In Defense of Maia

In honor of Mother’s Day, let’s look at a Greek goddess who most overlook.

Brief History: As most Greek Myths do, this one starts with Zeus being a habitual predator. Maia did not like the company of other gods, so she lived in a mountain cave, yet somehow Zeus managed to knock her up. Hermes, the result of this assault, was a difficult baby as he liked to sneak out of the cave when his mom slept and mess with Apollo. She stood up for her child, refusing to believe an infant could do such things (nevermind that gods do weird stuff as babies in all of these stories). Beyond her own son, Maia acted as surrogate mom to another of Zeus’s kids, Arcas, when his mother Callisto was turned into a bear by Hera. Arcas grew up to be a king who taught his people how to weave and bake bread, talents he probably learned in a cave from his foster mom.

Analysis: Maia is also a Greek word for midwife. The Romans celebrated the introverted nurturer at the start of the moth of May. May is also when the U.S. celebrates Mother’s Day in May. Coincidence. . . probably since most mother’s day festivals in the Roman times were to two entirely different goddesses, Rhea and Cybele.

Blame It on the Victorians (technically Edwardians and Roaring 20s): Before the American Civil War, an activist named Ann Jarvis started a club of women called the Mothers’ Day Work Club. Their goal was to improve sanitation and health care especially when it came to sick children. The clubs volunteered during the Civil War to help keep down disease in the camps. In 1908, three years after Jarvis died, her daughter Anna petitioned for a holiday honoring the sacrifices of mothers. President Woodrow Wilson (who I have other choice words about that will remain out of this particular blog) made it a national day in 1914. It didn’t take long before capitalists turned Anna Jarvis’s day into a commercial gain. As more greeting cards and flower sales began each May, Anna Jarvis hated what her own idea had become. ‘Merica strikes again.

Last Thoughts: In honor of Maia, these blogs will be on hiatus until Phoenix Fan Fusion. . . no it’s just cause prepping for con is exhausting. Blogs will return in late May/early June.

Anna Jarvis

Anna Jarvis

In Defense of By Command of the Prince Daniel

Brief History: Let’s dive into some Russian folklore. Do you love Baba Yaga? Of course you do! Okay, calm down John Wick fans. And if you don’t love Baba Yaga then you shall. This one was collected by Alexander Nikolaevich Afanasyev (say that 3 times fast). For those of you unfamiliar, Baba Yaga was the most wicked and feared of witches in Russian folklore. This particular tale is of a dying queen tricked by a witch into ordering her son to marry only the girl whose finger fits a ring given to the family. After the mom dies, Prince Daniel searches for the wearer of the ring, but the only person it fits is. . . his sister. You have permission to be grossed out. Daniel, pretty hung up on tradition, forces his sister to be his wife. Two beggars comes across the sister clearly upset and tell her to make four dolls, put them in the bridal suite, and stall as much as she can on the wedding night. She does this and while her brother (gross) thinks she’s getting ready for bed (again gross) the dolls start to sing and chant (now gross and creepy). The chanting opens a hole in the earth that swallows the princess and takes her to a hut on chicken feet deep in the woods. Meanwhile, Prince Daniel the Nutter realizes he’s been tricked and beheads then burns the four singing dolls.  In the hut, the daughter of Baba Yaga, who is beautiful, kind, and appreciates that the stranger offers to help her in her knitting, turns the princess into a needle in order to hide her before her cannibalistic mom comes home. This trick works a couple of times, but Baba Yaga catches the princess in her home because she can smell “Russian bones”. She makes her daughter prep their giant oven in order to make a princess casserole, but the two younger women trick the witch into the oven instead. This gives them just enough time for a head start through the woods before Baba Yaga hunts them. They throw a brush and comb at her which become thick lines of shrubs and trees to slow her down. Finally, they throw the cloth they’d been working on at the witch. It becomes a river on fire to burn her up (yeah, not sure how that works). The pair end up back in the princess’s home and Baba Yaga’s daughter tricks Prince Daniel into letting himself get stabbed. The princess mourns her brother, which then cures his stab wound and apparently his case of the crazies as well. He marries Baba Yaga’s daughter (the ring of course fit her too, probably because that had been Baba Yaga’s original plan) and find a non-related husband for his sister.

Analysis: Singing dolls? I would have probably beheaded and burned those creepy Chucky wanna-be’s as soon as they opened their mouths. But it’s safe to establish that the brother was crazy so maybe he thought the singing was in his head at first? The theme of insanity and incest in fairy tales really isn’t uncommon, probably because so many royals were marrying first cousins and their DNA was paying the price. A common theme in Baba Yaga tales (besides the cannibalism which I can address in a different story)  is betrayal by those closest to her who she has abused and to use magic against her. In this story it’s her own daughter who never appears in any other tales that I know of (if anyone has another story featuring Baba Yaga’s daughter I’d love to hear about it and please comment below). There’s clearly an element of child abuse here. The daughter does not appear to be cannibal and lives in constant fear of her own mother. It comes to the point where she would rather help to murder her mother in order to save the princess she just met then to continue living in this environment. For those of you who currently obsessed with Hulu’s The Act or the case of Gypsy Blanchard, you know this is not that far-fetched. The last analysis I want to point out that it’s common in Baba Yaga stories that she’s outsmarted by other women or girls. As I keep trying to point out, more fairy tales have heroines than heroes.

Blame it on the Victorians: Alexander Nikolayevich Afanasyev was one of the most prominent folklorists of the mid-19th century with one of the largest collections of fairy tales at the time. So why, non-Russian reader, have you never heard of him? Probably because he was Russian. His own government shunned him for writing socialist articles, but as an amateur anthropologist this guy was pretty impressive. Unlike the Grimm Brothers who molded certain tales into their own preferences, Afanasyev recorded each version of the same tale he heard for comparison, taking into account the language he heard them in, the depictions of Pagan versus Christian religions, and where the story came from. His works were translated by a British man in the 1800s named Leonard Arthur Magnus (who seems to be the primary translator to this day - no one else has taken a stab at translating this stuff? Come on.). Still, the stories he collected really didn’t gain popularity in the rest of western culture until ballets like the Firebird were produced. Why is this? Again, I’m not really sure. Based on what I know of the English at this time, I’m going to say it was because Victorians didn’t want to try to pronounce his name. Of course, I could be wrong.

Last Thoughts:  I actually find the cannibalism less gross than the crazy brother trying to marry his sister. Hm, incest and an abusive mother. I wonder if V.C. Andrews ever read this story?

Little Bunny Foo Foo - What's up with that?

Let’s fight some foo - Calm down, Dave Grohl fans. I’m referring to a rather ridiculous song that hops into being and multiplies amongst all children this time of year. Little Bunny Foo Foo, for those who have been spared this repetative earworm, is a nursury rhyme/folk song about an abusive rabbit. His chosen victims of blunt torture are field mice. He’s told by a fairy that if he doesn’t stop then she’ll turn him into a goon. Long story stort (too late) the moral of the song is “hare today, goon tomorrow.”

Now that you’ve been bopped on the head like an unsuspecting field mouse with that pun - I ask you what the hell is up with this song? First of all, I tried researching it and no one can decide on how old it is or where it comes from. There’s some suggested connection between the song and Popeye, but I’ll let you look that up on your own so I can continue ranting. 

I know that this song is only a part of the Easter rotation because it’s about a rabbit. is this really appropriate, people? Would Jesus like it if he was awoken from the cave only to use his ressurection to scold Foo Foo? Would fertility goddesses of old feel honored by Foo Foo using the Spring bopping field mice instead of bopping other bunnies in order to reproduce?

What? Why do you look like that? These are serious and totally appropriate questions. No. Shut up! Or I’ll turn you into a goon.  


Writique's Critique - Women of Early Science Fiction Film

Science Fiction was the original breaker of barriers. A place where writers could challenge social norms without alienating the audience. Get it? Alienating? Huh huh.

Some of the earliest stories of space, technology, and exploration had no women or only sidekicks whose job it was to observe the action. Even the movies where the female lead is meant to be scientist in her own right becomes the glorified coffee bringer in the time before the second wave of feminism. Here’s a shout-out to the earliest women of sci fi whose creators tried to make them more than a pretty face to scream at the monster.

Metropolis (1927): Maria

The inspiration for the famous robot clone of herself who seduces an entire society, the actual Maria is a progressive freedom fighter and empathetic voice of the people. She has a soapbox that no one can push her from (until she’s kidnapped and nearly murdered that is). Still, her goal to free her people from the oppression working within the underground prison the upper-class has cast them into. Her character is brave, sincere, and, although a bit aggravating her sentimental speeches especially for a silent film, passionate. A part of this comes from her creators, Fritz Lang and his wife/creative partner at the time, Thea von Harbou. She was a novel writer first and always put research and logic behind her books and scripts. However, she would later cow tow to the Nazi Party in an attempt to protect her second husband, who was Indian born.

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951): Helen Benson

I love Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Connelly, but nothing can beat Patricia Neal. Also that remake looked just awful. This Jesus allegory about atomic weaponry (you know it’s true) features a widow and single mom, Helen Benson, who is level headed and independent. She works, she looks out for her precocious youngster Bobby (because they are always named Bobby in the 50s), and still has her own social life with boyfriend that she doesn’t need. Her character is also brave. The military don’t dare to go near the impressive robot, Gort, except with heavy fire power. She instead has a moral compass that brings her face-to-face with Gort. The original short story that the film is based on, Farewell to the Master by Harry Bates, did not feature any leading ladies so Helen is the invention of screenwriter Edmund H. North. North also wrote Dishonored Lady, in which Hedy Lamarr plays a business women and party girl who suffers from a mental breakdown. On the feminist level, that movie sends mixed messages, but the character is still a well-written woman.

Forbidden Planet (1956): Altaira “Alta” Morbius

For those of you who have the words to Science Picture Double Feature memorized, yes, it’s that Forbidden Planet. Alta is an intelligent, but naive woman who has grown up without human contact beyond her father. This nod to Miranda from Shakespeare’s the Tempest (yes, science fiction can be classy) is suddenly surrounded by a ship-full of good looking young men led by Leslie Nielson. Alta faces these hormonal Earth men as her own science experiment, making out with each and commenting on the results like a curious child. Her character wears outfits considered scandalous for the 1950s, so are of course called out as inappropriate by ship’s captain (and don’t call me Shirley). Cyril Hume, the screenwriter on Forbidden Planet, was the man who adapted the Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan for the big screen as well as an early version of The Great Gatsby. I don’t know much about him beyond his IMDB credits, but he tried to create a woman who was more independent than women at the time were considered. Still, I object to her changing her style in order to accommodate the man she wanted to attract. Two steps forward and one step back.

Flash Gordon (1930s & 1980): Dale Arden

The most popular of the early science fiction sidekick love interests (yes, she is a sidekick, but she’s the sidekick love interest who inspired all other science fiction love interests of later science fiction). Dale was based on the comic strip character created Alex Raymond and enhanced by serialized films where she changes from a passenger on a doomed rocket who is constantly needing to be rescued to a reporter, scientist, and diplomat. . . who constantly needs to be rescued. Baby steps, I guess. Either way, without her we wouldn’t have Princess Leia. Point made.

Images belong to Universal, Twentieth Century Fox, and Metro-Goldwyn Mayer


In Defense of Thumbelina

Brief History: Hans Christian Anderson claimed to write this story based on what a bluebird told him. In reality, it was included in one of his story fairy tale books that had little success when first published in 1835. A peasant woman plants a barleycorn which was given to her by a beggar and a girl sprouts from the flower that grows. However, this woman has little time with her new child when Thumbelina’s walnut shell bed is kidnapped by a toad. The toad tries to force the kidnapped girl to marry her warty son, but a fish and butterfly rescue her from matrimony… this time. This is followed by ill treatment from a beetle, almost freezing to death in winter, and being pressured by a field mouse to marry a pretentious mole who hates sunlight. Luckily, a swallow who the mole had left for dead takes Thumbelina to a patch of flowers (not home to her mother, because that’s not a happy ending I guess). She meets a flower fairy prince, marries him, and gets wings. Because apparently she was cool with getting married so young, just not to a non-human-like creature.

Analysis: Why did everyone want to marry this girl? And what was with all of the inter-species dating? But Thumbelina isn’t just the story of a girl who must marry to have a happy-ever-after. It’s the story of escaping and making one’s one choices. She gets away from Toad, she doesn’t allow the Beetle to shake her confidence, and, despite the field mouse trying to manipulate her, she runs away from her wedding to the mole (who some historians think was based on a distasteful professor Anderson had in school).

Blame It on the Victorians: Marrying up is the only chance at socio-economic advancement a young lady has. Remember that, kids. But, luckily Thumbelina holds out for her choice of husband, not the rich, but gross mole.

Last Thoughts: But really - where’s the mom’s happy ending? Her kid was taken almost instantly. Not cool.


In Defense of The Changling

It’s almost St. Patrick’s Day - Time for an Irish story!

Brief History: Instead of focusing on a single story, I’ll just give a broad history of the Changeling legend. The general myth is that elves and fairies kidnap beautiful human babies and replace them with their own horrid children or with a piece of faeryland like a branch or log. Sometimes they also kidnapped grown women, creating beautiful mothers to care for the fae children. In order to bring back the kidnapped, you had to make the changeling laugh, treat it with love, or say the right prayer.

Analysis: The idea of having a child who did not seem “right” was a fear of all mothers in the time before psychological or scientific reasoning. The belief that such a child could be saved through simple magic must have been too great of a hope to let go of, which is probably why questioning the belief in changelings lasted until the 1800s in some countries and cultures.

Blame It on the Victorians: In 1895, Bridget Cleary was burned to death by her husband in front of a group of witnesses. Why did the townspeople of Ballyvadlea, Ireland stand by while this man allowed his sick wife to catch fire and burn? Well, because Bridget Cleary had been spirited away and this imposter had to die in order to bring her back? Due to this belief, Michael Cleary was only charged with manslaughter instead of homicide. In Ireland, this true event inspired more nursery rhymes and new fairy tales in which Bridget was a witch.

 Last Thoughts: A good way to make a changeling baby laugh is to boil and cook within an eggshell. Yeah… not really sure how that works, but best to try that before setting someone on fire.


Writer’s Critique: The Possible Benifits of Gothic Novels

I was re-reading Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. For those who don’t know the British Regency satire, Austen’s first written and last published work, is about a young woman obsessed with Gothic novels and how that leads her to rather embarrassing misadventures. This was a nod to the popular novels of her day, novels that Austen herself read. I’m not sure if Austen ever tried to write within this genre and decided it just wasn’t for her or if she knew she just wanted to give some recognition to what was considered the “buy at the airport trash novel” of the age.

The point is that you can’t read just your own genre when preparing to write.  I know this sounds like tired knowledge, the “if you want to be a writer you must read, read, read” advice which is always the first given in any class, workshop, or panel. The reason why you always hear it is because it’s good and true advice. So I’m just adding to it. You need to read more that simply the genre you want to write.

“But I only like romance which I why write romance,” I hear you say. That’s good, but you aren’t experiencing as much that could help you grow as a writer. 

For example, within Northanger Abbey Austen purposely mimics the adjective laden style of Anne Radcliffe, a popular Gothic author. She does this for the parts where the heroine is allowing her imagination to run away with her, added suspense that makes the reader wonder if something shocking might in fact be about to happen. Then, as truths are revealed she goes make to her normal style. 

I’m not saying use precious time reading things you hate, but broaden your scope just a little. Maybe start with a non-fiction book on a topic that interests you. Just don’t start with Anne Radcliffe’s Mysteries of Udolpho. That book is long or at least it felt long. 

In Defense of The Disobedient Daughter who Married a Skull

This month I want to do one more non-fairy tale in defense of (because I was reading random folktales and this one caught my eye). 

Brief History: This story was written down by Elphinstone Dayrell, the District Commissioner of South Nigeria in the early 1900s. This Nigerian tale is about Afiong, the most beautiful girl in her town, who rejected all of the young men asking for her hand. Her beauty was told of in the spirit wold where Skull convinced his friends to lend him legs, arms, a body, and a handsome head. He went to the market of Afiong’s town and she was instantly in love with him. She brought him home where her parents were (understandably) super weirded out that she wanted to marry a complete stranger she had met in a market. Still, eventually they gave in and their daughter was taken away by her new husband. Once arriving the spirit world, Aifong discovered that her new husband had borrowed his good looks and was really just a literal skull. Still, she tried to be obedient and helpful to her new mother-in-law. The old woman was so grateful, she started to like Aifong and worried about their neighbors eating her (because apparently that’s a thing). So, she used Juju (aka magic) to summon a wind that took Aifong home to her parents. From then on, the town passed a law saying that their daughters could not marry strangers from far away lands.

Analysis: I tried to read more on the cultures of the Efik-Ibibio peoples (a joint language between two cultures that Dayrell was collecting the stories from) in order to better help my analysis. It didn’t. I think internet failed me. This has left me so shaken, all I can leave in defense of this story is - Be nice to your mother-in-law. If she sides with you the divorce can be made that much easier.

Blame It on the Victorians: Victorian England was busy being imperialistic, destroying culture and ignoring what Belgium was doing in the Congo, to pay attention to folklore for another continent. Don’t get defensive. You know it’s true.  Still, this story was written down in the early 1900s within a book with an introduction by folklorist Andrew Lang. I’m not going to lie. I spent a good amount of time on the internet looking for information about Elphinstone Dayrell and. . . yeah. I know he died in 1917 and that’s about it. His books of Nigerian folklore was published by the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland so… there’s… that… I guess.

Last Thoughts: All I can think of is Bob the pervy skull in Jim Butcher’s the Dresden Files.

Folk stories from nigeria.jpg

Seriously - Can anyone tell me more about this guy?


Random Arizona Facts

Last week, I did a Valentine’s related post on Valentine’s Day instead of my normal Arizona’s Birthday post. But you did not escape - muwahahahahaha. But I also have little time this week, so I’m phone this blog in as a list. Here it is, a list about random things in Arizona that even sometimes Arizona residents don’t believe:

  1. London Bridge (the one from the song) is here. It was brought brick by brick by someone with too much money and time on their hands.

  2. A David Hasselhoff movie with filmed at London Bridge over Lake Havasu where he had to battle the ghost of Jack the Ripper. You know you want to look it up now.

  3. The squirrels at the Grand Canyon carry plague, but we have a cure for that now so … I guess it’s okay?

  4. Donkeys can’t sleep in bathtubs. It’s the law, man. Actually, it’s not any longer, but no one ever bothered to really have it disputed.

  5. Women had the right to vote in local elections before Arizona even became a state (that’s right, it used to be slightly more liberal here).

  6. Dick Van Dyke lives here.

  7. It’s not illegal to refuse someone a drink of water - but it should be and most people think it’s the law so let’s just keep it that way.

  8. The Gunfight at the OK Corral was super short and didn’t even happen IN the corral (it was in a nearby vacant lot). But Doc Holiday can still be your huckleberry.

  9. The first college in the U.S. built on a reservation was Navajo Community College.

  10. A group of German-Nazis being held in Papago Park in 1944 tried to escape down a river, then discovered it had no water and were re-captured. Suck it, Nazis!

In Defense of Eros and Psyche

Fine, society! You win! It’s Valentine’s Day, I’ll do something Valentine-y. So here’s very, romantic and, surprisingly hopeful, Greek myth of Eros and Psyche. 

Brief History: Originally written down in the 2nd Century CE (Common Era) by a Roman philosopher, this myth is the tale of how Aphrodite’s jealousy caused her to gain a daughter-in-law. The Goddess of Love ordered her son Eros (also known as Cupid, before he was drawn as a Cherub with a diaper) to make certain a young beauty named Psyche married the most hideous man Eros could find. Instead, Eros was careless (meaning he did it on purpose) and scratched himself with an arrow, resulting in his own love and marriage of Psyche. However, being a stuck-up god, Eros believed that a marriage between himself and a mortal could never work with 100% honesty. So, he only met with Psyche in the dark, informing her that if she ever looked upon him in the light he would leave. As always happens in this story, she is manipulated into holding a candle over Eros. Seeing that her husband was hella hot, Psyche got careless and dripped wax on him. Eros left her and in order to win him back she had to perform a series of tasks. The last task, a trap set by Aphrodite, resulted in Psyche’s death. Eros, having seen how sorry, brave, and determined his wife had been, appealed to Zeus to grant her immortality. And so Psyche was reborn as a goddess.

Analysis:  So Eros is the embodiment of love (real love, not the mind games his mom played on men) and Psyche is the embodiment of the soul. The story is literally the marriage of heart and soul. It’s not just a jazz song the middle school kids learn at piano lessons.

Blame It on the Victorians: Victorians loves literature where women are punished for being curious or independent. Have I mentioned this before? I feel like I’ve mentioned this before. Although really it was the poets of the 19th century who felt the need to retell the story over and over again. Instead of the Victorians, it’s actually medieval monks who got their (I’m sure) grubby hands on this story and tried to turn it into a tale about punishment for (gasp) physical love. Psyche being seduced by her husband is the loss of soul in women instead of redemption of the original myth. 

Last  thoughts: This might have been a bit of a ploy to advertise an upcoming FSF project… just saying.


Character Study - Talking Animals

Stories of fantasy and science fiction often utilize a speaking creature as a plot point. This tradition goes back to ancient mythology. However, there’s a distinction between the wise owl of the ages and Mr. Owl taking your sucker. When does the mystical being become the Disney sidekick and when are either appropriate?

First off, anyone who knows my Funko pop collection is aware of my weakness for Disney sidekicks (as well as Universal film monsters, but that’s a different story). But even the animators of these family movies have to make the decision between simply cute or human level communication. For example, in Moana and Tangled the animals show a higher level of emotion and comprehension without talking. This fits well into the fantasy realms in which the stories take place. They provide humor, warmth, and even some plot points, but do not detract or make the main ideas feel silly. Where as in Cinderella, the mice talk in ridiculous broken English, acting as both comic reliefs and talking heads for the audience.  

The trouble is when your creature serves no purpose other than aesthetic value. You think “Kids like spiders. I’m writing a kids book so I’ll add a spider.” Unless you’re Mercier Mayer, that isn’t really how it works. Character Osidekicks should always serve a role and have point. They should not just be an excuse to sell plush (I’m looking at you Barbie movies). 

A good modern example of an animal sidekick who cute, cuddly, and can be used as a plot device is Mouse, the Temple dog from Jim Butcher’s the Dresden Files. He checks all of the boxes and I would totally buy him as a plush. 

National Do All the Things!

January 28th is listed as a number of strange observances. There’s Thank a Plug-in Delevoper, Daisy Day, National Bluebearry Pancakes Day, Rattlesnake Round-up, National Kazoo Day, Data Privacy Day, Better Business Communication Day, and, best of all, Bubble Wrap Day. So many choices for celebrating! I say forget whatever adulting you needed to do and do all of that stuff instead. Pop bubble wrap while you plant daisies! Check that your identity hasn’t been stolen while you buy blueberry pancakes for a plug-in developer! Use a kazoo to communicate to your business associates that there’s a rattlesnake in their office! Actually, don’t do that last one. Rattlesnakes don’t like kazoos. 

Shelfie Time!

We all have the one friend, the selfie addict. All parts of life must be recorded by having the person with the longest arm hold a phone/camera out to capture the tilted up faces of all people involved. I bet you never thought about just how complicated taking a selfie is until you read that sentence.

But there is something easier to still express yourself and visually show the world who you are - the shelfie. No, that is not a typo.

A shelfie, for those of you who are overthinking this and needing clarification, is defined by Urban Dictionary as “A picture or portrait of your bookshelf. Showcasing literature IN ALL IT'S GLORY!
(This term was originally defined by author Rick Riordan)”. And before any of you jump down my throat, yes, Urban Dictionary is a legitimate source in this instance.

Yesterday was National Library Shelfie Day (which falls on the fourth Wednesday of every January), tradition started by New York Public Library as a way to show diverse holidays through books on the subject. In case you didn’t notice, yesterday this unofficial holiday was celebrated on social media by myself, Kira Shay, and Sidney Reetz. But I want to take it a step further. What would the titles on the shelfies of some of the great heroes and heroines of literature looks like?

Jane Eyre: Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews, Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt, Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, The North York Moors: A Walking Guide (Cicerone British Walking) by Paddy Dillon

Susan Penensie: A Lion Called Christian by Anthony Bourke and John Rendall, 10 Steps to Declutter Your Wardrobe: Organize Your Closet in a Snap by Carrie Foster, Zen and the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel, Growing Up: It’s a Girl Thing by Mavis Jukes

Frankenstein’s Creature: Paradise Lost by John Milton, A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer, The Terror by Dan Simmons, Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self-Involved Parents by Lindsay C. Gibson

Tarzan: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Harry Potter: The Day Jimmy’s Boa Ate the Wash by Trinka Hakes Noble, On Death and Dying by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells,  The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynn Reid Banks

Hannibal Lecter: Desperate Passage: The Donner Party's Perilous Journey West by Ethan Rarick, Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, Mind Hunter by John Doulas and Mark Olshaker



Book Publishers Day

Apparently, yesterday was Book Publishers Day and although I saw this come up on several "unusual holiday calendars” I can’t find out what exactly it is. As a book publisher, I had decided to come up with my own definition, or three definitions as the case may be.

  1. Just like Administrative Assistants Day, this could be a good time to take the book publishers in your life out to lunch. Might I suggest in a place dark and not too-crowded in case the book publisher you are treating is also a writer and, therefor, prone to anxiety in certain social situations.

  2. Read through a guide about how a book is published. This will give you more appreciation to the work that goes into your favorite novel or self-help book and make you less critical of typos. Might I suggest our guide found on this and Sidney Reetz’s websites.

  3. Write a review of an independently published work. In fact, forget definitions one and two. Do this! A review is the most helpful thing you can give on this very vague of holidays.


Writer’s Critque - Annie

For the first time in a long time, I watched the 1982 film Annie, a favorite in childhood, and for the first time noticed a great many character, pacing, and dialogue issues. This probably can be attributed more to my supposed adulthood than my writing abilities, but I’m still going to try to make this more about the writing. 


The dialogue is hokey and stereotypical, probably because much of it was written in as replacements for musical numbers. That having been said Carroll Burnett is still fantastic.  Not to mention the racist undertones of Punjab and the Asp, Mr.  Warbucks bodyguards. Also, despite having the look of the Great Depression,  the adult conversations in the movie are very 80s. If you listen, most of the background information, which is meant to just go over Annie’s head, is all about capitalism, the economy, and communism. All of these ideas were everywhere in 1982, where as a kid in 1935 is only worried about where food is readily available. The writers may have been sticking to a “write what you know” rule. 

Pacing wise, what the heck is up with that entire scene in Radio City Music Hall where they spend about 15 minutes watching dancers on some very 70s looking sets followed by huge hunks from the film Camille. As a kid, this part bored me. As an adult it baffles me. I feel like it would make sense if the movie on screen had some kind of connection to the story and characters of Annie. Just a quick summary for those who don’t know, Camille is a 1936 drama adapted from an Alexandre Dumas book. Greta Garbo stars as a socialite deciding between love, money, and sacrifice before (spoiler alert) succumbing to tuberculosis. First of all, it’s not a kids’ movie! Why would Daddy Warbucks even take her to that? Second, there was no reason to show hunks of this tragedy in the midst of Annie and the adults supposedly bonding. The scenes shown from Camille have nothing to help move the plot of Annie forward or, other than Grace crying, reveal anything about the characters.  

 The character development (which I know was based on a Broadway play but still) could have been more involved for such a long kids movie. Annie really only spends the painfully long Camille scene and some time in the pool with Daddy Warbucks  and, suddenly, they have a father daughter bond. She actually spends more time with the secretary and the two bodyguards then she does with a man who adopts her.

Well, I think I picked that apart enough. Childhood ruined or just slightly tarnished? At least the dog was cute.

Twelve Days Of Xmas

For those of you currently arguing with relatives because you have yet to stop watching Christmas Hallmark movies, I have good news for you. It’s still technically the holiday season! 

You know that aggravating. . . I mean traditional song the Twelve Days of Christmas? That is actually a dozen days starting on December first and ending on January 5th, according early Christian traditions. Twelfth night was once for caroling, a festival with a king chosen by a pea in a cake, and leaving out your festive wreaths. 

So why am I sharing this information? Because I’m too lazy to take down my holiday decor yet. But clearly I don’t have to for two more days. Haters can choke on a pear. . . tree. 

In Defense of the Willful Child

I’m picking this one in case anyone’s kid had a case of the gimmees this holiday season. Enjoy.

Brief History: In this German story, a stubborn and disobedient kid (sometimes a boy and sometimes a girl depending on who translated it) falls ill and dies. After being buried, the kid’s arm refuses to stay under the ground, popping up like a daisy each time its re-interned. Finally, the child’s mother comes to the grave and beats the arm with a switch. After that, the child rests in peace.

Analysis: Um… I feel like I shouldn’t actually have to analyze this one. You guys get it, right? Because the child didn’t want to be disciplined in life, mom still had to do so after the kid was gone. That’s just how willful this mythical child was. We should probably keep in mind that when this was first told, child mortality rates were high and so just hoping your kid had a restful afterlife must have been the best you could hope for, even in a fairy tale.

Blame it on the Victorians: When the Grimm Brothers wrote this one down, they added that God had made the child sick as punishment for being so awful to his/her mother. Then, the child didn’t get well because he/she still would not be sweet or obey. So, you could tell your kid when they were sick that if they didn’t do what they were supposed to, God would literally smite them with Scarlet Fever. This same idea is in Carlo Collodi’s Adventures of Pinocchio (1883) where the Blue Fairy, annoyed with Pinocchio’s refusal to take medicine, summons undertakers and tells him he’ll just have to die then.

Last Thoughts: Why hasn’t Disney made this into a movie? The animal sidekick could be a cute mouse. . . a cute, decomposing mouse who can talk.

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Local Business: Some of Our Favorite Local Artists

This final local business blog of the year is going to focus on local artists and artisans.

Scott P. “Doc” Vaughn

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Scott P. “Doc” Vaughn is a local illustrator, pin-up artist, and comic artist. Beyond his prints and commission work (ahem - Fair to Middling), Doc is one of the creators, with Kane Gilmour, of the web-comic Warbirds of Mars. Beyond the comic, the diesel punk tale of aliens and Nazis has spawned two radio/podcast specials and an anthology book which featured vast local talents.

Check out Doc’s work here:


Keith Decesare

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Also known as KAD Creations, Keith has been a hard working and talented member of the art community for many years. Beyond his own prints and beautiful work, he has been commissioned for book covers (ahem - Emerald Door), personal artwork, and more. He has also delved into sculpture and performing arts.

Check out Keith’s work here:

Kylara Griffis 

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An up and coming talent, Kylara is both a talented and unique sketch artist as well as an amazing make-up artist. She has recently been commissioned on a project with Kira Shay that we will be excited to present to you. 

Check out Kylara’s work here: