Going to the dark side way too fast.

Did you see Gotham last Monday? If you have not yet seen “The Hammer or The Anvil,” I must give you fair warning:

SPOILER ALERT!!!

In this episode, Barbara (Jim Gordon’s wife) has been kidnapped by The Ogre, a serial killer of young, beautiful women. (Funny how Gotham has a lot of those, but it is a comic book universe.) He puts her in bondage in his big weapons-laden rumpus room and whispers sweet creepy nothings into her ear. In the meantime, Jim Gordon is hot on the Ogre’s trail, and he finally finds them at Barbara’s parents house, where mom and dad are a dead stabby mess. And Barbara tells Jim she wants to be with the Ogre. Oh, and it has been just a few hours since she was kidnapped.

JUST A FEW HOURS?!?! A character going over to the dark side needs setup! Anikin Skywalker slaughtered a village before he went to the dark side. Barbara just got irked with Jim once in a while. And really, a room stuffed with bondage weaponery (including giant axes!) and Barbara can’t grab one and clobber the slime, she just gives him a little girly slap? When he offeres her water that anyone with an I.Q. above the melting point of helium will know is drugged, why does she gulp it down instead of spilling it or saying, “Taste test it for me”?

There is a scene in the first chapter of my novel, Holly’s superpowered origin short story. (Chapter Zero, because that is like Issue Zero for a comic book, get it, get it?) She has a quick flashback, as follows:

Her writing life flashbacked like a dying rock star singing his memoirs in ten seconds. Twenty years ago. Four years old. Holly had screamed at the movie screen, “Punch him, punch him, WHY DON’T YOU PUNCH HIM?!?!” But that dumb movie actress just cringed against the wall while the bad guy beat up the hero and a baseball bat was only six inches away from the actress’s stupid hand! From then on, Holly dedicated her life to writing stories where the girls were brave and smart and STRONG!

The Ogre is lucky it wasn’t Holly. Unlikely he’d kidnap her anyhow: at six foot one, she’d tower over him. And even if she was temporarily de-powered, when she got an opening she would not slap him, she’d belt him over a dozen times in ten seconds. Again for the next ten. She really hates bullies.

I still love Gotham. Fun geek-respecting stories, great characters, and interesting female characters (I will miss Fish. A lot). But cringing female victims have been DONE TO DEATH. If you ever write them, do something interesting with them. Way too soon Stockholm Syndrome is just sloppy.

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Empowered: The Symbolism, Feminism, & Superheroism of Wonder Woman

WWI first met Valerie Frankel (check out her author page) through the South Bay Writers Club. Or maybe at BayCon. Anyhow, she has churned out many books, from spoofs of Harry Potter to scholarly studies such as From Girl to Goddess, a study of the heroine’s journey done by literary heroines. Since I am writing a superheroine, I bought it. A good read, well researched. But I wanted something else. Something more SUPER!
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Valerie goes super in her new book, Empowered: The Symbolism, Feminism, & Superheroism of Wonder Woman. She gave me a beta copy. I sent back a few comments. Now you can read it too.
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I did not realize that Valerie had comic book geek girl cred. She does not shy away from how Wonder Woman’s costume often gets skimpier, and what parts of Wonder Woman often get thrust toward the camera. She discusses in depth Wonder Woman being reinvented over the decades, like WW’s feminist start, and WW staying behind to type up the meeting notes and wishing the Justice League boys good luck as they run out to fight, and that long stretch where WW was depowered and wore totally mod bell bottoms, and Josh Whedon’s lost WW movie, right up to the latest animated Justice League movies, you know, where WW has a sword and is not afraid to use it a lot.
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Do you want to learn about Wonder Woman? Do you want to laugh with lines like, “an extended fight scene that lets Wonder Woman twirl upside down and stretch into unlikely poses to show off all her skin. This is the entire plot.”
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P.S. My beta comments? I agreed with SO MUCH, but I thought Valerie was a little tough on the Justice League animated series Flash, the team cut-up. Also, I did not find the violence in that series “off-putting.” But The New 52? Yeah, I too was off-putted, so much grittiness I had to floss my teeth!

Hilmar says hi to me.

Yesterday I was in my hometown of Hilmar, CA. A little central valley dairy town 20 miles south of Modesto. It was for the funeral of my aunt Barbera. 95 when she went.

During the little luncheon after the service, people kept coming up to me and asking, David, you remember me? My response was usually that my facial recognition softweare has never been good. But the instant they told me their name, the wonderful, decades-old voice and face memories FLOODED in. I notice the voice flooded first. I handed my Super Holly card out to a few of them.

In case my fellow Hilmarites check my blog, hi! It was great seeing you again. Yes, I do have a couple of Super Holly Hansson stories published in Scripting Change, an annual small anthology put out for charity every year.

Click here to go to my published stories page. 

I have written Holly’s wedding scene. Aunt Barbara plays the organ. I think she should have an expanded role in my upcoming stories. Aunt Barbara was quiet, independent, kind, always helping others, and if you knew her, you knew she was right. This is someone Holly needs in her life. And it is also my way of bring a little Barbara back into the world.

Memories will be a part of Holly. Longing for her past life that is always going a little father out of reach.

P.S. What is upcoming? I am working on the second draft of a story due by the end of the month. I will publish Super Bad Hair Day and The Poet and the Supersplainer after that. And I should figure out what I want to give away for free.

COFFEE! Smooth French press cold brewing!

I am a writer. I love coffee. Why? My cousin Ben once looked down at me (he is six-foot-six) and asked, “Dave! Do you drink?” Very little, I answered. “Do you smoke?” No. “Do you do drugs?” No. “You’re a writer! Writers are supposed to have addictions!” I drink coffee, I answered.

A friend of mine, “Mondo” Brian, recently asked me about an old cold brew coffee kit I bought years ago. I told him I used it a couple of times, then stopped. Cold brew, as in you let the coffee grounds steep in cool water for about 12 hours, instead of hot water for 4 minutes. This leads to lots less acid in the final coffee, making for a smooth culpa coffee. As in SSSSSSSSMMMOOOOOOOTTTTTHHHHH!!!! YUM!

Mondo found a recipe online to make cold brew in a French press. I love using my French press. I used it to cold brew, and modified the online recipe slightly so I get the maximum amount of coffee. Here it is.

Ingredients:

Tools: A coffee grinder. A 32 ounce French press (standard size).

Ingredients: 1 and 1/3 cups coffee beans, medium to dark roast (I like medium). About 4 cups cold water (I filter my drinking water).

  1. Grind the beans in a fairly coarse grind. I use a burr grinder.
  2. Add the ground coffee to the French press.
  3. Pour in most of the water, nearly to the top. Stir a little to mix; I find my grounds tend to float.
  4. After several minutes, moosh the floating grounds (my grounds have a tremendous will to not drown) into the water.
  5. Add enough water to fill up the French press without spilling. You will have used a little bit less than 4 cups of H2O.
  6. Cover the French press (I use a little square of aluminum foil.
  7. Wait 12 hours.
  8. A little foam is likely to have formed at the top. Skim it off with a spoon; that makes for easier pressing. (NOTE: Especially do this if you are doing the 4 minute hot method, you are less likely to spill and get nasty burns).
  9. Put in the plunger and press.
  10. Pour the coffee into a container that can hold at least 4 cups.
  11. Prepare and pour (or sip) some of that SSSSMMMMMMOOTH coffee down your throat.

The coffee will be very smooth, and concentrated. You should add a little water if you like your coffee black. I generally add milk and sweetener, and maybe a little bit of water.

P.S. Super Holly Hansson shares my love of coffee. I put some of my flaws in her, and some of my likes. I made her favorite hangout The Geek Guy’s Comics and Coffee Corner. Although in real life, comic books and coffee and the occasional small child might not mix well.

Storyist 3 for iPad: here’s my plug.

I use Storyist to write my stories. I met Steve Shepard years ago at a MacWorld Expo, when those were around. Nowadays, I do most of my creative writing on my iPad with Storyist and an Apple Bluetooth keyboard.

The iPad Storyist app was just updated with some nice improvements. Like now you can back up to Dropbox AND to iCloud. I am sticking with Dropbox for now. Also, it has auto-sync if you wish to use it. And I do wish, it saves me the bother of syncing from my iPad.

If you use an iPad and a Macintosh, and you like to write novels, short stories, and/or screenplays, take a look at Storyist. It was great before, and it is better now.

P.S. I had a little bit of trouble with the Mac version converting to .doc Word files (my paragraph returns were changed to a non-searchable character). Easy fix: now I convert to .docx instead of .doc. Works perfectly. Mac Storyist converts to lots of formats, even ebook. Useful if you want to get an idea what it might look like on a mobile device, I converted a story to ebook and checked the cover art on my phone, my Kindle Paperwhite, and my iPad.

P.P.S. I still wish Steve would create an Android version of Storyist. I prefer Android for my phone.

 

A Literary Editor Reviews My Stories

I sent the prologue (I call it Chapter Zero) of my novel, and two short stories to Zymbol editor Anne James for editing. I got this as a reward for contributing to an Indiegogo campaign last year. Yeah, took me a while to send them off, I did several rewrites.

(By the way, Zymbol is doing a Kickstarter campaign ending April 27. There are no editing perks this time. But there is Clive Barker stuff! Check it out.)

SHE REALLY MADE MY DAY.

“I’m going to skip over the red pen and focus on the main areas in terms of content editing, because I can see that you’re a highly skilled writer and you don’t need any pointers in terms of proofreading!”

“The stories open in the middle of the action, which captures your reader’s attention. “Chapter Zero” is particularly effective at this, starting with an intriguing bit of dialogue: ‘Your comic book made me cry.’” (That was Katsuko “Kittygirl” Kimura.) Open with action is good advice to any author, NEVER have boring look-at-the-horizon scenes, I hate when movies do that! I did not open in the middle of a slam-bang super-heroic fight. Maybe I’ll try that sometime. Could be fun.

“Technically speaking, your writing is excellent – the sentences flow well, and I don’t have any difficulties with grammar or the usual careless errors I see in most manuscripts. You’re an attentive editor of your own writing — that’s a great skill!”

“The witty banter between characters is genuinely amusing and true-to-character. You really get a sense of who these people are from their speech.”

“Your supporting characters are truly charming. Katsuko and her mother in particular were memorable; I hope they pop up again in other stories. The description of Katsuko’s costume and her giddy excitement were easy to visualize.”

SHE GAVE USEFUL ADVICE.

She wondered what draws Holly to Cal. Answer: the novel brings them together, and they fall head-over-heels in love. Maybe I can emphasize that more in the short stories.

She was disappointed that Chapter Zero did not show where Holly’s powers came from. That was intentional; it is revealed during the scene where Dan Mann and Cal Critbert want discuss the mystery of this superpower about to be channeled into the world, and Holly says they are NOT condescendingly explaining that to her, she already knows it (more than she likes)!

She pointed out I did not explain enough about why Holly and Cal are headed to the Apricot computer center to stop the theft of the A-phone. “The reader doesn’t feel too anxious for Holly and Cal to prevail if they don’t know what evil deed the Karate Queen is trying to perpetrate.” I agree, and I can have some fun by pumping up how important the A-phone could be. Also, when John Glutt enters the scene in Chapter Zero, “Can you show us more of the room? What does it look like once he shoots the web?” She’s right, this is a chance to describe a comic book shop, to geek it up!

Okay, I will not break the fourth wall! My smart nieces also said that joke does not work. She also said I could use fewer sound effects, “a peppering of sound effects gets across the comic book atmosphere.” I will still use some, like Stan Lee and Don Martin.

My time shifts and first-to-third person shifts in the barber story threw her off. So I will change the first to third person. I try to write mostly in close third: get deep into the head of the point-of-view character without saying “I”. I’ll keep the time shifts, removing them would be too much of an overhaul, and I have more stories to write.

She wondered about Holly’s powers, “Do they reveal something about her personality?” Yes. Holly gets the all-time biggest superpower of all (along with flight and super-strength/toughness): super-strong telekinesis. Remember The Great and Powerful Turtle for the Wild Cards series? Holly will be the Superman of her world, and she gets the biggest power of all. Holly hates bullies in any form.

SHE ASKED WHERE MY STORIES WILL GO.

She said Zymbol would not be the right fit for my stories. I agree. I have planned to go the Kindle self-publish path. But I will also look for other paths, maybe in the comic book geek crowd, or young female crowd, or fantasy/sci-fi. “Have you given thought to your ideal reader? Who is Holly really written for?” I never wrote for demographics, but I think Holly can find her audience.

THANK YOU, ANNE.

She gave more advice, too much to list here. I will use it.

I am working on a new story due by the end of the month (Fault Zone again). It will be about a week before I implement her comments. I wish I could run more stories past her, but for now, I am pinching pennies. I think I will send my Kittygirl story her way when I give it one more polish, strictly for her enjoyment. Anne liked Katsuko and her mom, and they show up again.

With superheroine powers, there also comes no pants?

Holly’s supersuit has no pants. The usual leggy look. I do have my reasons.

Holly fights like a boxer, not like those pretzel-backboned contortionists in the superhero movies. (Not that I mind, but if you remember Sally from the Encyclopedia Brown books, she fought off Bugs Meany like a boxer, not a gymnast.) How many boxers do you see with long pants?

Holly’s supersuit is based on the Overlady, Holly’s protagonist from her graphic novel. The Overlady uses her looks as a weapon. She wants men to either look at her face, or to look down like they are standing before a queen. Hence, cover the chest, but not the legs or the face.

But the biggest reason? I want to poke fun at the way superheroines are drawn. And so many of their costumes show off butt cheeks. How do they fight in those cheeky suits? Do they use glue to not have a creeping-up wedgie during action-packed times? Holly’s supersuit exposes NO butt-cheek: none, zero, zip. But it does try to creep up a little bit. So Holly tugs at her costume once in a while, often with a “Grr.” A running gag. As a writer, I like that.

I found a comic about the no-pants (and butt-cheek) issue. I put it into this post. Enjoy. 

 

P.S. I posted this from my iPad, using the WordPress app. I will see how it looks later.