Saturday, Feb 9, I sell books at Newpark Mall

At Newpark Mall (2086 Newpark Mall, Newark, CA) from 10-6, near the food court, I will be with members of the Fremont Area Writers selling books. I have a fresh batch of Super Bad Hair Day books to sell, hopefully typo-free (although I might change a reference to Humphrey Bogart to James Cagney.) I will sign books. I will write. I’ll meet a budding artist, friend of a fellow FAW member. I will absorb creativity from my fellow writers. And I will see how strong my bladder is (the movie Malcolm X taught me two things: a movie can do justice to a great book, and never order a XXL soft drink at a three hour movie).

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On Jan 24, I am an open mic headliner!

Thursday, January 24, sometime after 7pm, at the Cafe Frascati literary open mic (for writers of stories and poetry) in downtown San Jose (315 S 1st St.), I will be the headliner. That means I am on stage for about 15 minutes instead of the usual 4-5 minutes for the many and various storytellers and poets. I will perform The Intellecta Rhapsody, where Super Holly Hansson gets into a big argument with her boyfriend’s Batman-esque car (she punches a hole in its dashboard, it shoots her in the face like Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd), and then she has to team up with the car to defeat a gangster and his gang (think Edward G. Robinson, “Yeah, yeah, Rocky got you good! Yeah! Yeah!”). I will do some fun voices: robot car, Patton-esque general, Rocky gangster, dopey henchmen. The background music is the classical Hungarian Rhapsody. I will bring Super Bad Hair Day books to sell. My latest shipment (fixing a typo and a little mark on the cover art) came in yesterday. The Intellecta Rhapsody script is in the book.

Thank you, Mighty Mike McGee (open mic host with the most!) for having me as a headliner. I’ll try not to let it go to my head. Mike will pay for my dinner that evening. Now, where’s my star on Hollywood Blvd?

R.I.P. Batton Lash, Super Holly’s first artist

I just read that Batton Lash, the artist who drew the cover of Super Bad Hair Day, has passed away. Super Holly Hansson is crying herself to sleep tonight.

On my page of Batton’s Super Holly artwork, see the evolution of Batton’s Holly artwork. Batton was a great artist: smart, classy, professional, experienced, and a nice guy. Oh, and he was a great writer too. Read Supernatural Law. I am richer for knowing him, if only at comic cons, and through emails. Holly and I will miss him.

I found a typo in my book. Sigh.

It is in my Kindle and Createspace book, Super Bad Hair Day. Just one sentence screwed up in the story The Dimensional Dollar. I will fix it, of course, but frankly, if you want to buy (anybody?), I would not let that stop you. Still annoying for me, I am glad I found this before I was going to print some more books. I will fix it soon. Does the writing ever end? Now I know why we have professional copyeditors.

P.S. My Createspace is now transferred to Kindle Direct Publishing. Another platform to learn, but it does not look hard.

P.P.S. Okay, here is the typo. “He gagged, opening his mouth opened with a cash register CHA-CHING!” I changed it to “He gagged, opening his mouth with a cash register CHA-CHING!

Harlan Ellison and Steve Ditko

The late Harlan Ellison (fantasy writer) and Steve Ditko (comic book artist) each deserve a little credit.

Harlan won Hugo and Nebula awards for his stories. Harland had opening lines like, “When they unscrewed the time capsule, preparatory to helping temponaut Enoch Mirren to disembark, they found him doing a disgusting thing with a disgusting thing.” Don’t tell me you can stop reading there.

But Harlan deserves more credit for his essays. If you can read only one Ellison essay, read “Somehow, I Don’t Think We’re In Kansas, Toto,” in the book “Stalking the Nightmare.” Harlan tells the story of his script, “Phoenix Without Ashes,” degraded into a TV series called The Starlost. Those of you close to my age might remember that awful TV series; it looked like it spent $1.56 on special effects. Harlan tells how his pilot script was renamed to “Voyage of Discovery.” (I guess the producers were afraid the audience would get confused reading the word “phoenix”), and how they made an episode about giant bees. Harlan’s pilot script is about humanity on a gigantic space ark fleeing Earth’s destruction, and the crew were killed in an accident, and one man discovers that the ark will fly into a star within five years unless he finds the ark’s control room and gets it back on course. Harlan is on the phone to the idiots making the show, and…

“You’re building the control room?” I said, aghast with confusion and disbelief. “But you won’t need that till the last segment of the series. Why are you building it now?”

“Because you had it in your bible,” he explained.

“That was intended to show how the series ended, for God’s sake!” I admit I was screaming at this point. “If they find it first time out, we can all pack our bags and play an hour of recorded organ music!”

“No, no,” Davidson argued, “they still have to find the backup computer, don’t they?”

“Aaaaarghh,” I aaaaarghhed. “Do you have even the faintest scintilla of an idea what a backup control is?”

“Uh, I’m not certain. Isn’t it the computer at the back of the ship?”

“It’s a fail-safe system, you drooling imbecile, it’s what they use if the primary fails. The primary is the control… oh to hell with it!” I hung up.

If you want to write for TV or movies, you must read this essay. Must as in not doing so would be one of the few capital crimes in the Star Trek universe.

Steve Ditko was one of the greatest comic book artists of all time. His art made Spider-Man a star (along with Stan Lee’s writing to make a flawed, problem-plagued teenager a hero). But Ditko deserves more credit as a writer. For me, his jewel was Shade the Changing Man, a brief but bright star. In 9 issues (its run was cancelled due to DC axing a huge number of comics all at once), Ditko made an oppressive world vs. the one hero framed for murder, a world with strong women at a time when that was NOT usual. The scene where Shade’s former fiancée (and a cop tracking Shade down) sees that Shade saved her from the Area of Madness (not a place where you want to take photos) shows how a strong tough woman can still have a heart. And the names! Rac Shade! Mellu Loron! Sude: the Supreme Decider! The  Meta-Zone! The Zero-Zone! The M-Vest (M for Miraco)! I wish this story could have lived longer. It deserves a movie and a resolution. If you want to read it, buy the Steve Ditko Omnibus Volume One.

P.S. I read that Ditko plotted it and drew it, but another guy wrote the dialog. The Marvel method? Well,  that is Steve Ditko being a Stan Lee, and so I still give Ditko big writing credit.

P.P.S I admit that Ditko’s artwork influenced how Super Holly’s telekinesis manifests.

P.P.P.S. Yeah, I am late with this post, Ditko and Harlan passed months ago. But WordPress just told me that my blog is getting a spike in traffic. So now’s a good time.

She-Ra on Netflix: Thumbs up!

I binge-watched the rebooted She-Ra some weeks ago. I was not too hopeful, judging from the previews I’d seen. But this show is what the Battlestar Galactica reboot was: a hell of an improvement on the original. I am old enough to have watched the original Battlestar Ponderosa, I mean Battlestar Galactica, in the 1970s. I have historical geek cred.

(Warning: spoilers ahead, but you should have watched this by now anyway!) When I watched the original She-Ra cartoons in the mid 1980s (if you tell anyone I did that, I will hunt you down and kill you), it was painfully obvious that the stories were about selling action figures to little girls. The new She-Ra stories are about the relationships between the characters. The center of season 1 is the arc of Adora (okay, She-Ra) and Catra: friends to frenemies.

She-Ra is what all interesting heroes should be: flawed. As with the original, She-Ra starts on the evil side, and jumps ship when she sees how evil her side is. But the new She-Ra has trouble controlling her powers. She was sheltered and easily fooled by the Horde until the Horde nastiness was shoved right into her face. (Maybe she grew up on Fox News.) She is chock-full of self doubt. (Super Holly Hansson does not have that problem, she’s been punching out bullies since pre-school.)

The original She-Ra cast reminded of what my nephew said many years ago when he picked up an action figure and said, “Dis is dah good guy,” and he handed me another figure, “and dis is dah bad guy.” You got to know their entire character in 10 seconds. They didn’t evolve. The new Entrapta evolves nicely! I admit that my character Crestley Smusher is heading in her direction: amoral ultra-geek, siding with wherever the greatest technological challenge is. But even the characters who are estblished fast are fun. The new Scorpia’s personality delightfully BOOMED into my face: bubbliest burly henchwoman EVER! The new Shadow Weaver / Hordak dynamic takes prepping for back-stabbing to new heights. I remember what Siskel and Ebert said, the strength of the hero is measured against the strength of the villain. Shadow Weaver is wounded and hurt and you should never turn your back on her.

I read that there is LGBT representation. I believe it, but for me to be sure, I have to see them lip-lock, and I doubt that will happen anytime soon. The new Bow has relationship issues with Glimmer, he was complimented on his belly-button-exposing shirts by one of the Horde guys (hint hint?), and he often moves like a ballerina. The original Bow, other than his flowery taste in clothes, reminded me of the Animal Man comic book where the Red Mask said about Captain Triumph: “Nice guy, but he had the personality of a deck chair, ya know?”

Check out the new She-Ra. I look forward to season two. More character relationship arcs! More strong villainy! More Scorpia bear-hugs! More Sea Hawk burning his own boats (that guy must be secretly rich).

P.S. For you whiny fanboys who want the original Barbie doll She-Ra with the bit of 80s cleavage, you can ogle Super Holly. But not too long or she’ll warn you once, then punch you twice.

Story excerpt: Kittygirl vs. evil videogames!

This excerpt is from my third Kittygirl story, which I was not able to present at the last meeting. So I am hoping my critique group will take a look and leave comments. Anyone else is welcome to comment also, but I prefer writers.

(I performed it last night at a Red Rock Coffee open mic. It went over well, but I hav to keep track of my villain voices. I was told John Glutt sounded a bit like Bullwinkle. Actually I think of Simpsons Comic Book Guy.)

WHAT HAS GONE ON BEFORE! At the big super-videogame convention, eight year old Kittygirl played the videogame where you can be Super Holly Hansson, the mightiest superhero on Earth! Then Kittygirl’s hero and B.F.F. Super Holly flew Kittygirl to the kid gaming pavilion, where the other super kids played videogames and told Kittygirl that she missed the election for president of the new super kid club. Super Holly flew to the super gaming castle where all the superheroes were going to introduce a super videogame. Kittygirl found out that she’d left her badge with Super Holly and bounded after her in fifty-foot kitty-leaps. Inside the gaming castle, Kittygirl saw henchmen operating videogames, oh no, a supervillain must be near! And she heard something that made her hair fluff up in fear!

From behind a twenty-foot high wall surrounding the center of the castle came Super Holly’s heroic and ANGRY voice! “Stoppit!” POW! “Oh, you want some too?” WHAM! “I hate the mind-controlled-friends against the hero cliche, I HATE IT!” POW THUD BAM!!!

Kittygirl tippy-toe-quietly ran, LEAPED, and landed feet-first perfect on top of the wall. And what she saw made her claws pop out! MMMROWL!

Men gamers stood on a stage and operated controllers and smiled big and mean like comic book villains! Between the stage and the wall, a great big bunch of supers wearing metal helmets grabbed at Holly! For every one Holly fought off—BIFF! BAM! WHAM! KAPOWIE!!!—three more took their place! Holly growled and kicked and punched and said bad words, good thing Mom wasn’t there.

One of those gamers goggly-eyed stared at Holly as he danced with his game controller. He was tall, skinny, dressed in white, had a big icicle nose… ICE CREAM GUY! Kittygirl crouched for a pounce with a HISSSSSS!

Super Holly’s eyes aimed right at Kittygirl like big blue pleading lasers. Kittygirl was not surprised Holly heard that, they knew every mad/sad/glad sound the other made. Holly shook her head NO. Kittygirl tensed, her claws popped in-out-in-out… but Holly was right. There were way too many supers, Kittygirl would just get caught too. Kittygirl crouched down to hide, and she bit her lip to not cry.

Then Kittygirl stiffened her lips. She couldn’t save her hero, but she could watch and learn that frosty fiend’s evil plan! From the edge of the stage, he operated his controller like a racing car steering wheel as he long-toothy smiled down at Holly. “HEH HEH HEH HEH HEH! I have you now, my p-p-p-pretty!”

Holly threw a couple of supers fifty feet and snarled, “You’ll have my fist in your— UMPH!!!” Great big beefy mighty muscle arms had wrapped around Holly from behind. She squirmed and thrashed, she kicked her feet, but she did not break free! Wow, that guy must be STRONG! Holly yelled, “URGH, NO NO NO NO,” looked over her shoulder, and stopped fighting. “Oh no. Not you too, Flex.”

That nice bodybuilder guy with the super-handsome face was not smiling his wonderful smile. He held Holly like he was a human robot.

From a shadowy place on the stage came a conceited, obnoxious, fat-cheeked laugh that made Kittygirl’s neck fur fluff up. “HUH, HUH, HUH!!! You are trapped, foolish female! Every bit of strength you throw at Fred Lexington—”

“Makes him stronger,” Holly said. “I know, I know! Would you please not narrate everything you see?”

Kittygirl swallowed a MMMROWL! Waddling to center stage was her former godfather, JOHN GLUTT! Nearly as wide as he was tall, same tight red supersuit with an A on the chest, same big bushy beard, and same big fat mouth that blabbed on and on and on! “As leader, the joy of monologging belongs to ME! So, before I find your caped and cowled boyfriend who vanished in a puff of smoke when I sprung my trap on these other silly supers, AND just before I convert the mightiest of the supers—namely YOU, Super Holly Hansson!—into my master gaming piece, AND as I will then diabolically gain mastery of every gamer in the world, allow me to introduce what you foolish superheroes should have created but didn’t and I did: a super league! A league of…” He finally took a deep breath, his belly and chest got bigger, and he yelled all that hot air back out again. “Objectificationists! Say hello to Ice—”

Holly interrupted, glaring at Ice Cream Guy. “We’ve met.”

Ice Cream Guy glared at John. “You did not s-s-s-say anything about j-j-j-joining your sexist cult!”

BZZZzzzz… Kittygirl scrunched lower as a drone flew by, smooshing onto the wall like a kitty rug.

A guy in a rumpled lab coat operated two controllers at once. That evil inventor, STEPHAN! He wheezed with a face as rumply as his coat, “Chill out, my frosty friend, you will like how Super Holly will dress for this occasion!”

A couple of pretty super ladies did pretty poses beside Stephan. EW, they were dressed in tiny clothes like that stupid girl in that fast car game.

Super Holly’s face turned red, and Kittygirl guessed not because of Flex’s tight, strength-sucking grip, “I am NOT wearing THAT!”

Stephan threw back his ugly head for his nasty evil laugh. “BEE-YOU, HA HA HA HAAAAA!!! Yes you will! For my turn-people-into-drones drone technology works perfectly!”

Next to Stephan, a teenage guy raised a finger in the air and smiled like the smartest student in class about to correct the teacher for the umpteenth time. “I, Creastly Smusher, must inform you that it is my superior software in your inferior hardware that allows the drones, once they attach themselves to a human cranium, to override the brain and allow said human to be operated like a gaming character. And when said human is super, my software additionally allows said superpowers to be networked—”

John Glutt’s face turned red as his suit. “SHUT UP, CREASTLY!” He turned back to Holly. “As I was expositioning, the combination of my supervillain team’s skills and powers form a perfect plan of brains and might that cannot fail! Women shall learn their proper place!”

Kittygirl heard a loud, dumb, “BRRRRRRAAAAGGGHHHHHH!!! HARRY HATE SWORD LADY GAME!!!”

John turned toward the back of the stage. “Okay, Mr. Muscles, what NOW?!?!”

The wall shook under Kittygirl as—STOMP! STOMP! STOMP! STOMP!—seven foot tall, five foot wide Harry Headbutt gorilla-walked to John. Kittygirl’s nose squinched at the real Harry’s stinky sweaty tummy. “STUPID CONTROLLER TOO PUNY FOR HARRY’S FINGERS! SEE?!?!” YUCKY, bad breath too!

Harry mushed his fat sausage fingers on the controller. Before the stage, that nice swordlady Teri Silver stumbled left and right, jumped ten feet high, somersaulted, then belly-flopped onto the floor.

BZZZZZZ… With a flick of her claws, Kittygirl silently sliced a drone in half. MROWL, you’re not gonna drone me!

Westley raised his finger and grinned again. “I did inform you that you needed large economy sizes for large lumbering louts.”

John and Stephan and Harry all yelled, “SHUT UP, CREASTLY!” Then John yelled at Stephan, “Make a bigger controller for that lumbering lummox. Pronto!”

Stephan yelled back, “I demand overtime!”

Harry yelled, “HARRY NOT LUMBER!!!”

Holly stared at them with her mouth open. So did Kittygirl. John was a really bad boss. Then Holly bashed her head back and hit Flex’s controlling helmet, YES! But the helmet did not break, NO!

“HUH HUH HUH!” Like a big water balloon, John Glutt wobbled to the edge of the stage to look down his nose at Holly. “Your strength is useless against Flex’s helmet, for like me, my drone helmets—”

Stephan loudly wheezed with a frown, “You mean MY helmets!”

Westley calmly said with a smile, “And my software.”

John said, “SHUT UP, ALL OF YOU!” He stomped his foot, sending a ripple up his plump leg that rolled his belly. Then he operated his game controller. “Like me, my drone helmets copy the powers and abilities of whatever super wears them! Like you, my failing female! Have a pretty hat for your puny head! HUH HUH HUH!!!”

Oh no, a drone glommed onto Holly’s head! The lights on it flashed brighter and faster! Holly struggled and screamed, “NOOOOOO!!!”

Kittygirl’s phone went BZZT! Her Mom’s voice blasted from it way too loud! “Katsuko! Where are you? LUNCHTIME!”

Holly’s eyes were so loving. “Sweetie… be bossy… uhhh…” Her brave, pretty face lost all expression!

John Glutt pointed his arm like a fat gun at Kittygirl. “STOP THAT CAT GIRL!”

TO BE CONTINUED!