Friday, December 31, 2010

My 2011 Resolutions

I post here to make them public and accrue Guilt Points if not met:

In 2011:

I will lose 6 lbs a month.
• More movement
• Portion size
• More veggies
• More home-prepared meals
• Writing down food
I will get an estimate on hair transplanting.
I will dress better, improving my wardrobe gradually.

I will publish at least 2 volumes of "Three Worlds."
I will get “Nothing to Lose” and Touch of Danger done as freebies.
I will get an agent.
• Sending out queries at least every 2 weeks
I will sell Applesauce and Moonbeams.
I will finish in order:
The Coin of Power
• Nothing Personal
• Amazon Magic

I will start a new book.
I will complete a new entry on my WW synopses at least every month. I'll try to update that site as much as possible, including weekly checkups for the business areas of the site.

I will finish 2 paintings a month.
I will be in 2 galleries by June, at which time I’ll re-evaluate to see if I should be in more.
I will auction off my lesser paintings and use Ebay/Etsy to sell stock.
I will be in at least 2 juried shows.
I will keep up with my Etsy store and rotate stock well, gaining sales.
I will find a partner for street fair sales. This may require buying tent, racks, etc.

I will pamper and spoil Obiwan.
Kitty will be adopted out by January 15 to a great home.

By the end of January I will have another chart of my finances done, with a plan to clear off credit card and loan debt toot sweet!
I will meditate twice weekly, with a goal of eventually doing this every day.

The living room wall will be repaired by April.
Glass will be repaired on the dining table and display case by March.
New windows for guest room will be installed by July, which means clearing out that room.
New walls for either guest room/office or living room/bedroom by Oct.
Get estimate on better floors by end of year.

I will take care of the yard and not try anything overly ambitious without having everything else reasonably under control.

The comics collection will be culled by end of year.
The house will be cleared and cleaned by September.

I will work to get more real friends and not rely merely on the imaginary people who inhabit Facebook.
I will watch two Netflix movies a month.
I will go through that "hear better" DVD I bought from Dook Hospital. After that is done, I'll start on the Spanish immersion program, and then go through the French one.

In life, I will focus and get things done one thing at a time. I will not over-extend myself. I will relax when I need to and work when I need to. I will use a timer when necessary. I will celebrate my victories! I will not beat myself up over anything.

I will do first things first. I will ask myself: is this really necessary to do/to have?

I will value the wonderful things I already have (including personal characteristics/talents) and use them to the fullest before even thinking about buying new things. I will celebrate my gratefulness every day!

I will take a tour of New England in time for leaf-peeping season, OR I will attend either Moonlight and Magnolias OR Dragon*Con.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What's in a Name?


This column originally ran June 25, 2010 at comicbookresources.com .

Anyone who’s paid attention in school, or recalls the words to Schoolhouse Rock, remembers that a noun’s a person, place, or thing. Easy enough. “Hey, Batman, go to Gotham City and take down the Joker and Penguin!” Four simple nouns.

But with Wonder Woman we have problems:

“Wonder Woman, go home to Themyscira because the Hecatoncheires, Briareos and Cottus, have joined with the Bana-Mighdall to overthrow Hippolyte!”

Ouch. Look at all the syllables! Look at the weird spellings! Please don’t make me read that sentence aloud.


It doesn’t help that “Wonder Woman” is four syllables in a short ‘n sassy world, but she’s also got all this ancient Greek baggage to cart around. She’s constantly being besieged by ancient Greek threats, and her sister Amazons are often stuck with names that can make a reader stop and ask, “Am I supposed to be able to pronounce that? Doesn’t she have a nickname?”

On occasion magic users even slap a spell on Diana, chanted in Greek—sometimes at great length. It might even be ancient Greek for all I know, but I doubt it is. Perhaps I should flag down some of the many, many people in the DCU who not only can read ancient Greek fluently, but can pronounce it like it was 3200 years ago, and they were raised in the suburbs of Sparta. Lucky guys. I can’t.

It’s all great for atmosphere but hell to plow through.

Why, one of Wondie’s graphic novels was titled, The Hiketeia. That’s pronounced, uh, how?

Poor Diana of Themyscira (a misspelling of the city, by the way, perpetuated in Volume 2 and 3 of the book; it should be “Themiscyra.” Bronze Age stories got it right. Guess “Paradise Island” just isn’t hip enough these days.) has not only to battle ancient Greek foes constantly but try to pronounce their names as well.

Thankfully, the JLA cartoon told us that “Themyscira” is pronounced, “the mascara.” But a reader of comic books shouldn’t need to keep a pronouncing dictionary in hand to get through a WW story. They shouldn’t be lazy like SOME people (okay, like me) who look at these long words, decide not to take the effort to figure the pronunciation, and abbreviate them. “Wondie, go home to The Mascara because Zeus’ big monster guard guys have joined with the Bana to overthrow Hippy!”

Wondie’s got enough things operating against her in her quest for a larger readership. Why must we pile more on her?

To make matters worse, the modern WW mythos suffers from an awful lot of name-doubling. Though there are doubled names many places in the DCU, especially among the new heroines of the Young Justice era, there seems to be a megachurch-sized congregation of them within the pages of WW.



There’s Julia and Julia, Artemis and Artemis, a slew of Hippolytas/Lytas, and an entire squadron of Trevors, to name just a few. Some people like Achilles get stuck with multiple names like “Warkiller” and “Olympian” (which is also the code name for another character recently used in a WW-related book). Someone call the Amazon librarian, Mnemosyne, and get some more examples, will you? No, she’s not the famous mythological Mnemosyne, she’s the Amazon one. Min… Nim… Nemmie… Oh, forget it.

Don’t get me started on Donna Troy, she of the infinite origins and names. And please, writers, don’t bring back a completely dead character like Medusa and change her name (and powers/skills) to “Medousa.” Why are you trying to make things more difficult?

I’m big on simplifying the WW mythos both to help new readers (and myself) but also to streamline and focus the character. One of the problems the new creative staff should look at could be nomenclature. Keep it simple. Remember that the American school system is turning out kids who can’t even read basic English well, and texting isn’t helping things, u no.


Perhaps this problem could be solved merely by having Diana encounter threats that are NOT related to ancient Greece. Oh my, the idea! Perhaps it could be helped by Diana leaving Themyscira and concentrating on where she should be, Patriarch’s W—I mean, the Outer World.

Wonder Woman is such an exciting concept. She’s one of the premier get-it-done capes of the DCU, a fascinating character with layers of intriguing personality and unique ability/skills out the wazoo. Yet she’s a female in a medium directed at males. She has suffered from creative staffs that had little or no regard for her because she was a woman. She’s borne the burden of creatives who haven’t understood her in the least, or sometimes even deliberately set out to screw up her mythos and themes.

But through it all she’s survived. Diana shouldn’t face the additional challenge of requiring her readers to battle their way through a continual avalanche of long, odd words.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Some Holiday Recipes


Okay, so they're not exclusively holiday-related, but they're what I'm going to make for this one. I'm trying to clear out various crap from my house, and had a stack of low-calorie recipe magazines that I almost never go into. I only use the pot roast carbonnade recipe from them, but I thought I'd also seen a crustless pumpkin pie kind of parfait there once. Wouldn't you know? As I'm about to thumb through one of the magazines, it falls, I catch it—and the page opened is the pumpkin pie parfait.

So I've now saved the two recipes to my files, and per Facebook requests, am reprinting them here. Don't ask me to put in copyright info, please, as I've got to rush this out. And note: I've never made the pumpkin parfait before, but it looks doable and tasty.

Pot Roast Carbonnade

I make this in a pressure cooker. That used to be a royal pain, but the new digital pressure cookers are a dream—no fear involved! Just punch some buttons and go relax. Consult your PC book to see how long pot roast and carrots/brussels sprouts should cook. Another plus of this recipe, besides its yumminess, is that it comes with veggies included.

1 3-lb. beef chuck pot roast
nonstick vegetable spray coating
1 12-oz can (1 1/2 cups) beer
2 Tbl catsup or ketchup, your choice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried thyme, crushed
1 8-oz package frozen brussels sprouts (if you're like me, you throw in a little more because of the "veggies included" excuse and because a 16-oz bag is staring at you. Check how much volume your pressure cooker will take, if you're using one.)
8 medium carrots, bias sliced into 1-inch pieces (1 lb) (I can let my new food processor do this. Yay!)
2 med. onions, cut into wedges
1 Tbl cornstarch
2 Tbl water

Trim excess fat from meat; sprinkle with salt and pepper. You know, they might have listed those in the ingredients... Spray bottom of a 4 1/2 quart Dutch oven with vegetable coating. Place pan over medium heat. Add meat; brown on both sides.

Combine beer, catasup, garlic, and thyme; pour over meat. Cover and bake in a 325° oven for 1 1/4 hours. (A lot less time if you're using your PC!) Rinse brussels sprouts with warm water just to separate. Add to Dutch oven along with carrots and onions. Cover and bake 40 to 50 minutes more or till vegetables and meat are tender. (Pressure cookers laugh at these times!)

Remove meat and veggies to serving plattter. Keep warm. Skim fat from pan juices. Boil pan juices till reduced to 1 1/4 cups. Combine cornstartch and water; add to pan juices. Cook and stir till thickened and bubbly; cook 1 to 2 minutes more. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon some gravy over meat; pass remainder. Garnish platter with celery leaves, if desired. (Celery leaves?) Makes 8 servings.

Per serving: 235 calories, 9 g fat.

Pumpkin Chiffon Parfaits

1 c. canned pumpkin
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
2 Tbl sugar
2 egg whites
2 Tbl sugar
1 1.4 oz. envelope whpped dessert topping mix (They mean Dream Whip here. I don't think they even make that any more. Guess you'll have to use Cool Whip or a generic instead, which means you skip the milk)
1/2 c. skim milk (see above)
1 tsp finely shredded orange peel (yeah, right. I always keep orange peels on hand.)
ground cinnamon

In a large mixing bowl stir together pumpkin and pie spice; set aside. In a small saucepan add gelatin to 3/4 cup cold water. Let stand 5 minutes. Stir in 2 Tbl sugar. Cook and stir over low heat till gelatin dissolves. Cool. Stir into pumpkin mixture. Chill till slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. Remove from refrigerator.

In a small mixer bowl immediately begin beating egg whites with an electric mixer on medium speed till soft peaks form. Gradually add 2 Tbl sugar, beating on high speed till stiff peaks form. When gelatin/pumpkin mixture is partially set, fold in egg whites. Chill till mixture mounds.

Prepare dessert topping according to package except use 1/2 c. skim milk. Beat in peel. In 8 dessert dishes, layer pumpkin mixture and topping, ending with pumpkin mixture. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Chill. Serves 8.

77 calories, 2 g. fat.

Since I'm saving all those calories, think I'll pick up some croissants and butter while I'm at the grocery store...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Hurry up and paint!

One of the things I do when I finish a painting is to sign and date it. Then I let it sit around for a while until I figure out some final changes and make them.

When I noticed that the calendar was winding down, it occurred to me that I still had two paintings that were "finished" and needed to be looked at. So that's what I've been doing this weekend. (Besides playing with/petting the injured kitty my neighbor found. Kitteh required surgery and is recovering here while I'm trying to find him a good home.)



Here's the Macdonald-Stewart Library building at McGill U in Montreal. I love Montreal's architecture, and some of the buildings at McGill are extraordinarily picturesque (if a little run-down). One of the best things about this particular building is that you arrive at it from downtown without having to hike up the mountain like you have to do for the rest of the campus. You're still breathing normally at this point.

9x12", alkyd oil on Gessobord, all materials archival. Gessobord means that you can pop this into a regular frame and not have to buy one of those deep ones that only take canvases. $125 US. Shipping is free to US and Canada.







Here's a painting, "Summer Hay," in water-soluble oils I began at Art of the Carolinas. It's loosely based on Lloyd's Dairy in Efland, NC, a favorite subject of mine. It's 24x12", done on a Gessobord, and all materials are archival. $200 US. Shipping is free to US and Canada.






I'll get back to more painting now...

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Separate But Unequal


This column originally ran April 12, 2010 at comicbookresources.com .


Let us turn to the Book of Wondie. In the beginning, Wonder Woman was created as an Amazon. Back in the Forties her creator had an extremely limited pool of origin possibilities that would allow her to bound into the world as a feminist woman who could receive a fair bit of respect just for being herself. She could have been a cowgirl, but Marston went with the choice of Amazons, which also allowed him a base of mythology to work with. And the origin was good, amen.

By classic definition, the Amazons were an all-female society. I have heard many readers of late deriding the DC version for turning their backs on men in order to form that kind of nation. Those readers are showing their ignorance of the mythos.

While the no-men rule for Amazons in the Golden through Bronze Ages may be a little murky it its origins (GA Aphrodite went by the rule that men are violent and women are peaceable, and so she created the female nation to counter Mars/Ares’ violent plots), the Modern Era of Wonder Woman clearly shows us that the Amazons—well, the Themysciran Amazons—had no choice in the matter. Their gods created them as an all-female society (we are NEVER told why) and directed them to be exiled on a hidden island for their sins, and that was that. The Amazons had to obey.

Unfortunately this single-gender origin begat an ongoing sub-theme that continued even into the modern era: That women are good, men are evil, and that all are best off if they keep to their separate playing fields. This odd idea is a twisted echo of what is too often encountered in the world: that men are superior, women inferior, and that if men are contaminated with feminine ideas they are no longer worthy of respect.

The battle of the sexes has long been a source of drama and humor in fiction, but when used as a constant element in order to degrade an entire gender or over-celebrate another, it’s unhealthy and not entertaining in the least.

In the Golden Age Wonder Woman often demonstrated that violent, evil men would be so much better if they surrendered to Loving Authority—which was only available from a woman.

To make matters worse, the Amazons couldn’t even allow males to touch their island. Male cooties would bring doom to them! Also, if men tampered with Amazons’ bracelets, the action let loose insanity and uncontrollable rage. The Amazons lost their power because of men. Men are just bad news in every way, aren’t they?

Did any of the WW creative teams ever think that if they kept slandering the vast majority of their readers, there might be some kind of backlash or resentment toward WW? Do guys really like to be told they’re evil? That masculine qualities are bad? Let me tell you: women haven’t enjoyed being told the same thing about themselves over the millennia. Women resent it.

Yet with all this, from the first Wonder Woman’s basic theme has been that of empowerment of the disenfranchised. Often her readers and some creators have seemed to think that “disenfranchised” meant only women, but if you look a little harder you’ll see that WW stood up for just about anyone, no matter the gender, who was attacked because of close-mindedness.

Now, I can understand this separation of genders in the Forties. Society was very much like that, though it was just beginning to change, creaking around to a new stance. With the end of World War II, it tried to snap back and couldn’t. The genie was out of the bottle.

In the Sixties we had the Women’s Movement making headlines. Women, especially loud ones or ones in groups or ones in loud groups, were to be feared and ridiculed by all too many men. They had to be kept in their place, kept under control, lest men lose their power.

As the Movement became more mainstream, why was it that we still saw women and men so separated in comics when they weren’t in real life? Each had their own playing field assigned to them. Most comics readers were expected to know that if the women ever snuck onto the men’s turf, they’d quickly be put in their place and humiliated. In order for that not to happen, it was best if the women kept meekly to their own arenas. Wonder Woman often kept this separation in the spotlight and celebrated it.

How did Diana feel about the gender wars?


I’ll admit that comment was a one-time event. But it’s still astounding that it would ever see print. Its presence says much about the gender bigotry that all too often seethed below the surface in the book.

It wasn’t just Diana. DC as a company has often seemed to relish pitting men against women. They make sure they have their separate venues. WW lucked out because both the JSA and JLA needed token females, so she was associated for long years with each team and thus shared in the prestige there. When Diana left the JLA, her girly chair was filled by Black Canary. It was some time before the teams truly integrated by gender.

The more modern DC has seen a number of events in which the players were separated out by gender. Often these occurred in Wondie’s book, such as the Adjudicator arc in 1982, in which a galactic bigwig battled a gamut of DC’s more well-known heroines. During Phil Jimenez’s WW run in 2001, he had Circe turn all the male heroes into animals, while scads of female heroes from both forgotten series and successful gathered to save the world…and fight hordes of female villains.

As recently as Blackest Night we saw an entire legion of ring-bearers, the Sapphire Chicks, that was made up only of females who dressed in skimpy pink outfits, all just oozing luv. Of course no male in their right mind would deign to be a member of that group! The idea! Besides, it was pointed out that men don’t have the same capacity to love as do women. Uh… Say again? And does this mean that women don’t have the same capacity as men to feel some other emotion(s)?

What century is it again?

The Jimenez era of WW surprisingly ushered in male Amazons, fully integrated and welcomed as immigrants, and accompanied by thousands of male visitors and students to Themyscira. Imagine the intriguing possibilities this brought! Finally the “women are good; men are evil” theme must be eradicated within the pages of WW. We’d see how the genders working together could make a better world and better Wondie.

The male Amazons were done away with within the course of a few panels during the Rucka era and never spoken of again.

Guy heroes have guy villains. After all, it’s ungentlemanly to hit a woman even if she’s trying to blow your brains out. Of late, they’ve managed to have a handful of female villains as well and some have even turned out to be interesting and not just there to be “bad girl” romantic interests.

But Wonder Woman has been plagued with a high ratio of female foes from the beginning, so she could fight the women that her male cohorts couldn’t. Only Ares/Mars and Dr. Psycho come quickly to mind as WW’s male villains, and Dr. Psycho is a little person, which is a comic book way of telling us that he’s not quite a real man. (Comic books can be cruel.)

But Wondie not only has female villains by the score, she has them forming all-female teams. Villainy, Inc. was only composed of women in its first incarnation, and when it was revived late in the modern era, it was all women again. There was nary a male token in sight.


In the current third volume of WW, we have faced an opening arc in which villains ganged up against Wonder Woman. All of these were women, except Dr. Psycho, who is still a little person. An evil version of Herakles was also used (sometimes he’s good; sometimes he’s evil; writers can’t seem to hold his character steady), but not as part of the villainous, loosely-grouped team.

A few issues later we saw the nation of Amazons used as a bloodthirsty army that destroyed Washington, DC and many other places, massacring innocents as they went. Remember, they’re a group composed entirely of females. (It’s just been rewritten that this hellish army of tens of thousands was actually only about a dozen renegades. Right.)

The current Simone run has also placed an emphasis on separating out the genders. The run began with an all-female group of murdering villains, the Circle. They had a reason for not being inclusive, as they were Themysciran Amazons. The story progressed to include a group of villainous (or wannabe villainous) apes, all male. It then moved on to a large group of super-Nazis, of which two were female, which is extremely minimal integration.

We’ve also had ancient Greek warriors, zombies and all male, added to the WW cast. They first appeared as villains and were led by Achilles, who was just following evil orders from the mad/evil male god, Zeus. These Manazons/Gargareans now live on an island which no female can approach.

A new group of villains, the Crows, appeared: all boys, all up to no good in a murderous way. In the most recent issue of WW we meet an outer space captain who commands an all-female force and wants to decimate the Earth, except for 100 of its most accomplished citizens… who will all be women.

So the sexes are still kept very separate in the pages of Wonder Woman and within the DCU. What purpose does this serve here in the 21st Century? Doesn’t such a constant barrage of anti-male sentiment drive readers away? If we kept getting stories concerning groups of villains who were, say, all Black or all Asian, and if characters were allowed to complain over and over about how such-and-such race was inherently evil or good or if they were only subtly shown to be so, wouldn’t readers complain?

The reason the genders are so separated in the pages of the modern WW is not because of the gods’ whims, but those of her creative teams. Isn’t it time to end the segregation?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Lesson Learned About Commissions



I was so pleased to get a portrait commission! It's been a long time since I did such and I wanted to get back in the swing of things. Along the way I learned and relearned a bunch of helpful stuff that I hope to incorporate into future paintings.

First and foremost: insist on a good picture at a decent size! Luckily, today's technology is a LOT better than it was when I first started doing portraits back right after college. Now I can scan a photo, take it into Photoshop, work with it a bit, and print it out at a large, viewable size. But that doesn't mean I shouldn't try to reinforce the importance of getting a clear shot to begin with.

Also, I need to make sure the client and I are on the same wavelength as to what they want. They're the one ordering the portrait. They're the one paying for it. And they and their descendants will be the ones looking at it for years to come.

So when I thought I'd completed this particular portrait (above), I congratulated myself on doing a good job. I'd changed some colors to make it more lively and so the figures would stand out more. I'd adjusted the composition so the figures could be larger. But when I sent a jpg to the client for approval, she said that she recalled the skirt not being red, etc.

One of my instructors once said that while the artist is interested in composition, color harmony, value, etc., the client just wants it to look like the subject. I'll take that a little farther: though the artist wants to make art, the client is more interested in preserving the memory. In a commissioned work, the client's wants are by far the most important thing. Without them, there is no commission.

So I've redone the portrait a bit, hoping that the client will prefer this version:


Live, learn, and keep those fingers crossed!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Did I mention...


Art of the Carolinas 2010!

This is the trade show/workshop weekend that Jerry's Artarama puts on every year in Raleigh, NC. I had a very good time there this year. Once again I tried water-soluble oil colors and have now made a definite decision on same. I learned about brushstrokes, got a new angle on putting a painting together quickly, struck up a few good conversations, and bought a lot of good, um, stuff. But I took far too many photos to include in a blog, so I posted under the "Travel" section of my website. If you want to hear my view about happenings at the largest art expo in the US, you'll have to click here!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I sing the feline electric

Bran-Bran
1995-2010


Bran was the kitten who never grew up. Oh, he got older, but he was always ready for action, always prepared to create a little deviltry. His little motor was permanently set on extra-loud purr. Vets had to blow in his face to get him to shut up so they could listen to his heart.

When I first got Bran from the shelter I thought he'd be Branstookah, reborn. I was wrong. He was actually someone from Obiwan's past. Bran worshipped his older brother. I have lots of folders of pictures labelled "Bran and Obi," and few labelled just one or the other.

I'd been hoping Bran would be a pal to Bella, who was now without her beloved Morgan, but Bella wouldn't have anything to do with him. So I went out seeking a buddy for Bran and found Molly. It turned out she was probably a week younger than what her owners said, still a little too young for adoption, and when I got her home she was much smaller than Bran. I'd thought I'd gotten a like-sized kitten.

So Bran, in his exuberance, terrorized her. He was always trying to play rough and she could only try to hide—until she got older and grew larger than little Bran. She would hiss at him like crazy, but still he'd try to play. They both might not like to admit it, but they had a lot of kitten adventures together. And since Molly idolized Obi as well, they were the Three Musketeers when he was around.

When I moved to the new house I also had to move seven cats. I stuffed 'em all (except the timid, much-put-upon Bella) into the master bathroom and closed the door so the movers could come in, so I could keep track of them, etc. But when I turned my back, Bran—always the smallest—had slipped UNDER the door and zipped out into the strange yard.

I almost freaked out. There was no knowing how far he would run, confused not to be in the home he'd known all his life. So carefully I walked toward him, trying not to frighten him. He stood in the middle of the forest and meowed at me piteously, then came to me. He knew who his Mama was.

As the herd dwindled down to two, Bran's bond with Obi deepened. The two were inseparable, except when Obi got jealous. On the rare times when Bran wanted to be petted NOW, Obi would either slink away in a huff or nudge him out of the way.

Bran liked to go out at night and come back in when he thought breakfast should be served, so I got used to Obi changing sides of the bed. He'd try to be on my left by the pillow, but when Bran came in and jumped to that spot as well, thinking nothing about two cats piled on the same point (it just made things friendlier, didn't it?), Obi would move to the right. It got to be such a routine that Obi eventually changed places in the middle of the night so as not to be bothered in the morning. Bran would come in, purr purr purr (the loudest purr you've ever heard) (except that Moosie, on the rare times he purred, was louder), and then pat me gently on the nose or eyeball to inform me that it was breakfast time.

At night he had an uncanny sense of time. As I sat at the computer, pretending to write my novels, he'd come in at 8 and start patting my leg, proceeding to a scratch if I did not accede to his wishes, and scratch and scratch until I got up and distributed snackies like a good Mama does.

I often called him "my little Duck," because he loved the rain. The worse the storm, the more he wanted to go out. And of course if Mama was home, he'd skip the kitty door and sit at the front door, looking back at me, awaiting valet service from his human. Once out, he'd give a quick look around and race down to sit under the back of my car. (Unless I saw him inside before I left for work, I always slapped the back of the car to flush him out of the way.) Don't know how he accomplished it, but even in the worst of storms Bran would come back inside without a drop of water on him. Usually. Every so often he'd arrive drenched, and kick up a fuss when Mama toweled him off.


As Obi's health has declined (he's 18 now), I've worried a LOT about Bran. What would Bran do when Obi was gone? Would he be sentenced to long, lingering years of loneliness? It seems Bran didn't want that. Obi is old enough that he sleeps most of the time, and won't suffer as much, I think, from the separation as Bran would have.

It all went so fast. He'd slowed down in the past six weeks, enough for me to get bloodwork done, especially when he stopped being enthusiastic about his meals. He got more bloodwork last week, just before I left for Art of the Carolinas. When I got back on Saturday, he was not eating to a worrying degree, though he was drinking a lot of water. Then he started to bump into things as if he couldn't see well. His urine had blood in it. He got X-rays Monday morning, ultrasound Tuesday, and on Wednesday he made his last trip to the vet.

I got the impression that he had a huge group of friends waiting to welcome him to the Other Side. When I asked him about his next life, he said that he'd wait for Obi so they could go together. I hope that wherever they wind up, they have a lot of fun, a lot of places to explore, much sunlight to lie in, and much love to surround them.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Rumble in the Wonder—Marketing Smackdown!

This column was originally run January 20, 2010, on comicbookresources.com .



With a "ho ho ho" in my heart and credit cards already smoking in my wallet, I set out in December to fulfill my Angel Tree kid's list. While the Angel Tree doesn't literally exist any more, its spirit lives on as an envelope of holiday wish lists from underprivileged area children.

I'd chosen someone who didn't want a Tour de France-ready bicycle or complete Wii system with snorkel and shotgun add-ons or $300 tennis shoes autographed by Michael Jordan (who, btw, lived in the next college dorm over from mine). (Okay, there's a five-year difference in graduation dates, but even so...)

My young Angel wanted a modest number of modestly priced items requiring both brain cells and motor skills to use. I approved and bought exactly that, but I wanted to add a little something extra to the pile. I was going to get her a gift that would not only help her in her reading, but introduce her to a lovely new world of fantasy and possibilities: a Wonder Woman children's book.

A few years ago Nina Jaffe and Ben Caldwell put out a playful series of Wonder Woman kiddie books through HarperFestival. They're out of print now (why???), but still around in used book stores. I checked 'em out online. Used copies in new condition went for at least $40. Ouch!

So instead, I wandered off to Wally World to get some other kind of Wonder gear for the Angel. Right past the store greeter stood a stand of kiddie "must-haves": cartoon character banks, nightlights, cereals, Band-Aids, toothbrushes, towels, backpacks, etc. Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Hulk, SpongeBob... and Dora the Explorer.

No Wondie.

A double-check of the toy and book sections confirmed the lack of Amazonian presence. Next, I tried the girls clothing department, where I caught a glimpse of a shirt with familiar scrolly logo and star-spangled burst. Hoorah! I made a beeline ("Bees! My god.") for it.

Instead of the Princess of Themyscira, it was a Hannah Montana shirt. Not only Hannah Montana, but a Hannah Montana who had confiscated the typestyle of the original WW logo as well as her TV background starburst pattern. Arrgh! What, doesn't HM make enough money without stealing it from others?

It didn't help that Dora was right beside her, smiling out from a rack of tees with those unnatural mutant eyes. That girl is everywhere!

I have nothing against Dora. She's a fine teaching tool, though the pacing of her stories needs to be speeded up if she wants to grab an Emmy for Best Drama. She teaches a second language almost as well as Rosetta Stone.

Like our Wonder Woman, Dora is kind to all. She's bright and curious. She befriends monkeys. She helps kids empower themselves.

But she ain't Wonder Woman.

I want my Wonder merchandise, and I want it now! Now! Where is it?


(above: The worlds of Bizarro Comics and the DCU both have a multitude of Wonder accessories available to their citizens. How I want that spangled rug!)

Oh, if you're into dollies—I mean action figures—there are a few Wonder Womans around sometimes if you dig far enough behind the displays of male figures. If you see someone running out of a toy store clutching an action figure box to his chest in an attempt to hide it, it's probably because the guy has just burrowed through ten packing boxes of male dolls to find the one WW doll that shipped and wants to avoid desperate WW fans who are willing to ignore peaceful Gaea's Way to get it.

(You can tell these desperate fans by the axes they carry. The "Lord of the Rings" label has been crossed out with a Sharpie, and instead "Wonder Woman" is scrawled there in a red that may or may not be Sharpie ink.)

If you're into sculptures and fancy non-action dolls, there are a few of those as well, produced on occasion by companies who charge gigantor bucks for their limited runs. For some reason, many of these models are loaded to bear with non-standard frou-frous, axes and swords, or a prostitute-ready Wondie suit. Why is this? Does anyone ever see an action figure of Superman that wears trousers? Spider-Man with a gun? Batman in just leather straps and black socks?

Every now and then an inexpensive but nice plastic figure will come out and I'll snap it up. But I want more!

I want to go to a novelty shop and buy a car license plate with holographic stars that says "1DR WMN." I want a purse with a shoulder strap that's actually a golden lasso. I want a Kanga Burger in my Happy Meal, with a Wonder Tot toy on the side. I want a star spangled iPhone with wireless Mental Radio capability. There's an app for that. I want an inflatable, battery-operated Steve Trevor to satisfy all my personal wishes, if you get my drift. I want a bunch of classic songs that tell me not to tug on Wonder Woman's shorts, or that Wondie ain't got a-nothin' on me; or hear a TV show's theme asking Wonder Woman to "saaaaaaave me!" or tell me that some sitcom's lead character is no Wonder Woman.

Why isn't Diana wake surfing beside Disney's booming "Princess" wave?

I want to be able to buy a WW tee shirt off the same everyday store shelf that sells a tee with a big "S" symbol on it. I want pink tees with "S" symbols banned by law and red shirts with =W='s worn instead. I don't want WW school supplies to be so rare that coworkers on vacation in West Virginia run to my cubicle first thing on their return to announce the sighting of a WW notebook at a Target in Bluefield.

Wonder Woman shouldn't be the spotted owl of comic book merchandising. She's an ICON. Non-geek people easily recognize and approve of her. One-half of today's kids are female, and thus presumably in her prime doodad demographic market, though a heck of a lot of males are interested in Wondie as well (for whatever reasons). (See inflatable and battery-powered, above.)

Why are they all being ignored?

Apparently there's a firm line between what's considered girlie stuff and what's not. My Xmas shopping revealed a Lego set packaged in pink plastic and marketed to girls. "All the Legos inside are girl colors," a clerk explained. "Pink, white, purple, orange, yellow..." I'd been aware of the stigma against a perfectly good pink (or as the pink-clad Cosmic Boy once put it, "Pale scarlet"), but hadn't known about the yang-repelling qualities of these other colors.

Guess we won't be hearing the advertising phrase, "These trucks are Amazon tough!" any time soon. Wonder Woman has to overcome the onus of being female before she can market certain things.

Why such a gender gap? Females are still very much thought of as the inferior sex, and anything to do with them is not to be touched by the male of the species. The two genders are kept separated and unequal, else civilization will crumble. Should we be encouraging that antiquated idea?


Marketing is not about creating social change, but rather profiting from what's out there already. So here goes: an idea as to how to market Wonder Woman to the hilt in today's world. Given: a nation of couch potatoes. Everyone's up in arms about it: get those lazy kids to exercise! Just don't expect me to get up to help.

DC should consider the marketing possibilities here: Would Superman work? He's from another planet. He automatically has superpowers, even if he lies around all day watching Spike TV and drinking beer. He's no example, no spokesman for health. Batman? Doesn't he get all the marketing already? Time to spread the Bat-Wealth. Besides, he's too cool to exercise. Best to give a kid a Batman video game and pray he doesn't learn anti-social behavior from it as he melds with his couch and decapitates someone onscreen with his virtual Batarang.

But Wonder Woman... Before the Modern Era, she was well-known for citing "Amazon Training" as a source of her power. Surely it involved unleashing the power of the mind as well as the body—just look at what she could do!

But it did involve physical training, which would naturally tie into exercise apparel, equipment, videos and programs of all kinds. Can't you just picture all the star-spangled sweat bands people could wear on wrists and forehead? Any weekend athlete would have fun wearing a yellow baseball cap with a red star front and center. Sweatsuits and gym clothes could be emblazoned with spangles, golden eagles, and red, white and blue. Patriotism, health and the Wonder fantasy, all in one!

Lynda Carter could take a break from her nightclub act to become a spangled gym franchise spokesperson. Be a Wonder Woman at Curves!

The Wii could show you as Wonder Woman (or Warrior) her/himself, as you exercised in a mythological environment. You could take a break from jumping jacks to jog after a criminal or monster, then lasso and reform him. (Possibly through the energetic Dance of Loving Submission.)


The US Army got a lot of air time with their "Be all you can be" campaign. How about the (US) President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports encouraging kids to "Be a Wonder!"?

Wonder Woman herself comes with a lot of cool toys. Why not play off these? Offer a remote-controlled Invisible Plane–tricky to figure where it is, but almost impossible to return to the store for a refund. Any girl or boxer would love her magic lasso jumprope, especially if it glowed in the dark. Wonder jewelry would include star earrings and silver bracelets. Kids could eat Amazon-powered vitamins, Paradise Island yogurt, maybe even Wonder bread.

And some day, some very special day...Sheldon on "The Big Bang Theory" will show up in a Wondie tee instead of those dowdy Green Lantern, Flash and Superman things he tends to. Ah, dreams!

So what did I wind up getting as my Angel Tree kid's extra gift? A Dora book. Sigh. Maybe next year...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Strickly a Book Review


A Hellion in Her Bed
by Sabrina Jeffries
Pocket Star Books Romance
4 1/2 spangles out of five
Regency Romance
Heat: We get a couple of pretty hot scenes here, per the genre requirement.

It's so good to see Sabrina back in top form! With her new "Hellions of Halstead Hall" series, she seems imbued with crackling new enthusiasm. And when Sabrina gets enthusiastic, her readers are enthralled.

This is volume 2 of the series. If you recall Volume 1, we have five aristocratic (but broke) children of the Regency era who lost their mother and father under mysterious circumstances. Their grandmother raised them, and they have not turned out quite as she hoped. Now that she's an old woman, she declares that all five must marry within a year or she will not bequeath her wealth to them.

The mystery of Mom and Dad's murders/suicides/whatevers now gets one more set of clues as Son #2, Jarret, steps into the spotlight. His grandmother's dreams for him interfered with his own so long ago that now he takes his frustrations out by gambling incessantly. Fortunately for him, he's fairly good at it. But when Gran gets sick and makes a deal with him to take over her brewery business, he begins to rediscover a childhood passion.

Speaking of passion, here comes Annabel from up north, a brewster in her own right, as some ladies were actually allowed to be back then. She's got family problems. Big family problems. And like Jarret, she faces the possibility of her brewery going under before long—but with her, every hope of her family retaining any money at all will be lost.

There's a positive crescendo of sparks between the hero and heroine, who are held back by one of those awful Family Secrets from grabbing their happiness straight off.

The pacing on this is speedy. It's one of those books where you have to drag yourself into work each morning because you stayed up far too late the previous night reading. The plot works extremely well, and there are character complications that can only arise when characters have multiple layers, as they do here. Plus the 12-year-old boy who appears seems to be an actual 12-year-old boy, and not one of those angelic little kid-a-trons that one so often finds in fiction.

Pack up this one in your reticule and take it somewhere where you can settle with a lovely cup of tea to peruse it at leisure! Next up will be Minerva, the scandalous novel writer of the family. Can't wait!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Living by a River

[It's a very special day! Not only does "Strickly Speaking" get its very first guest-blogger, Nancy Lennea, but her book, Destiny's Mountain, is being released today! Let's hear her talk about what inspired her. —Strick]


by Nancy Lennea

Tree swings, sandy beaches, sunny summer afternoons…I grew up within walking distance of the Long Island Sound and learned to swim at an early age. A young girl’s confidence to swim and snorkel while gathering hermit crabs morphed into a teen’s lazy weekend dates at the ocean on Long Island’s southern shore. The waves were intense, but I grew confident in my ability to stay afloat or to dive beneath the breakers.

Everything changed after college when I met and married a New Hampshire man. We settled in Rumney, a small town, population-wise (under 2,000), but large in acreage (over 42 square miles). Lakes and mountains filled this area and we bought our first house within walking distance of both the Stinson River and the much larger Baker River. Even back then, I filed away these memories. Many of these images came to mind when I sat down to write DESTINY’S MOUNTAIN, my latest release from Red Rose Publishing.

My husband and I soon discovered a sandy beach beside the new Baker River bridge. We brought our two dogs. The brother and sister were mutts we adopted from the pound (the family joke is they were practice before we thought about having a child).

I remember quite clearly swimming when the male accidently clawed my hand. As we loaded them back into the car, I noticed the diamond was no longer sitting in my engagement ring! My husband and I, ever hopeful, ran back to the water. This is when we discovered that the sandy bottom is made up of crushed gravel, river rocks, and…mica! Mica shines like diamonds. Finding my tiny stone among the thousands of sparkling bits of mica was a lost cause.


Years later, when our sons grew older, a time came when my rapid heartbeats mirrored the moment I lost my precious diamond. My oldest wanted to go swimming with his friends. In the river. Without me.

There comes a time in every mother’s life when she has to let go. Allowing my young son to go swimming without me put my confidence to the test. Had his father and I taught him to swim well? Could I trust the other boys not to hurt him? Would he break an arm swinging from the rope swing? Would a canoeist paddle around the bend and crash into him?

My husband and I had ensured our sons learned to swim from an early age. We visited relatives who had pools or took us to the ocean. Every trip to a hotel included a pool and my sons enjoyed every minute. Did anything happen to either child at the swimming hole? Not a thing. An ounce of prevention made sure everything went well. They will remember their hot summer days spent with their friends down at the old swimming hole on the Baker River.

The Baker River is a popular canoeing destination in the spring and early summer before the levels get too low to navigate. After hearing so much about it, we became the new owners of my father-in-law’s fiberglass canoe. After patching holes and repainting it, we strapped the huge canoe onto the minivan’s roof. The boys wore borrowed life jackets, and we packed a cooler and towels. Wearing shorts over our bathing suits, we parked one car at the swimming hole and headed to West Rumney.


It took over three hours to go what would have taken us fifteen minutes to drive. But what fun was had during those three hours! As a family, we worked together and took turns paddling, watching wildlife, and picking spots where we could stop for a swim or a lunch break. Memories like that will stay with us forever.

---
Fear is a strange thing. It changes everything. There is only one place where I actually enjoy fear. That place is in a book.

Some people are naturally fearless, like my heroine in DESTINY’S MOUNTAIN. She skinny-dips under a gushing waterfall. My hero stumbles upon her. Lots could happen…and it does! I use fear a lot more later in the book, set in a quirky New Hampshire college town nestled beside a river and eerie mountains. A couple of stalkers, a murder, mountain rescues, and wildlife give me ample opportunities to scare my readers.

DESTINY’S MOUNTAIN recalls that time in my life when the mountains called to me and the river calmed me. I swam in it, canoed down it, photographed it, raised a family near it, and painted it. Its fearsome springtime currents and gentler summer coolness helped me create a manuscript that will keep my readers on the edge of their seats while giving them a happy ever after. Read on!

BOOK BLURB

In a quirky college town surrounded by the mountains of New Hampshire, new art history professor Jacob Oliver hikes a trail on a crisp September morning. Divorced and forced out of his job with the Boston Police due to a horrific accident, he spots a naked woman beneath a majestic waterfall. Escaping, he falls and re-injures his knee.

Destiny Blake hears a noise; someone is on her mountain. She finds a handsome man sitting in the mud. Love blooms and lust consumes them after she helps him to the safety of her cabin. Soon assumptions tear them apart, leaving her vulnerable to the unwanted attentions of other men.

When Jacob decides he cannot live without her, he must save her from a madman who chases her up her mountain through the cold, snowy darkness of a November night. Ghostly voices push Jacob onward, while another spirit’s voice urges Destiny to fight back. Pain, hypothermia, and death threaten before the sun rises. Can Destiny and Jacob make it off Destiny’s Mountain…alive?


EXCERPT

Much later, Destiny reheated his coffee, returning the mug to him as he lay blissfully content on her bed. Her slim fingers wrapped his knee with the bandage while her silky lips kissed him from toe to thigh.

Watching her, Jacob sipped his coffee. Suddenly exhausted, he set the mug on her nightstand then relaxed back into her pillow. Even from there, her hair smelled sweet as it cascaded over her shoulders and between the lovely breasts visible inside her robe.

Destiny stood with her hands on her hips. “Your only mission today is to rest. I washed and dried your clothes. I’ll drive you home whenever you wish. I also called the police.”

Jacob’s body stiffened suddenly.

“Relax. I told them what happened in case you were missed and let them know your car is parked at the trailhead.”

“Thanks. I never thought to call them.”

“I didn’t know your license plate, and you didn’t tell me the color, but I suppose there aren’t too many Land Rovers around here.”

“It’s a bit ostentatious, but I used to take trips into the mountains and—”

“And?”

“Long story.” Why bring up painful memories now? He saw no need to dwell on things long dead, like his perfect life—before my accident.

“If you want, we can call a tow truck, but the police don’t plan to ticket you.” She bent over the bed and pulled the sheets and blanket up over his chest. When she ran her fingers down the long scar on his forearm, her gaze shot up and locked on his.

“How did this happen?” She turned off the radio, then sat beside him, still caressing the wound.

“I chased a robbery suspect across a rooftop. The surface had turned to glass due to a recent ice storm. I took a ride down the roof and landed in a scraggly stand of trees. The trees won.” He forced a smile.

She stared, wide-eyed.

He shrugged it off, downplaying the event. Still, when he glanced at her shadowed profile, he recognized her concern in the lowering of her eyelashes and her unusual silence. Reaching up, he pulled her into his arms and kissed her.

“Robbery suspect?”

“Guess I forgot to mention I used to be a cop. A lifetime ago,” he sighed.

“And now you’re a teacher? How? Why?”

“I had a bad accident while in a car chase and broke my leg. Crushed it pretty bad, actually.” Jacob rubbed his thigh through the covers, then tangled his fingers in the silken strands of her honey-gold hair. A foreign sense of peace washed over him.

“I thought I had fully healed, and then this happened.” He laid his head back against the headboard. Regret for the past cramped his stomach.

“Do you miss being a police officer?”

“I regret having been forced out. That fateful night spun into a turning point in my life. A very unhappy turning point.”

“Well, you’re definitely not the geek or stuffy teacher I expected you to be when I first saw you at the dining hall.”

“You’ve seen me before? How the hell did I ever miss you?”

Tell us about Nancy

Nancy grew up on New York’s Long Island then attended college in the beautiful mountains of New Hampshire. She worked during college in the dining hall while earning a degree in art education. She met her husband on campus and they raised a family in a nearby town. She volunteered as an EMT/firefighter on the Rumney fire department then worked for the State of New Hampshire as a 9-1-1 Emergency Medical Dispatcher. Retired from public service, Nancy now writes full time, lives in North Carolina, and is a member of Romance Writers of America, Heart of Carolina Romance Writers, Fantasy-Futuristic & Paranormal Romance Writers, Celtic Heart Romance Writers, and Sisters-in-Crime. She also writes paranormal romance, such as her recent release, DRAGON’S CURSE, as Nancy Lee Badger.

How can readers buy your book?

DESTINY’S MOUNTAIN releases today and is available for download from Red Rose Publishing. The buy link is: http://bit.ly/a4NOHE
Visit my website at: www.nancylennea.com
Visit my blog at: www.nancylennea-inlove.blogspot.com

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Of Gods and Capes


This column originally appeared Nov. 17, 2009 at Comic Book Resources.com.

Why do people worship a god? What sets a god apart from humans?

The answer seems fairly obvious but for some people it is a subtle distinction, even in our real world. But what about a world, a multiplex of universes, where hordes of beings run around with what we’d consider god-like power?

The DCU [DC Comics universe] contains heroes who can theoretically (if you twist physics on its ear) juggle planets with their pinkies. There are folks who effortlessly travel back and forth through time, who contain the power of entire suns within themselves, who can command reality to change in the blink of an eye.

Gods, right? Nope, they’re something called superheroes. Or supervillains, depending on where their personal moral boundaries lie.

But in the DCU and within the Wonder Woman mythos especially, there are also beings called “gods.” Wondie specializes in the Greek Olympian pantheon, but she’s also palled around with Egyptian, Roman, Norse, Indian, and Hawaiian gods. There’ve been strange folks as well who called themselves “New Gods.”

Perhaps the primary differentiation between gods and superheroes is the matter of worship. Oh sure, Wonder Woman has had a few worshippers, and I believe Superman has as well, but these were isolated incidents. You know, some people will worship anything and drink grape Kool-Aid to celebrate their high holidays.

But why shouldn’t people of the DCU worship their superfolk if they have the same powers as gods?


Gods make covenants with their worshippers. They’ll take care of them. They’ll give them riches or health or the perfect love. They’ll grant some form of eternal life. They’ll make their crops come in abundantly, and cause terrible storms to back off.

Gee, that’s sort of like what superheroes do, only they do it because it’s the right thing to do and not because they want to be worshipped.

Back before science had been conceived, people needed explanations for why life worked the way it did. Thus they created (or discovered) gods and worshipped them in order to make life better.

In the DCU’s Ancient Greece, apparently, people began to forget the gods, for the Olympians created a superior race (formed around used souls, sort of like a heavenly chop-shop) whose mission it would be to bring humans and their worship back to the gods. Thus we discover (1) that the gods need worship to power themselves, and (2) the origin of the Amazon race.

These Amazons were set in Greece to bring the metaphorical sheep back to the fold. Can’t you hear them now as they go door to door?

“Hail, brother Leonidas! Have you heard the Good Word about Gaea’s Way? Our head priestess has prepared a pamphlet we’d like to leave with you...”

Needless to say, the peaceful Amazons learned the art of defense quickly.

The Greeks attacked the Amazons in larger and larger numbers until by necessity they became experts in war. One god, Ares, actually set in motion the downfall of the nation that was supposed to have helped his family regain their power. The Amazons lost their way for a time but were allowed to return to their gods’ good graces if they guarded the world from terrible recurring threats coming through Doom’s Doorway.

Even with this loyal nation’s worship, the Olympian gods retreated for centuries (saving power?), only to emerge in these past few years within the DCU to counter Ares’ new plots for world domination. With the birth of Wonder Woman humanity once again knew the Olympian gods were alive and ready to be worshipped.

But now there were so many others with similar power: Superman and all his ilk, Martians, Daxamians, wizards of unimaginable might, scientists who could bottle the secrets of the universe.

Often gods have been seen to be as easy as a supervillain to vanquish. There have been rare exceptions that have raised a bit of a sweat on those involved. But should gods be on a par with superhumans? Shouldn’t they exist on an entire level above them, if not two or three? Shouldn’t there be a distinct difference between gods and capes?

(At left: Steve Ditko's version of Aphrodite and Athena. Not very imposing, are they? Construction paper hearts, bah!)

I would like to propose some definitions:

• Gods don't wear garish Spandex or sport colorful capes. Gods don’t need to attract attention by what they wear; they attract attention by what they are.

[After I posted this list on the CBR MBs Walter Simonson replied to this rule and "Do you hear me, New Gods?" comment with:

"They do hear you, Carol. But really, gods wear whatever they want to.

"Believe me...I know."

I believe that out of all the comics professionals in the world, he would indeed be the one to know.

(But in this instance he's wrong.) (Or at least he is on my web pages! Mine! Mine!)]

• Gods exist across dimensional lines. Aphrodite on Earth-1 (whatever it’s now called) = Aphrodite on Earth-2 and Earth-52. She is the same entity, though the flavor may vary slightly from dimension to dimension.

• Gods are aspects of nature and human interests and as such can change their appearance to suit the angle they're working on. Thus we can have both a helmet-wearing Athena and one who totes a Kindle. They just don’t do it wearing Spandex.

• Gods are rarely accessible. We will not see Amazons going up to Olympus every day for afternoon tea or Diana strolling with the god of her choice. Gods are called by extremely high ceremony and MAY mistily appear or not, or may only speak through an oracle.

• Usually when a god wants to make an appearance, they take on the form of a known human and speak to the person they want to. Then the god leaves and the person may spot the friend elsewhere whose form the god took, then realize that they must have been talking with a god. Lately Gail Simone has been having gods speaking through existing humans using fancy-fontted speech, which is also quite acceptable, if often difficult to read.

• Gods work behind the scenes. A sharp-eyed Amazon may see the ghostly image of Artemis when she looks at the moon, or perceive the presence of Hephaestus when working at the forge, inspiring her. Batman won’t see anything mystical because he’s not a believer. (This is the Field of Dreams concept at work and was utilized well in The Hiketeia.)

• If things are dire enough that a god has to make a personal appearance, the human greeting said god should have shoes off, knees on the ground, eyes averted, and speak humbly if they dare speak at all.

• Though a superbeing may create big things or lift big things or destroy them, only a god (besides being able to do the same) can imbue those objects with purpose. A godly weapon, for example, would be the same as any other weapon, but it has a particular purpose which thus gives it greater ability to accomplish such.
Subclause 1: Godly weapons are extremely rare and not at all as common as kryptonite or Starbucks.
Subclause 2: The person who wields a godly weapon must be extremely skilled and/or powerful enough to handle said weapon. One cannot just pick up a god-forged axe off a subway seat and conquer the world with it. Likely one would accidentally hack oneself to death with it instead. Perhaps the weapon would be programmed to harm those who dare touch it without being of high enough caliber.

• Gods have limits. Greater gods have fewer limits than lesser gods. These should be defined.

• Gods are much more emo than regular characters. They have shorter fuses as well. They do not believe in Dr. Phil. They will strike down their enemies quickly and harshly, though they may regret things after their enemies have died. Gods do not forgive well at all. This is why ceremonies to call them have to be so complex, to show the gods that their worshippers are 100% supportive of them and their inflexible egos. It is a small miracle that Diana has "talked down" some gods in her time.

• Gods are as immortal and as powerful as the concepts they represent. Worship also plays a percentage in powering them, but the state of that universal concept is the real power. Remember that gods exist across dimensional lines, so even though, say, Isis isn't widely popular on Earth-1, on Earth-17.5 she's the big kahuna, and so her power gets a good boost from that worship. Earth 46.88 doesn't have any war, so Ares doesn't get any boost from that corner. On Earth 3.14159 Ares was never worshipped but there's an awful lot of war so his presence is felt there and powered up across the multiverse.
Subclause: So you think there are only 52 universes? Just wait a while. DC’s lack of continuity assures us that there are at least a few more out there.

• Gods cannot travel through time in a non-normal manner. This would allow them to gain control of every situation, correct their mistakes, and change history. If a schlub like Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day can manage to change himself, his future, and that of several other characters while dealing with one small day’s worth of time travel, imagine what even the most minor god could do if they could travel through time. Let’s leave this meddling to scientific human-types using time bubbles and whatnot. In fact, let’s say that gods cannot even utilize a device like a time bubble.

• One thing comics gods can NEVER do is create a soul. This is reserved for some consciousness far, far above their level. Gods can create stuff and animate it, but it won't contain true life. (That's not to say that a wandering soul couldn't possess that stuff...) Can the Source create souls? Perhaps, but DC’s Source (from Jack Kirby’s New Gods mythos) has always seemed namby-pamby to me, too low-level, mean and downright goofy to be taken seriously. OTOH, Gaea might begin to have the power to create a soul. Maybe.

• There are beings who call themselves New Gods. Their magic does not arise from eternal cosmic concepts, but rather from mega-advanced technology. People like Granny Goodness don’t have any personal powers that we’ve really seen, though she, like most of the New Gods, can utilize some of their tech. (They can press buttons.) A handful of them are very advanced but only Darkseid hovers on the brink of minor godhood. He’s not there yet, though he thinks he is.

So what’s your definition for how a god is distinctly different from a supercape? Or do you think there’s an advantage to the two concepts existing on the same level?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Strickly a Book Review


Amazon Ink
by Lori Devoti
Pocket Books Fantasy
4 spangles out of five (actually a 3.85, but I've rounded up)
Heat: No explicit sex. Violence level isn't gory, either.

First, thanks to Nancy Northcott, who offered the sequel of this volume to me, a series I'd been unaware of, thinking (for some odd reason :^D ) that a Wonder Wacko would be interested. I hate to come in on the middle of things and so started with Book 1 of the Amazons series.

It took some effort to get into this book. It wasn't because of the actual prose, which is tight with vivid description and snappy dialogue. The heroine, Melanippe (Mel), is one of those ├╝ber-grim urban fantasy types, harboring lots of resentment to the Amazon society she's left. You know the typical urban fantasy chick: they react with their more-than-human fists. Say hello, how are ya? and they punch your lights out. A guy asks if they want to go out for a cup of coffee, and they kick them where it'll hurt most. Anger, anger, anger. The anger, of course, leads these ladies to discovering that they hold even more power within themselves than they had imagined, so that in the end they can inflict more damage. There seems to be little deep brain activity in these femmes. Check out the current run of Wonder Woman to see an unfortunate variation on the type.

Wonder Woman is not an urban fantasy chick. Or at least when they try to make her such, she thus becomes not-Wonder Woman.

The use of the name "Melanippe" was a grabber for me. One of my favorite characters in the Plastic Age WW, despite her crying jags, was the oracle Menalippe, whose name obviously was misspelled from the classic Amazon. I liked seeing her proper name used here. Is that a strange reason?

Now Mel lives rather isolated, running a tattoo parlor in Madison, Wisconsin with her mother and grandmother (warrior and sorceress respectively) and is a sore disappointment to both. She also has a young daughter who barely shows up in the book, far less than she should to be such an important cast member. The daughter is a cypher to us and also to herself, as she doesn't know her Amazon heritage, which Mel has kept secret. (In this kind of environment and with the powers these people employ, how is that accomplished, exactly?)

The book is a murder mystery with serial killings. Mel is the prime suspect, both among the Amazons and the Madison police.

It takes quite some time to discover just what these Amazons are, how they might function (still largely unexplained by the end of the book, but we learn enough to figure out some of the relationships), and that various sets of powers/skills appear to the members of their all-female society. Everyone gets one set. Except a few, and that's where I continued to be confused. Mel, it seems. is one of those multiple-skills folks and she's growing in power in the sorcery department.

And yes, it is undefined sorcery, though there's an attempt in there to try to define it. I'll give the author points for that, but I still detest the use of undefined magick.

So the world-building is very vague for the first, oh, third of the book, and deep characterization is non-existent, so as I said, it makes it difficult to stay with the book. But at some point I began to wonder what would come next and how Mel would straighten out her various relationships. What came next proved interesting and kept me in the story. Unfortunately, Mel and her relationships are left as murky as Mel herself. She begins and ends a creature of resentment, anger and revenge, with motherly feelings toward her daughter (and another, whom you'll discover in the book), and (of course, per urban fantasy rules and the best thing about that sub-genre) two romantic possibilities. But this is not a romance at all, so don't go looking for that kind of thing here. (Even though Mel suddenly and for little if any reason goes all mushy any time she encounters a non-handicapped male. I found that disconcerting.)

So: started off not very interesting, but somewhere in there was interesting enough to read to the end. I'm semi-tempted to pick up the next volume to see if the emphasis on charting this Amazon culture stays the primary focus, or if the characters get some depth to them and learn to operate from something other than angry reaction.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Plein Air — FAIL!


It's been a rough week. I've been on vacation—good thing! Because everything's been happening! But today was a little... well, something-er than the other days this week. Not quite sure yet, but it may be a positive "something."

It began with me figuring out when to get up. Y'see, yesterday the doc diagnosed Bran-Bran with liver disease and sent us home with a mountain of meds. Obi's got kidney and intestine problems, and yesterday we discovered that both cats had yeast infections in their ears.

So I was trying to figure out when to get up because Bran needs to get a pill BEFORE breakfast, by at the very least 5 minutes, in case he decides to throw it back up. But Bran's used to having breakfast as soon as my feet hit the rug beside the bed. He was outside this morning (which has been his usual place to be up to about a month ago), and trotted in. I grabbed him at the door, shoved a large pill down his gullet, and he took it as if this were an ordinary occurrence. Mind you, my hands stink because of all the chlorine due to the well project.

Bran and Obi let me toodle around the house for a few minutes before serving them breakfast. Breakfast is now sprinkled with their herpes med. Since they didn't eat their special food (low protein for Obi; high protein for Bran) last night, I used regular food packets, added to Obi's low-protein kibbles. After breakfast Bran gets his antibiotic and another kind of antibiotic. Obi gets a quarter heart pill. Both get treats.

I'd (barely) finished my State Fair painting yesterday, including a late-night varnish, and this morning proceeded to frame it. Then I packed for a plein air excursion to Cary, the first I've been able to put on my schedule with a painting group, since they only do this on Tuesday and Friday mornings. Tough for those with full-time jobs to attend.

I jumped in the shower and jumped out soon after. The water is quite hard now, difficult to get anything to suds up. "Hard" also as in you have to scrub at it to make it flow off you. The chlorine smell isn't gangbusters any more, and the water's no longer dark brown (except on occasion), but there was a sudden, permeating smell that sucked the oxygen out of me. I had to keep sticking my head out of the shower to breathe, and finally cut the conditioner short so I could escape.

Mind you, I know the dangers of combining chlorine and ammonia, but that makes an odorless gas and I hadn't been using ammonia anywhere. My elderly aunt once cleaned her bathroom with chlorox and ammonia, and her daughter found her in time to drag her out into the open air with minimal lung damage.

Don't know what this was. I've been running the hot water in there a couple times today hoping that'll take care of it. (Windows are open; fabulous day!)

Jumped in the car (late!!!), grabbed some snacks for later, and followed Mapquest directions to Cary's Hemlock Bluff Nature Preserve. Mapquest of course was wrong, but they were close. I scouted the location for a good place to set up, leaving my equipment behind. There were two painters at the top of the trail down to "Swift Creek," which was where I wanted to paint. We introduced ourselves and I continued on to see the creek. With the tropical storm recently past us I expected burbling liveliness.

Instead what I found was a long puddle. And that was after about 3000 STEEP steps down, down, down. I could never get my equipment down there, and if by some miracle I did, I'd definitely never get it up the bluff again. So I returned to the painters, we had a lovely chat as they were working on some very nice paintings, and then I proceeded on to the State Fairgrounds.

One of the nicest things about entering the State Fair art contest is that so many people behind the tables will complement your work. As a painter who lives alone, I rarely get any comments, much less good ones, so this was great. One lady said she always loved my paintings. Gee! Almost bought a sausage dog from a vendor on the way out (they're feeding the set-up folks), but that splurge will have to wait until next week and the actual fair.

Instead I stopped off at Briar Creek on the way home and, tired of the usual fast food in my home parts, got a Mediterranean lunch that was quite good. Topped it off with an Orange Julius. Haven't had one of those in years. It was watered down but still good.

But before that as long as I was at the fairgrounds, I zipped down the road to the NC Museum of Art to see their new, expanded digs. They look like airplane hangars. And the parking lot that was near the main entrance? It's now auxiliary parking, and the old, long-walk parking lot is the way to go. I'll remember next time.

The old building is under renovation now, so I only saw the new place. It's quite different on the inside: high ceilings and lots of walls for paintings. I wish I had those kind of walls. There's a Rodin gallery that leads out to a Rodin garden, I guess, with a long lily pond, bamboo plantings, and a handful of statues. Man, Rodin liked big hands and feet! The people looked like large Hobbits. And there was one lady all twisted around that was clearly pornographic. No joke. She was holding one leg up very awkwardly with the sole purpose of showing off her privates. Sheesh!

After all that excitement I got home and tried to take a nap, but due to all the walking/climbing done today (Ha! Daily exercise completed with bonus points!), my newly-diagnosed pinched nerve was acting up and I didn't want to take a pain pill in case I go out this afternoon. Which I will.

Because I've got to get some bags of dirt and fertilizer to replace the dug-up bushes and such around the patio. The entire thing won't be done, but I do want what's out of the ground back in, and the pots o' plants I've had sitting during the drought, waiting for better days, planted. But the patio cleaned my accounts out. Heck, just the vet bills would have done a job on my last paycheck. Did I really need the dirt? Yes!

Just checked the bank balance. Waitaminnit. That's wrong. That shows I have money. Surprise! We must have gotten a stock disbursement today; the amount and account were right for that. Whew. Bills can now be paid. A few bags of dirt can be bought. Thank you, universe!

For dinner both cats got just their prescriptive dinners. Both turned up their noses. Obi's was sprinkled with generic Metamucil and both got the herpes sprinkle again. Later on Obi will need to get his subcutaneous fluids injected, both will get ear drops, Obi will have another quarter heart pill, and then there are snackies and, "Good boy!"

So that brings us to the weekend, in a place where I thought I'd be for last weekend. I'll be dealing with the plants and (hopefully) finishing up a portrait. I was thinking about getting some plein air painting in tomorrow, but will see how work progresses and try to hit that Sunday morning. We're having beautiful, sunny weather and there is a little bit of color in the trees. It'd be a sin to waste that, even if I am lagging behind.

Today's plein air attempt may have been a bust, but it gave me a great idea about how to handle the remaining walkways in my yard. The nature preserve lined their walkways with 4x4s and filled in with bark mulch. I can do that, and it will cost less than 10% of what concrete would. Plus it'll be much more eco-friendly.

So what started off as a frantic, disappointing day has turned into an interesting adventure with some nice photos from my nature walk. It's been quite different from a normal day, and I even wind up in the black! Can't beat that.

Whoops, I forgot to give Bran his Clavamox. It's got to be given when he eats. If he turned up his nose at his prescription dinner, does that count? I'd give him some treats to fill his tummy, but am saving those for after the ear drops tonight. Decisions, decisions! (Later note: he threw up the Clavamox immediately.)

Ever have one of those days?