloomed within her. Gathering up her prize, she ran to the balcony and threw it over the railing. It unwound down the side of the ugly cement structure—less than halfway. The bloom soured into a tight ball in her gut.

**You’ll need more sheets,** they told her.

“I noticed,” she replied. She closed her eyes, took a deep, cleansing breath and tried not to notice the burning taint that came with it. Squaring her shoulders, she hauled the liferope back up. She looked around her room desperately. Long locks of dark hair still wet from her shower slapped against her face as she turned. The room’s curtains were already ripped; they’d never begin to hold her. Where could she get some more sheets? How much time did she have?

Damned cheap hotel! She should have paid more and stayed down the road in St. Catherine, at one of the nice, nonflammable hotels there. Trying to save a few bucks—stupid! Stupid! Lina cursed herself as she dragged her chain of sheets back inside.

She grabbed some clothes, her wallet and her iPad, and stuffed them into her beach bag before she paused to stare at it. What was she doing? Having something to wear besides this nightgown was a B goal at most. This was not survival.

She was getting rattled again. Remember Goal A. Everything was expendable except herself. Still, the bag was packed; no need to waste it. She tossed it onto the balcony to grab on the way out.

She fumbled at sneakers, but her hands shook too badly to pull the laces into any kind of bow or knot. Get hold of yourself, Muttbutt! she berated herself. She hurled the shoes out over the balcony, venting her rage and frustration. Put the shoes on once she was down and safe.

Lina wanted to kick the walls and scream. This damned cardboard hotel didn’t offer much for survival. Hell, the fire alarm hadn’t even peeped yet. She’d used up all her room’s resources. What was left? Oh—other rooms. Behind a chair stood a connecting door to the room next door.

Of course it was locked. Nothing in this life came easy. She hurled herself at the door—yowch!—did it again—and it gave. One more heave and it crashed open.

The cloud of dark gray smoke hanging in this room whirlpooled from the disturbance. After she pulled her nightgown’s bodice up to cover her nose and mouth, Lina yanked one corner of sheets and blankets off the bed there as quickly as she could. Still she had to pause to cough out the bitter smoke.

Suddenly someone pounded at the hallway door. The sound stopped. She heard male coughing in the corridor, then the pounding resumed. Please, God, let it be a fireman!

“Hold on!” she cried as she unlocked the door. It stuck. The person on the other side threw himself against it. As it finally slammed open, a new, darker cloud of smoke followed. Heat poured in like a wave. Lina doubled over in a paroxysm of coughing. The blind sound of man-coughing echoed her. He wheezed as he shoved the door closed behind himself and then pulled Lina closer to the balcony and fresh air.

She gasped it in and rubbed her tearing eyes.

“You okay?” the man asked.

She blinked against the blur. Tall. Brawny. Dark hair, medium-brown skin. A familiar, chiseled jaw line and even more familiar black clothing. Valiant?  Awright, Valiant! Yes!
Valiant of the ParaNet.

Valiant equaled safety. Lina’s shoulders sagged with relief.

But... but he wasn’t doing anything. He wasn’t putting out the fire with his parapowers, wasn’t sweeping her up in his arms to fly her from this horrible mess. This had to be someone dressed like the famous parahero.

But no. The right sleeve of the costume might be in shreds, but the face was definitely his.

“I’m, I’m fine. Thanks,” she managed to say. One step farther back; this wasn’t reality, was it?

Oui, I’m the real thing,” he assured her, and his voice held Valiant’s French-Canadian accent, the rich timbre. “But non, maintenant I have no powers. Sorry. Don’t worry. We’ll get out.”

He scanned the area outside the balcony, assessing the situation much as she’d done. Then he turned back into the room to circle the place as he kept low out of the smoke, checking what was in drawers, searching for tools. Valiant tried the phone but put it back when someone told him no one was answering downstairs. Oh—she had. Her body was talking while she numbly stood somewhere behind herself. Too far from reality, Lina. Come back. Don’t forget the fire.

Valiant without powers! How had that happened? And a helluva time for it to happen. God was certainly having a good belly laugh at her expense today, but He had no business laughing at Valiant. Valiant was one of the good guys. He was Important.

Valiant went out to the balcony again.

“There’s no way down out there,” she told him. “I think we have to make our own rope. Help me with these sheets. Please?”

He grunted his acceptance of her plan and together they wrestled the final sheets off the bed. While he dragged the bundle to her room she retrieved towels out of the bathroom.

Once back, she wet the towels and stuffed them around the connecting door as... Valiant... snapped the TV off. CNNi had been airing PanRand, with that spectacular footage of Valiant towing a transatlantic jet on his back to a safe landing. The powerless version here and now sat on her bed and knotted cheap sheets together.

He nodded with his chin at the sheets she’d already worked. “They’ll never hold,” he declared. “Watch.”

He made some kind of sailor’s knot with his sheets: over, over and through. He gave it an ineffectual tug and frowned.

“I’ll get used to this,” he muttered, and then jerked the knot tight with more force than was necessary. He displayed the result to her before starting on a new sheet.

Lina quickly undid her knots and retied them the way he did. When she pulled on the two ends, the connection was definitely stronger.

Her guides’ warning cut through Lina’s concentration. **Get out now.**

“You could have given me a little more warning,” she griped.

“Warning?” Valiant asked.

“Sorry, not you,” she said quickly. “Um, we’ve got to get out now.”

He fished inside his black vest. “I have some twine we could add to these knots. You have a scissors or knife?” he asked.

“Sorry,” she told him, trying not to panic at the stream of **hurry, hurry, hurry,** in her mind, “but we’ve got to get out now, ready or not.” She knotted her first sheet to the balcony railing. Throwing the line of sheets over the edge, she caught the last corner. “Come on, give me yours,” she demanded.

“Not yet. We’re in enough trouble as it is. We have time to make this safer.”

“No, we don’t,” she told him. “They say we have to get out now. Hurry!” 

Qui? Who says?”

“My guides. Please don’t argue with my guides; they’re usually right. Usually.”

He sat there on the bed, frowning at her and not moving.

“I know it sounds weird, but please. Please! We’ve got to hurry. Now, they say.”

**Tell him to roll when he hits.**

“And they say to roll when you hit,” she added as she grabbed the sheets from him. He opened his mouth to say something when she held up a warning finger. “Tell me I’m crazy once we’re down. Please, we’ve got to get out now!”

He shook his head in surrender and worked the final knot himself. “It should be more secure,” he warned, then shrugged. “The cards we’re dealt,” he said as if that decided things.

Lina watched the line of sheets and blankets fall. The final length was close enough to the ground; good. “Okay, you go first. I have to get my—”

But he was already lifting her up, swinging her over the railing as if he’d done this a million times before. “You’re first. Make it quick.”

. . . 

Hope that piqued your interest! Now that you've made it down the bottom of this page, I've got an EXTRA special offer for you: Leave your name and email address in a comment (make sure you write "[at]" instead of "@" to discourage spam robots) to be put on my e-newsletter mailing list (which I must get around to writing) (I'll only send it out every few months, and you can opt out at any time), and be entered NOT ONLY in The Romance Troupe's overall contest, but also in a contest to get a free e-version of any of my books! If you can't comment for whatever reason, send me an email (this won't enter you in the Romance Troupe's contest, though): carolastrickland [at] (see how it works?). (If you want Lost in the Stars as your prize, you'll have to wait to receive it until it goes into wide distribution somewhere around the 20th of this month.)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Tickets to Paradise!

Last year I signed up for a vacation service that isn't really much of a service. It gets a list of companies that are promoting timeshares and provide free lodging for people who then have to endure a sales pitch, and promises you that you can choose where and when you'd like to be pitched to, while only having to pay sales tax for your hotel stay.

Okay, that kinda works. Sign me up.

My first stop was Atlantic Beach, NC, at a time when I felt I'd really need a vacation. Got that right. I was chewing on my desk (not really a desk; just a folding table I've been stuck at for over 15 years now), having gone through considerable heck this month getting out a book earlier than I'd planned.

So without making any kind of to-do or to-take lists (!!! I always do lists!), I took off early on a Friday. Thought I'd avoided the huge thunderstorms that were rolling through the state, but it began to rain again as I got into the car, and I drove INTO the front as it progressed to the coast.

Downpour! Lighting! Bumper-to-bumper traffic! Well, actually the traffic was doing very nicely in keeping safe distances. Luckily, I kept an even greater distance, because at one point the truck in front of me threw its brakes, and when I hit the brakes… Nothing happened—for about a quarter-second that seemed like a year. Then "SSSSSHHHHH" (no squeal), and the brakes began to grab. Just in time. Whew!

But the conditions continued. I was giving a quick glance at a highway marker (somewhere 70 split off from 40. I'd already been fooled by signs that didn't bother to mention they meant 70 BUSINESS, so I was really peering, if doing so quickly) when all of a sudden this WHITE MASS starts bouncing toward me. What the—? Couldn't swerve because there was traffic. Then the mass developed wings. Oh, just a huge wad of paper. I plowed into it, relieved.

WHUMP!!!!! There was something solid inside that paper. The right front of the car lurched into the air and back down, but seemed okay. Behind me, a highway truck swerved onto the side of the road, so I suspect they picked up the debris. I stopped soon after and checked the car. No damage. (Actually, there's a tiny dent in the hood), but the alignment and such seem A-OK. Whew.

So I'm driving. And driving. And finally the rain lets up for the most part. After quite a few miles, there's finally a marker post that shows that I'm on highway 40.

But I'm supposed to be on 40/70. Damn! Lost 70 somewhere! Later, lots of people told me that yes, 70 does separate from 40 fairly anonymously, though going the opposite direction on 70, the merge onto 40 is very well marked. Luckily for me, the Mapquest directions I'd printed out showed an alternate route, 40 to hwy 24. That way was just a bit longer, but apparently it was what the universe had decided for me. I found my correct exit, where a rest stop also lay. Inside I double-checked directions with the manager of the place. He told me to go down two more exits if I wanted to avoid some towns and business routes. So I did, and I could tell it was faster.

BUT I finally got to Atlantic Beach, yay! Checked into the timeshare office, where I got initial papers and they peered at my ID and such. Got to the hotel.

It was the Holiday Inn Doubletree, the only high-rise hotel in Atlantic Beach. "Every room an ocean view!" That's easy when you're on a razor-thin island that has Atlantic on one side and Intracoastal Waterway on the other, if you count the IW as ocean. From my room (as most, I suppose) I could see both.

According to the Festiva timeshare folks, it had once been the Sheraton, but Hurricane Irene (Aug. 2011) had hit it hard, completely flooding the first story. The Sheraton had done a slip-shod repair job, lied to their insurers about how much money they'd spent, and then been caught. They'd had to declare bankruptcy on the hotel, and the Hilton had scooped it up for $1.3 million, a steal. Now the Hilton is still repairing/upgrading the place.

I flashed my "Hiltons Honors" card (it's free, people. You should get one. I have ALL the hotel free cards, and thus get all the perks) and they switched me to the Honors floor. I asked one of the hotel workers just what made the Honors floor so special, and, after pondering the question, she said, "Well, the rooms have the special clocks." She pointed at the clock she happened to be repairing for me, the one that didn't tell the correct time, but had an iPod port, which clocks on other floors did not. "And in the future the rooms will have more things that the other rooms won't."

Great. I had a clock. Oh well, it was a gorgeous room, and there were safety handholds out the wazoo in the bathroom, as well as a shower wand. The room temperature controls didn't work that well (I just can't figure how to work these things in ALL the hotels in which I've stayed, and I've had hotel workers explain them to me. And then wonder why they couldn't get them to work either.), and you could tell where some of the things like door knobs had been in the old design that were different from the new, because no one had repaired the walls. There were mammoth lines of caulk throughout the bathroom, like things had been too-hastily installed and they didn't want any leaks. I angled the TV so it faced the lounge chair, and the TV shut off. The guy had to come up to duct tape the connections because they were so loose. Then he fixed the curtains, which closed only within 6" of each other, so you gave the neighbors a good view. I might think I was the first resident of this particular room, but the ottoman had a huge stain on it.

Still, the room was really nice. Comfy bed. Wish it had had a blanket instead of one of those too-heavy duvets all the hotels use these days. You either freeze or sweat to death. (Which is why being able to control the room temp would be nice.)

We were right on the beach, or about two or three stories above it (and yet that first floor could still be flooded, yeek) and though the main restaurant had no Yelp raves, the hotel's beach cafe was top-rated. And closed. As were many of the places in Atlantic Beach; tourist season begins in mid-March.

The beach at Ft. Macon. Can you guess what other picture on this blog is from there?

So the first night I drove to the causeway to the Channel Marker Restaurant and had a dee-licious meal!!! It cost a bit more than what I'd hoped to spend, but sometimes you just have to splurge, right? The next day after the timeshare talk I went to El's, an old-timey drive-in that's top-rated and legendary for its shrimp burgers. I had one, and decided they could up the quality 100% if they toasted the bun. They should also hand-cut their onions for the onion rings, which tasted like they'd been made in a factory. That night I dined at the also legendary Sanitary Restaurant and Fish Market, whose Yelp reviews did not look promising, but EVERYONE said I had to eat there. It's just something one does when one is in Atlantic Beach.

I don't know why. Perhaps they wanted me to indulge in poor service. I mean, really poor service. I had to borrow cocktail sauce from the next table, told my waitress (when she finally decided to show) that I needed some of my own. She said she'd be right back with it, and that was the last I saw of her until she came with the check. I asked her about dessert, and she told me I could get it myself on my way out.

People around me were asked if they wanted lemon in their tea. Not me. People around me got drink refills when they'd finished what they'd been given. They were told what the specials were. They were told what was available for dessert. Not me. I guess my waitress, the one the people around me DIDN'T have, didn't think all that was needed.

And the food was not good. I've had worse, but not at "must try" restaurants.

Wish I'd noticed that high-rated Shelfari was across the street from the Doubletree. Diners were raving as they came out (but that was my final night at AB, after I'd already eaten). I did manage to luck onto Flipperz at Emerald Isle, a little hole in the wall with terrific food and friendly waitresses.

For touristy stuff, I narrowed the possibles—and there are a LOT of touristy spots within an hour of Atlantic Beach!—down to Ft. Macon (thought that was in Georgia!) and the NC Aquarium. Neither takes too long but gives you some great stuff to look and marvel at. I worry that the animals at the Aquarium didn't have large enough habitats, though. Poor things. Kids at both attractions were having swell times. Ft. Macon had a decidedly different kind of beach than did the Hilton, plus there were all kinds of "no swimming" signs there. Families strolled the beach while they waited for something to snag on their fishing lines.

PS: I LOVE my new Olympus camera! It's got a 24X wide zoom on it that can have you looking right into a seagull's eye at the distance of a mile. Cool.

Okay, so I'll get to the timeshare deal. They said it would last 120 minutes. I clocked the entire thing at just a hair under 3 hours, much better than the 5-hour ordeal I'd had in DC in 2013. (That came with a violent case of flu and corporate lies as well.)

You spend 20 minutes chatting with a salesperson so they get to know you and what key words you respond like a dog to. Then they pass you along to a fast-talking, utterly charming woman who's been an owner of a timeshare since Day 1. She gives an overview of the system: a network of resorts you can choose from, and that when you buy in, you buy X number of points per year. Each resort, each week or partial week of the year, number of bedrooms, etc., costs a different number of points. You can go out of network and stay at slightly related resorts for massive savings, or choose other more distant relations for merely considerable savings. Lucky for me, I've been price shopping on a number of dream vacations, and saw that the prices were indeed extremely reasonable. Except an Egyptian tour. But the one they were showing lasted longer than the ones I'd been looking at, and included a bunch of stuff like camel rides, sailing on the Nile, personalized this and specialized that, that I hadn't been checking for.

Peppertree is a gated community. They like their security.
Then I hopped into a van and they took me down the street to Peppertree Resort, which is their place in Atlantic Beach. It sprawled enough that I had noticed it on the way to my hotel, and thought that was where the rich folk went when they came to party in AB.

I was shown a 2-bedroom sample unit. WOW. Sumptuously furnished, it came with kitchenette, 2 bathrooms (the master bath had whirlpool tub), sleeper sofa in the living room, laundry closet, balcony overlooking the ocean. (The unit was in the building by far closest to the sea, I'd noticed.) The resort had 2 outdoor pools, 1 indoor pool, 1 jacuzzi, tennis courts, basketball courts, a very large covered area with picnic tables and grills, and a private beach. (Most beaches in AB are NOT public ones!) They will soon have a fleet of golf carts to ferry people about the resort. Every Monday morning the resort has a meeting to tell residents about the many activities that will be going on that week. Personnel are available to fix one up with other residents of a similar recreational bent, or to be your friendly opponent in a game of tennis. And of course, one can choose from spending an entire week, a weekend, or mid-weeks at the resort.

I was told that Hurricane Irene had hardly left a mark on the resort, but that annual maintenance fees (I knew about them beforehand; they're the real expense) were where repairs like that came from.

Back to the office, and a little film showed me Paradise Island's resort (definitely on my bucket list!), and all the fabulous things one could do there, things I've always dreamed of. A modest cruise tour of the Greek isles was one of the few overseas things that were in network. Guess where I've always wanted to go?

Then they started shooting me figures. Good golly, I could probably afford that. After a while they showed me a level a little less than their premium one. Looked good, but I couldn't really do ALL that vacationing until I retired. Then they brought out their bottommost level.

It was the right amount of vacation time. (And if it's not, I can borrow points from the end of my contract, 40 years into the future. This means that 40 years from now, I won't be able to take vacation, but I don't think that'll be the problem. Though paying the maintenance fees might. Still, I have plans for a movie deal to finance that.) It was definitely the right price, less than a very nice used car (I'd been window-shopping the week before, as I'll have to get a new car next year).

And I signed. Yes, they charge 16.9% (or higher), but I knew I could get refinanced. (Actually, it took a bit of work on my way home to find a bank where I could do that, and wound up getting a credit card that has 0% for 15 months, which should be enough time to pay it off with a little shuffling of funds. Not like my credit union, which wanted to freeze both my savings accounts—which MUST be kept liquid, especially this year!—until the loan was paid off.) So. Affordable. Not too much vacation; not too little. And those Trafalgar tours I've been eying are on a significant discount when purchased through Festiva. After that I can go with Festiva's tours and resorts. (And oh wait, I haven't used up my vacations with the original company I talked about in Paragraph #1. I have three years to go through those.)

Now that the cats are gone I'm in Travel Mode!!! When I can no longer travel, I'll go back to being That Crazy Cat Lady and find someone to buy my program, or maybe leave it in my will to some unsuspecting relative who'll then have to pay those annual maintenance fees. (Hi, Jen and Chelsea! Hi, Danny!)

So. Who wants to come with me to Paradise Island? Or maybe Universal Studios Florida? London? Paris? Cairo? The Greek Isles? You do? Let's talk.

(And if you want to try out Festiva, contact me. If I can refer you, I get $$. You can refer someone else and get your own money reward later.)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

So you want to write a book!

I bet you're thinking you should write a book. You've had one in your head for years, right? All it takes is for you to write it down. In these days of self-publishing (or indie publishing) and with a computer in front of you, books are a snap!

Okay, write the book. I'll wait. (taps foot)

Yeah, it's kind of hard. I started writing a book because I had this Cool Idea and I'd never seen any book like it on the stands. Heck, I was inventing an entirely new genre!

Well, there were about two other books a bit like it back then, and since then there've been a few more, but over-similarity was hardly a problem. In those days if you were in a niche-y genre, publishers didn't buy your stuff. How would they market it to their audience? Nowadays we have indie publishing where more and more, niches are the rule! Yeah!

I'd read copiously throughout my life, and knew I could write better than most of the stuff out there. Well maybe, but that's not saying much. Remember Sturgeon's Law. I got to the end of my first book, said, "Ohmigawd, it's a romance!" I mean, I didn't even read romance books.  Romance books were icky, right? Bodice-rippers. But I knew some people who were in this organization called Romance Writers of America, so I tried it out and eventually joined. (And discovered that romance books can be FABULOUS!)

Good move. RWA has THE best writing workshops around! You don't even have to be a romance writer to benefit from them. The members are very open to mentoring and advice-giving and just plain getting your back. I learned that I really didn't know how to write, but over the years and through many, many workshops, I have learned the craft. I'm still learning. Everyone is.

So I wrote a book. You've done that too by now, right? I mean, I waited. And you're going to skip trying to get through to a publisher, big name or small. You've read all about this new self-publishing indie stuff; that's for you! Just send it off to CreateSpace or Smashwords and go, right?


You can do that. That's certainly what I did. Now in 2013-2014, I'm redoing everything I have out there. The market is glutted with amateurs. Some of them you can even tell by their book descriptions: misspellings, bad grammar, inability to get to the point… (Thank heavens for "Look Inside," which will also quickly show the quality of the writing.) The Big Thing these days is to get your book published with professional quality.

That means you send your book through professional editors, professional cover designers, professional formatters, etc. It doesn't mean you can't do some of the work yourself. I'm a graphic designer, so I design my own covers. I just hire professional illustrators to do the pictures for them. (If your genre isn't as way-out as mine, there are lots of stock photography places catering to the romance novel market. My Burgundy and Lies has one of those photos on its cover, and it's about to get another one added, maybe two.)

Shuffling your .doc file off to Smashwords to become an ebook only costs a couple bucks, if that much. (It's been a long time since I last did that.) Creating a professional book package will take a bit more.

There's editing. The costs for this run the gamut, but I think the median figure runs about $400-$600 for a book. (Most places figure it at such-and-such fraction of a cent per word.) What kind of editing do you need? Every level is available, from helping you concoct your basic book to line editing to a kind of super-critique.

Have you used some song lyrics, like I have? You'll have to make sure you get permi$$ion to use those lyrics. Most people say that anything over two lines needs permission, but some people have been taken to court for less.

If you're like me, you want to have Complete Control. (rubs hands: BWAH-HA-HA!) That means purchasing ISBNs, which is that long number in books that allows distributors to find your title in various catalogs and sell it. Amazon has its own kind of ISBN (of course) called an ASIN, but that's free. At least it is at the present. Some services give you free ISBNs if you publish through them and some charge a nominal fee, but this means that you won't be listed as the publisher. That may be fine for you. It's just us grabby folks who want The Supreme Power who need to buy ISBNs.

It's just a number; how much can it cost? You go through to get ISBNs. One costs $125. Ten cost $250. One hundred cost $575. When I was redoing Touch of Danger last month I thought, "I have seven books coming out in the next year. I'll buy ten ISBNs." WRONG!!!!

Each version of your book needs a different ISBN. That means print version, but it also means each type of coding for your ebooks gets a unique ISBN. (Some people say one ISBN for print and one for digital, but this is incorrect.) I issued one apiece for ePub, pdf, and mobi versions. So that meant that one book used up four ISBNs, and I may need more in the future for other digital versions. If I make an audiobook (I'm thinking of this for Applesauce and Moonbeams), that will need its own ISBN as well.

How about that cover? Getting a stock photo from a company that will give you permission to use it on your ebook and print version will cost, oh, $30 or so. YMMV widely. If you use illustrations, like I have, you'll pay the artist's going rate. I know people who use uncopyrighted photos (meaning really old stuff) and Photoshop them a bit. Others take their own pictures.

Note: The photographer and/or illustrator retain copyright on that visual. You need to make sure you have permission to use it on your cover, in advertising, etc. Get this in writing. Credit the person inside your book.

You'll need a designer to make that photo into a nice-looking cover. Too many indie covers out there are instantly recognizable as coming from amateurs. Make sure your covers are classy. Make sure that even if a site portrays them at tee-tiny thumbnail size (look at iBooks and see how small those are) that they still catch your eye. Go to Top 100 book lists and check out the cover competition in your genre. If you're going into print, you'll need a back cover and spine. CreateSpace offers rather generic cover-making capabilities, or they let you upload your own. They'll furnish you a correctly-sized template.

How much do designers cost? No idea. I design my own.

Now you'll need to format your book. Smashwords has their own program that will mash up your doc or pdf (It's been a long time, folks; I forget) and you'll hope everything turns out okay. Most of it will. But I can pick up ebooks generated from the Big Five NYC publishers and spot where formatting has seriously screwed up. (I usually notice such coming from Avon. What's up with that, Avon?) If you go through Amazon reviews you'll occasionally find a bunch that say, "Couldn't read because of bad formatting." You don't want your book to get one of these.

I'm paying about $100 for three format versions of each book. That's mobi (Kindle), ePub (trying to be the industry standard), and doc formatted to Smashwords' very specific requirements. I can take that doc, take out the one line that says it's for Smashwords, and run it through various sites who use their own conversions. I can "save as" in Word to create a pdf version. I can also use this form on CreateSpace's template as the basis to produce the print version of the book.

One note: For ebooks, keep all the usual "front matter:" acknowledgments, copyright, review blurbs, etc., in the BACK of the book. When potential readers use the "look inside" features, you don't want them wading through all that to get to what they want to see. In the print version, of course, the front matter goes in the front.

(Another note: Although Amazon automatically makes their keen "look inside" feature for ebooks coming in through KDP, you'll have to go through an only slightly painful manual formatting process to get the same for your print version, even if you submit your book through Amazon's Createspace.)

Then with everything done professionally, you submit your book to wherever. CreateSpace does print books and is an arm of Amazon. You may want to submit your book elsewhere for print as well to get better service on some sites. Smashwords does every e-version known to mankind, PLUS gives you the ability to make $-off or free coupon codes for when you hold contests, etc. Amazon will troll the Internet to see if you've priced it lower on other sites than they have, so the ability to make one-time-use (not noted in your retail advertising) coupons comes in VERY handy.

How far do you want your book distributed? You'll pay about $35 more dollars for wide e-distribution.

Kindle and Nook get submitted to separately, of course. You get better service that way. Not sure about other services, but if they offer it, take them up on it. (If you know they're a legit business.)

I'm trying out Kindle Direct Publishing Select (KDP Select, which is different from plain vanilla KDP), which makes you be exclusive to them for 90 days with your digital books (not your print), but offer various marketing perks including a bit of publicity that they don't really tell you about when it happens. If you want even more, you go join Amazon Marketing Club for (I think) about $100/year. Again, there are a few perks, a few engines you can utilize there that you can't anywhere else. Since I'm releasing so many books this year, I figured it would be worth the membership fee. It looks like a good deal for a beginner. Maybe.

What to price your book? You'll have to figure this out. Most people go by Amazon's (all hail!) royalty structure and price from $2.99 to 4.99 for optimal results. Higher prices usually won't garner higher author profits because ratios are figured differently, but there are exceptions. Free books and 99¢ books are now being seen by buyers as signs of amateurishness (though this is not always true). People will gobble up free and cheap books but never read them, much less review them. You want (1) reviews and (2) word of mouth to sell your book.

For print books, your service will have a comparison chart somewhere along the line that shows how much profit you'll make at different price points. If you're distributing overseas, you'll have to hike up your prices to make even a few cents on each book. Amazon uses a 99¢ price structure—and compares the prices you have on your book, making sure Amazon's version is priced equally if not cheaper—so make sure your price is $X.99. The funny thing with print is that your price as an author is a LOT cheaper than retail, so it's often a good choice to buy a box of your own books for taking to signings, conventions, etc., that you can sell at a lower price than retail and still take a nice profit.

Yikes, I almost forgot copyright. Sure, as soon as you finish your novel you can add a line: "copyright [year] [your name]" to the manuscript. (And yes, use "copyright" spelled out on your ebook at the least, because the coding software doesn't like the © symbol. You don't want to make that software angry.) It will be officially copyrighted. But not Officially-Officially copyrighted. If you ever had to go to court to try to prove that you really and truly own the original copyright to this piece, you're lightyears better off if you have an Official-Official copyright, something you applied for from the US Copyright Office and received.

For some reason if you apply online for a copyright it only costs $35, but if you fill out actual paper forms and send them into Washington, you'll get charged $65. Ouch! So do it electronically, then buy two copies of your work from CreateSpace to send to the Library of Congress's copyright office, and in a month or so you'll find your official-type certificate or whatever (I don't know; I'm still waiting for my first to arrive) sitting in your mailbox. Don't lose it. Add to your list of expenses about $10 for your books, plus shipping them to you and then shipping them (book rate!) to DC. Get one of those proof of receipt things from the PO.  And if you've had to hire an illustrator or designer for your cover, your contract may stipulate that they get a copy or two as well. Buy a box full of books and save on shipping. You can sell the extras at book signings. You HAVE kept out two for your personal permanent professional archive, haven't you?


One of the things AMC has is a way to search for possible Amazon reviewers. (Though I have yet to find someone who writes me back after I query them with an offer of review.) It's always best to get as many reviews as you can, no matter how they rank you. Now, you should also find sites who will promote you if you have a few days when your book is offered for free. (KDP Select gives you 5 free days that you can schedule.) (If you've submitted separately to, say, iBooks and take down the price of your book there for a day or two, Amazon will find out after a short delay [always best to warn them in writing of what you're going to do], take the price of your book there down as well, and then take their time about raising your price back to normal once the iBooks price has returned to normal.) About a quarter of these sites will only advertise your book if you have X amount of reviews and a 4-star or better rating. Other sites won't handle you if there's even the first curse word in your book, much less (bleah) kissing. Do your homework. And yes, some of these free-book advertising pages want you to pay to be mentioned.

Explanation: the reason you want to give your book away is because you want a wide audience to review that book, or tell their friends about it (on a day when your book is NO LONGER free).

There are lots of advertising opportunities out there. The trick of getting sales is to have people know your book is there to be read, for them to read it, and for them to TELL THEIR FRIENDS to read it as well. Advertising usually costs $$, if not $$$$.

Since I'm getting out so many books this year, I think it will be worth my time to investigate publicity agencies… NEXT year. We'll see. I hear bad and good about these, but I do have my eye on this one...

There's another trick to getting sales on your book. That's to write another. And another after that. I've read that for series writers, the magic number is three volumes of that series, and sales will begin to pick up. I've read lots of authors who say they don't do any publicity so as to save their energy for writing, writing, writing.

Me, I'm hoping for sales to pick up in the second half of this year. Be looking for new versions of my backlist to appear, as well as new books that have been waiting for quite some time for me to finish.

So you want to write a book. This is all there is to it: WRITE THE BOOK. That means from page one to the end. No, you can't quit after chapter 3. Make sure it hangs together well and is entertaining. Get it edited. Get a nice cover for it. Get it formatted. Get it out there, and then get it reviewed.

Simple, really.

Oh, one of the things AMC does is furnish cute little widgets. Unfortunately the coding for this blog won't allow me to put it in the margin, so I'll put it here instead. So cute! (No, I don't know why it includes the book score thingie.) Buy my book, please.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Apples in Spaaaace!

The Romance Troupe

If you're reading this, you're likely here for the "Home for the Holidays Blog Hop." Click on the button above to visit the Romance Troupe website and see what the other stops for more recipes and book buzz are along the way.


Leave a comment with your email address on it to be entered into the Romance Troupe GRAND PRIZE GIVEAWAY!!!  First prize is $450+ (it depends on how many authors we wind up with) on an Amazon gift card or with Paypal cash. Wow! Second prize is 1 ebook from EACH participating author.

When you leave your email address, be sure to leave a space before and after the "@" or say "at" instead, so the spambots can't find you.

If you've never been here before, welcome! Herein follows one tasty recipe, a bit about a book connected (ever so slightly) to said recipe, and then there's an extra CONTEST FROM ME as well. Win! Win! Win!

German Apple Pancake

The recipe says this can serve as many as 6, but don't count on it. It's too yummy.

3 large eggs (I use the liquid kind, which would be 3/4 c.)
3/4 c. milk
3/4 c. white flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 Tbs. butter (unsalted preferred)

1 lb. tart, fresh apples (Pippin are great, the recipe says, not knowing my book. I use Granny Smiths.)
1/4 c. melted butter
1/4 c. sugar
powdered cinnamon and nutmeg

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Beat together the eggs, milk, flour and salt until very smooth. In a heavy 12-inch skillet, melt about 1 1/2 Tbs. butter. As soon as it is quite hot, pour in the batter and put the skillet in the oven. (I use a round cake pan for this, but maybe they want the pan being already very hot by the time the batter hits it, to speed things along. I've never had a problem.)

After 15 minutes, lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking for another 10 minutes. The pancake should be light brown and crisp. Keep an eye on it.

During the first 10 or 15 mintues of baking, the pancake may puff up in large bubbles. If it does, pierce it thoroughly with a fork or skewer.

While the pancake is baking, prepare the apple filling. Peel and thinly slice a pound of apples. Sauté them lightly in 1/4 c. butter and add 1/4 c. sugar. Season to taste with cinnamon and nutmeg. The apples should be just tender, not too soft. About 8 to 10 minutes of cooking over a medium flame should be plenty. (The filling can be prepared ahead and reheated just before serving.)

When the pancake is ready, slide it onto an oval platter (or even a circular one, sheesh), pour the apple filling over one side, and fold the other side over. Serve at once, slicing pieces off crosswise.

This isn't just for breakfast. I think I got it from The Vegetarian Epicure, but don't make me swear to that. Keep reading to the bottom for another chance to WIN A FREE BOOK!

I had to learn a bit about apples—or more correctly, apple dishes—when I wrote Applesauce and Moonbeams. This is a humorous soft sci fi novel mostly based on the moon, where one family in particular owns dozens of large apple orchards. That's right, apples on the moon. Well, I think it could work!

I researched craters that were of a likely size that could be covered with domes and pressurized to make good, industrial-sized orchards. You see, this is one of the first crops grown on the moon, with the first seeds planted during early colonization days—at least in my future history. To get foods in from Earth requires expensive transport, so anything actually grown on the moon would become a staple.

Thus when people in the book were eating, I had to give them some likely apple dishes to dine upon. They couldn't eat the same thing all the time either, so that list had to be a fairly lengthy one. There's apples, applesauce, apple fritters, apple muffins, apple this and apple that. Luckily, this wasn't a cookbook so I didn't have to figure out more than a dozen or so.

And how about drinking? Apple juice, sure, but people like the harder stuff as well. I gave 'em hard cider... and mead. "Mead's not apple," you tell me, but mead is honey, and those apple trees aren't going to produce apples unless our starring family also raises bees.

Being apples, I had to throw in some Garden of Eden references as well, even though there are no serpents on the moon. (Unless you count Aunt Evie. Or Our Villain.) (And I won't mention how Our Hero's last name is a play on "Lucifer.") (Whoops, mentioned it.)

It's the breakfast
of the astronauts!
Applesauce's heroine's family were originally the Tangs. When they discovered they couldn't market their apple juice under the family name for some obscure legal reason, they became the Applegates instead. Our Heroine is Pippin, and her cat (featured on the cover) is the multi-faceted Jonathan. Both names are types of apples.

book cover for Applesauce and MoonbeamsPippin doesn't like the family business very much, but she's next in line to take it over. Instead, she's an artist—a very avant garde one who doesn't do anything in the traditional manner. Unfortunately for her, innovation is not welcomed by her society. Neither is her inability to maintain a proper look like the Fashion Police prescribe, or her growing tendency to get into trouble. She has only six weeks left to prove herself as an artist before her dragon of a great-aunt (see Evie, above) will force her into the company vice-presidency.

But now Jonathan the Cat is acting odd. In fact, Jonathan's begun to use her paints to spell out messages...

I hope you try (and like!) the book. You can go on Smashwords and get a really long free sample, unlike the short one at Amazon. Here's the main page on my website that points the way to different places and formats (it's in print as well) you can buy.


This is MY contest, separate from that of the Romance Troupe. Leave at least a name and your email address under the comments section to get email updates from me (I'll only do this once in a blue moon, so as not to annoy you), and be put in a drawing to get a free ebook! You'll be able to choose from any ebook of mine, even the newly-revised TOUCH OF DANGER, which isn't out quite yet, but will be released as soon as that famous-artist cover illustration is finished. OR if you don't want to post your email address here, you can go to my website, click on the "contact" link, and leave your name AND EMAIL ADDRESS there where things are so private Yahoo insists on putting it in my spam folder. I'll keep checking there, though. (Doing it that way won't enter you in the Romance Troupe's contest, though.) Heck, let's make it TWO WINNERS for this, okay? Final day to enter will be, ah, November 30.

Remember, leave a comment and email address here to enter both contests. Good luck!

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Wonder Rules

Things a WW Movie Should and Should Not Include 

1. The basic concept of Wonder Woman: A woman. Not a caped man with boobs.

2. The actress who plays her should be chosen because she can ACT. There are lots of pretty actresses who can act, but not all pretty actresses can. Wondie doesn’t have to be the most beautiful woman out there. It would be so nice if she didn’t look like a cut-out Hollywood lead actress type. Male actors are allowed different looks; why not female?

3. She has abilities beyond those of normal humans, which have come about through Amazon Training, which she continually practices. Amazon Training is only partly about the physical. She has to train her mental and spiritual self as well. She has a few magical tricks here and there, a few industrial ones as well, but Amazon Training got her where she is. This way her powers remain within a woman’s control. (And marketing WW can expand to include all kinds of athletic goods.)

4. (What, you want the gods to give her instant powers, too? The gods gave a statue life. Isn’t that enough of a miracle?)

5. She EMPOWERS in a positive manner. This is her basic theme. She protects, yes, but she also helps people stand up for themselves. She aids the disenfranchised: women, children, LGBTs, persecuted/exploited minorities, the 47%, etc. Wonder Woman is not only a feminist, but also a humanist. She is not grim; she is delighted to see humanity advancing in so many wonderful ways, though it’s true enough, it’s still taking a lot of steps backward. She makes friends easily because she tends to think the best of people.

6. Therefore, a movie should not be about huge, faceless battles or quien es mas macho, but about PEOPLE. About characters and human situations. Instead of shiny explosions and non-stop action sequences whose only purpose is to shock ‘n awe, Wondie’s movie should reach into the very hearts and souls of her viewers and shake them awake, give their emotions a roller coaster ride before they emerge triumphant along with Wondie. Maybe they’re even enriched by the experience, maybe enlightened as to the human condition. You can still have awesome action sequences, but they should have layers of emotional depth to them.

7. Unlike the current run of her book and all too many runs before that, Wonder Woman should not find her legitimacy through the definitions given her by men. She is herself. Her culture is that of women. It is through that femaleness that she defines herself and makes her way through the male-centric world. She glorifies being female, and thus because of that, being human.

8. WW should have a solid reason for being in the world, and not just because she followed the first man she ever saw back into it because she fell in love. She should have a mission which logically follows her basis of helping the world in these very troubled times. It’s an emergency situation, this world we live in. She is going to help us.

9. Which doesn’t mean that Wonder Woman cannot love. She shouldn’t be shackled to one man, though, to keep her in her “proper” woman’s place. Not until she’s had the chance to experiment, try a whole bunch of different types, and make a reasoned choice. Which may turn out to be wrong for her, so she tries again. Romance does not take up the entirety of her story line.

10. The Amazons are a perfect society. Per the Perez (and WMM and others’) origin, they never rejected men, but were faced with building their culture without them through NO FAULT OF THEIR OWN. They have ancient roots, but have not stagnated. They have futuristic technology in many areas. They have a little magic as well. Their peaceful philosophy ("Gaea's Way") has made their culture healthy, constantly growing, and happy. As such, our exposure to the Amazons should be kept at minimal levels (like Earth was in the original run of Star Trek so Kirk could make his own hard decisions), because when characters are introduced within a dramatic structure, they must have that dramatic structure applied to them, which so often in the past (poor Hippolyta!) has meant that many Amazons have been made evil or mentally ill or stupid or just people you wouldn’t like to be around. Amazons are the rock beneath Diana’s feet, the solid basis for her life, mind, and purpose. Diana is the embodiment of Amazon-ness, but she is young; she is still learning it and growing into it. While empowering others, she is still learning to empower herself.

11. Diana worships Greek gods. Gods are not merely immortal capes. Gods are gods. They are personifications of nature and/or the human condition. As such, gods (or at least the Greek gods) can possess humans to deliver messages, or appear as humans (or animals, or showers of gold, etc.) to do same. Wonder Woman does not talk directly to gods as gods. The idea! She can see her gods at work in the world: Artemis as the moon, Apollo as the sun, Zeus’s thunder in a storm, Hestia’s blessings on a happy home, Hera’s increasing (positive) strength as women recognize their own power, etc. Diana could very well converse with such minor mythological creatures as nymphs, satyrs, and even a witchly sorceress like Medea. Herakles is still human enough to converse with.

12. Wonder Woman is not Superman. She can’t juggle planets on her pinky, or knock a skyscraper out of her way. She is mid-level, and can be injured from her efforts. She is not an instant-healer, though I’d suspect (and we’ve seen on occasion) that she has advanced Amazonian healing methods at her disposal. (But the Purple Ray is a cheating deus ex machina, and should be forgotten.) Battling is hard, tiring work for her. Unlike Supes, WW trains. All the time. She has learned SKILLS. (For some reason I often picture Diana close-fighting in Jackie Chan-style, utilizing whatever objects are close to her in entertaining, innovative ways.) WW’s mission is not to defend against attack so much as it is to prevent that attack from ever happening in the first place. Her first approach is reason, compromise and empathy. She will strive to help her would-be opponent reach a level where they can meet with like minds and find a win-win compromise. Her final approach is violence. She can also use violence when the attack comes on suddenly and there is no time for reasoning.

13. Wonder Woman is not Batman. She doesn’t just run around sorta fast and maybe jump a bit off hidden mini-trampolines to get things done. She has astonishing physical prowess, beyond what we’d think humans are capable of, but not remotely at Kryptonian levels. She also has thought out her personal philosophy so she knows just what lines she will cross and which she will not. Her mission is to help people, which means she also follows up because in her world, violence has serious consequences. Her goal is not to keep the threat at bay, but rather allow a wonderful future for people to enjoy in peace. If every other option is gone and the danger is imminent, she will kill, but the act will haunt her afterward.

14. Wonder Woman uses gadgets famous with the audience. The magic lasso, which makes people tell the truth. (Love the way it sounded in the recent TV pilot.) The Invisible Jet, which allows the non-Kryptonian quick transportation. WW may or may not fly. If she flies, it shouldn’t be super-fast because again, she is not Kryptonian. She may use Hermes’ winged sandals; she may not. She may levitate; she may glide on air currents using levitation. Quite often and unexpectedly I find people giving me the Amazon Salute, so this should be included. As should be the Spin, immortalized in the Lynda Carter series and gleefully copied by both kids and adults. Personally, I don’t believe in Diana Prince other than as a rarely-used deep-cover disguise for Wondie, but she can Spin into different costume variants as well (and increase the available action figure line).

15. There should be no man vs woman conflict. Feminism is not anti-male. All men are not evil; all women are not good.

16. Wonder Woman has ancient roots, but is very au courant as she leads us toward a bright future. Yes, she should battle Nazis on occasion since they symbolize the opposite of what she does, but there are modern Nazis in the world. Many. Most don’t recognize themselves as Nazis (or similar philosophies), but some do. Wonder Woman does not have to be a creature of the past, forever stuck in WWII. She is the present. She is our future.

17. Wonder Woman can (and has!) operate/d in just about every genre known with panache, unlike the vast majority of her cohorts. Somewhere in a movie series (yeah yeah, we haven’t seen the first movie yet), we should see variations pop up.

18. Wonder Woman operates on a global level. Not just in the good ol’ USofA, or in Western countries. To her, humanity is one big family she is a contributing member of.

And there I’ve gone and ended this on a preposition. What are your absolutes for a Wondie movie?