Story Critique: Super Holly wouldn’t do that!

At my critique group yesterday, I handed in a draft of the audio story I intend to enter into the San Mateo County Fair Literary Contest. And one lady who usually likes my writing did not like Holly saying “OW!”

This story is set in Hollys future when she has been married to Cal “The Intelletual” Critbert for a couple of years, and is very very very very pregnant. And she is stubbornly out fighting crime, facing the feared Ma Barker gang, when she is hit with labor pains. Since the music for this story is The Blue Danube, her cries of pain sing along with it: “You’re under arrest— OW OW! OW OW! You have the right to remain silent— OW OW! OW OW!” And finally, “Anything you say— OW OW! OW OW! Can used against you— OW OW! OW OW! In a court of lawwwww, OW OW OWWW, OW OW, OW OW, OW OWWWWWWWW!!!”

The lady felt Holly should not be vulnerable, because Holly has always been strong. In other words, she has read enough Super Holly to say, Holly wouldn’t do that. (I am not posting that story yet because it was rougher that what I usually hand out to my critique group.)

Ladies commenting about Holly has happened before. When I performed The Intellecta Rhapsody at my presentation at Half Price Books, one lady said Holly would not whine. I think she felt Holly would not plead and beg the Intellecta-car to please please PLEASE help her stop a giant super-tank driven by Rocky the gangster from running over the roadblock fronted by her beloved Uncle Pops. No, Holly would not whine!

Actually, Holly can be vulnerable, and can even whine once in a while. I have always wanted Holly to be very human, and flawed. (Superman can be so perfect, and so boring!) But these ladies did classic fangirl behavior (my hero would not do that!), and that makes me feel good.

Holly being flawed might lead to another post. At a small comic con, I met a guy who played a superhero on TV when he was a younger man. He felt that a recent movie about that superhero should have been heroic. Hero meant being an icon, not being flawed. He might address this in a book he is writing about that acting job. I will likely buy it, he told good stories on his panel. But I would disagree about his view of heroes. Superheroes are more interesting when they are human. Flawed. Internal wars as well as external. Indiana Jones has a snake phobia, Holly is creeped out by spiders. Superman is polite and well-mannered when taking the bad guys to jail (yawn), Holly gets so mad at the bad guys that steam rockets out her nose when she is about to go super-heavyweight boxer on them.

So thank you, my fangirls. May Super Holly continue to entertain you. I will try to keep Holly true to her heroic, brave, fierce, and flawed self.

P.S. One year ago, Batton Lash, the artist and writer who did the cover art for Super Bad Hair Day, passed away. He helped design Holly’s costume, and he had the perfect idea of Holly having an up-arrow on her chest. Super Holly and I will always miss him.

Well, here’s another racist mess you’ve gotten me into!

This cartoon is from the graphic novel American Born Chinese by award-winning indy comics creator Gene Yang. Looks like a young adult novel that can teach well. But some writers don’t learn.

I read articles about the Romance Writers of America controversy about Courtney Milan criticizing Kathryn Lynn Davis’ novel as a “racist mess.” Milan is half-Chinese. Davis is white (like me). I wondered about exactly what Milan objected to, I suspected she was upset for a reason.

I went to the source. I googled Milan’s Twitter on this subject (click here to read it for yourself). I read the bits of the novel that Milan had trouble with. Guess what? It is a racist mess!

The half-Chinese, blue-eyed (is the other half super-duper Swedish?) protagonist describes Chinese characters as “turned slightly yellow from the London sun”. Are they trying out for The Simpsons?

Don’t forget their “slanted almond eyes”. Funny, the protagonist was raised in China, but she does not say white characters have chalky skin and round eyes. Milan said, “She’s literally describing absolutely normal people to her as if she were a white woman talking about a foreigner.”

I get that. I even grok that. I am a straight older Christian-raised white guy who grew up in a dairy community (ah, the sweet smell of silage). If I had ever described my Japanese-American character Kittygirl or her mother as having yellow skin and slanted eyes, my critique group would have roasted me.

I value my critique group female opinions on Super Holly (go easy on the boob jokes, Dave!). I had Kittygirl admire Super Holly’s long blonde hair; they said Kittygirl should not be envious (so Kittygirl loves her own long black hair, it’s like a cape!). I ran my Fred “Flex” Lexington character (super-powered gay bodybuilder) past a gay minister friend (and Macintosh user!); he pointed out stereotypes to avoid. (Lesbians should not throw themselves at Holly, gays don’t throw themselves around! I agreed, but there is evil and good superpowered emotional control in the story. I will rewrite to improve my slapstick kissy-kissy. Writing is learning and rewriting.)

I am a technical writer. I talk to engineers. Expert sources. People who know what they are talking about. People who do not just write it, they live it. Kathryn Lynn Davis, try a tech writing gig in smart, diverse Silicon Valley. You can learn something.

P.S. Boy oh boy, did I have trouble phonetically writing dialog for Kittygirl’s Japanese-born-and-raised mom. Hey, I’ll replace all the Rs with Ls! Then I’ll replace all the Ls with Rs! And… uh… no.

Story Critique: The Peril of the Purloined Powers, part 1!

I had fun with my Batman fan fiction (His Biggest Fan is finished, just needs a little editing). So I decided to write more fanfic. I can actually sell the story whose start I post below because the character I use is public domain. (I am working on The Comic Book Code novel also, stop hounding me! Well, someone could start hounding me and then stop.)

I took the start of my upcoming story, The Peril of the Purloined Powers, to my critique group last Saturday. I added their comments in [bold and in brackets]. I did not put my edits into the story posted here, but I did edit my original copy accordingly. Any of my blog readers are welcome to comment as well. I should mention that I value feedback from writers above all others.


SHHHTHOOOOK! Again, the ear-popping sound of the dimensional portal spitting me out like a bad oyster [nice]. Sunny sky and buildings and streets kaleidoscoped around me like I was in a blender. [smiley face, nice image]

KERWHUMP!!! Again, I smacked hard on Terra Firma. I could take it, being super-strong, but I was gonna tell my super-intelligent boyfriend that I wanted softer landings.

Fifty feet directly above me in the bright sunny sky was a whirling multi-colored disk of light. I did not have to crane my neck to see it, since I was flat on my back. I thought a farewell as it vanished: See you in a week. [?]

Time to get my bearings. I tapped the FIND MOMMY app on my e-bracelet [throw-away—you’ve dropped this and left it without reaction to whatever it’s supposed to do] and stood up in the foot-deep crater I’d gouged into the dirt-paved [oxymoron?] road. The air was warm, dry, and dusty. Horses pulled carriages with a CLOP CLOP CLOP. Brick and mortar buildings lining the street were grey and sepia, like when TV shows show the audience, [perceptive] See, it’s the past, because everything is sepia! If it was the future, everything would be chrome!

[paragraph is good imagery and description] Dozens of sidewalk pedestrians ogled me. Their clothes were right out of Victorian London: brown tweedy suits and ties, itchy-looking shirts, suspenders, bowler hats, vests, and how did that woman stand wearing a hoop skirt that could house a family of four? One older man with a handlebar mustache craned his head toward me, his monocle popped out, and he blurted, “Aye, there, missy, yew’re showin’ way more ankle than is propah!” [He’s rich, so not the right accent or vocals.] A dozen dirty and ragged street kids pointed at me and laughed: “HAW HAW HAW, th’ circus is in town!” One mouth-breathing man’s eyes bugged at me until his girlfriend hooked his arm and yanked him down the street: “Come along, ‘erbert, and put yer bloomin’ eyes back in yer ‘ead!”

[over the top descriptions really work] Wow, those English accents would launch Henry Higgins’ head into orbit. My clothes were right out of a comic book: blue supersuit and red cape, why dress to blend in when I had no idea what parallel world I was going to visit? I guessed these people had never seen superheroine legs before, but at least they didn’t mention—

“WHEE-EEE-EEE-EEE!!! PUH PUH, P-P-PUHHHH!!!” Horse spittle splattered the side of my face, YUCK! I turned to face a snorting, snuffling, head-shaking beast that made a Clydesdale look like a pony. I stepped back, although that beast could not hurt my stronger-than-steel body. That horse was hitched to a wheeled giant safe of a carriage.

“Aye, yew or!” A gurgly gravelly bellow. I’d always felt horses had dinosaur brains, and the driver atop that carriage was a match for his steed: [good description] tall and wide, fatty muscle burly, bulbous broken nose, sweaty greasy face looking to do a beat-down to end all beat-downs. “Git yer balloony bosom offa dah street! I gotta delivery, YEW OR!” [Do they all have the same accent? Accents are all over the place. This guy sounds like a pirate and miner 49er. (the funniest comment yet! I did edit the accents, but I still kept some Cockney. And I love writing phonetically, but it must be done carefully, it can get out of control fast.)]

GRR, why does sexism have to spill into every dimension? And ‘or’ what— HEY! My blood boiled in a nanosecond! Steam blasted out my nose! I put my hands on my hips and bellowed back at the bully, “Take that back, you frickin’ frakin’ pile of rancid Yorkshire pudding!”

The driver’s face flushed red. Spittle flew from his big fat mouth: “Stomp ‘er, Nessie!”

“WHINNNYYY!!! PUH PUH PUH!!!” The horse reared up and bashed its hooves on me. That didn’t budge or hurt someone who could juggle army tanks, but it was annoying [cute!]. “Quit it, you dumb brute— GLUK!” BLEH, hoof in mouth!SPIT, SPLUT, what have you been stepping in?” STOMP, KICK, STOMP STOMP! “I said, QUIT IT!” STOMP, KICK KICK! “Okay, I warned you!” Screw PETA, I wound up my right-hook, and POW!

WHUMP! Just like in Blazing Saddles, the horse hit the street like a ton of horseburger. The driver scrambled off of his coach and to his unconscious engine. “OY! Giddup, Nessie! GIDDUP!” He kicked it. “OWWWWW!!!”

I thought about clobbering the thug who was hopping on one foot, but his attempt to waken his equestrian elephant had put more pain into him than I cared to inflict.

Men in old-time police uniforms and English Bobby helmets (right down to the front-and-center helmet badges) swarmed about me and the carriage. “Ello, ello, ello! Whut’s all this, then?”

One Bobby took a hard look at the carriage driver. “Aye, ‘arry! Stomping ladies ain’t legal!”

Another Bobby put his reassuring hand on my shoulder. I was happy to see his eyes firmly upon mine, his mind was all-business. “Are yew all right, Missy?”

I grasped his hand on my shoulder and turned that into a handshake. “I’m fine, thank you. Need any help?”

The Bobbies near the carriage were not doing so fine. “Oy! The door’s locked up tight!” “It’s thick steel!” “Whut contraband you draggin’ today, ‘arry?”

The thug’s thick lips curled as the Bobbies handcuffed him. “Nunna yer business.”

Well, as long as I was here… I walked over and gave the carriage door a yank. It flew off its hinges. I smiled at the Bobbies. “Remember, just what’s in plain sight.”

Bobbies scrambled inside. “We ‘it the jackpot!”

The Bobby whose hand I had shaken put his hands on his belly and laughed loud. “HAW HAW HAW!!! Inspector Lestrade will want to see yew!”

LESTRADE? I gawked at the street sign. BAKER STREET? I grabbed the Bobby’s shoulders. “Yes, I promise I’ll see him, I will I will! But…” I spotted a number on one of the buildings. The 200 block! YES! “I just gotta see HIM!”

With a slight frown, the Bobby followed my anxious eyes down the street. “Oh. ‘im. ‘E works with Lestrade sometimes. Run along, but see Lestrade soon.”

“Thanks!” My cape fluttered as I ran down the street and past gawkers! 201, a flower shop… 209, a bakery… 215, an accountant office… THERE! 221 Baker Street!

I twisted the doorknob, yanked the door open, strode inside, and slammed the door behind me: WHAMMMM!!!

Oops. I checked the door. No damage. I had to remember that the 18th century might be fragile. I looked up the stairway. I stepped once, twice, thrice… I CAN’T WAIT! I literally flew up the stairs, made sure to land gently, and knocked on the door emblazoned with a “B.”

An intellectual voice, perfect diction, sounded SO MUCH like Jeremy Britt! “Watson! Kindly open the door for the tall young woman with super-strength and the power of flight, and who works with law enforcement!”

The door opened to reveal, just like in A Study in Scarlett, a thirtyish man of the medical type, but the air of a military man. The apartment behind him was littered with chemistry tubes, stacks of books, and a bullet hole in the sofa. His eyes widened as he grinned at me. “My, my! Come in, young lady! You are?”

I strode in, grasped his hand, and pumped it. “Super Holly Hansson! Doctor John Watson, I presume? I’m a huge fan of…” I adjusted my thoughts to the proper author, Watson was real here! “YOUR writing!”

Watson patted my hand. “Thank you. But I suspect I am not the one you came to see. Holmes?”

The sight of Sherlock Holmes standing by a window and bathed in sunlight triple-somersaulted my fangirl heart! He scrutinized the street like a cat looking to pounce upon a crime. He had a couple of inches over my six-foot-one, but he was so lean that he seemed even taller. He turned and scanned me, his sharp eyes not at all unkind. His thin nose was bird-of-prey beaky, like mine. His hair, what showed under his deerstalker hat [why is he wearing a hat indoors?], was perfectly trimmed. He wore a long overcoat and comfy-looking shoes. His heroic chin was resolutely square. Basil Rathbone? Jeremy Britt? No, THE Sherlock Holmes nodded at me! “How may I help you?”

I wished I had a copy of The Hound of the Baskervilles that he and Watson could sign! But I’d love this: “Please, Mr. Holmes, tell me how you deduced all that about me!”

[Change to make the dialog more Holmesian.] Holmes chuckled to himself a moment. “Watson and I were observing the armored carriage from this window, when we glimpsed a disk of light in the sky from which you shot like a cannonball into the street. Then you stood up and casually brushed yourself off. Watson’s professional diagnosis was that you must be strong as steel. [show don’t tell] I heartily [Holmes usually doesn’t use felling words] agreed. Then you pulled the door off that armored carriage. [expand this, it’s interesting] The instinct of a civilian would be to step back and let the police do their business, but you helped them as though you were on the job. Then [then circled] you ran toward my address. The downstairs door slammed brutally. Then [then circled] a moment of silence, as though someone regretted overuse of strength. Then [then circled] three footsteps, then a pause of one second, then a knock upon my door. There are precisely seventeen steps leading up to my flat. Barring [would he use that word?] a superhuman leap up the staircase that would have resulted in a thud near my door, which did not occur, I theorize that in addition to your power of strength, you also have the power of flight. If you will indulge me?” [circled indulge, but I’m keeping it.]

I levitated a few inches off the floor. “How’s this?”

Watson clapped and laughed. “Bravo, Holmes!”

Holmes waved his hand dismissively. “Elementary, my dear Watson. My dear Holly, your trip through that other-worldly gateway must have been disorienting, or you would have attempted a softer landing.”

I landed on the hardwood floor and giggled. “You would not believe how dizzying dimension-hopping is, thank god I didn’t smash anyone on impact— HUH?!?!” My jaw dropped. “How did you guess that?”

Holmes’ eyes gleamed with steely impatience. [too easy] “I never guess. That gold band on your left wrist that projects an image of a woman twice your age? Your boots and hip purse, made of shiny tough substances neither cloth nor leather? Technologies too advanced for this world. Watson, the disk of light from which Holly fell, what did you observe on its other side?”

Watson’s eyebrows shot up and his eyes widened, giving his normally intelligent face an uncomfortable resemblance to Nigel Bruce. “Why, nothing!”

Holmes raised a long finger in triumph. “Quite so! But surely Holly came from somewhere. My friend Professor Challenger gave a lecture last year on the possibility of parallel worlds. I read his research.” His gaze intensified on me like an analytical cobra. “Fascinating.”

I was grinning like a schoolgirl with a crush on teacher. “Yes. You’re a fictional character in my world. But you are still called the world’s greatest detective.” I looked at the hologram above my e-bracelet and swallowed a lump in my throat. “Holmes, can you help me find my mommy?”


[Very enjoyable. Now I know how important it is to know all the characters in a fan fiction. You had eliminated a lot of the sound / noise and that made it easier for me to understand the plot.] (I think this means the sound effects I toss in, like POW and SKAPLATT and BTT-KER-THOOOM!!! I intend to keep them in my stories, but I agree they should be spices, not the main course.)

[From our fearless leader, who has read a lot of Holly stories: I think it is well-written, but admittedly the first-person POV (point-of-view) is throwing me, mostly because it is not as smooth as the normal narrator you have.] (I will still try for first-person in this story. I usually try for close third POV, but since Conan Doyle always wrote Watson in first person, I would like to do Holly that way as well for this story. I wrote one other Holly story in first person some years ago, and it worked well enough. I will see how the story goes, I can alway rewrite if need be.)


Holly Smacks Venom by Gazbot!

Gazbot (website, Facebook) drew another wunnerful artwork commission for me (he also did Super Holly hit with Joker Venom). I asked him to draw Super Holly grabbing Venom’s long slurpy scary tongue and punch-punch-punching Venom’s head like a paddleball. Gazbot gets nice details, doesn’t he? I think Super Holly has wanted to do this ever since Venom broke into Mary Jane Watson’s bedroom just to terrify her with his big fangy grin. Super Holly likely said this just before the artwork action: “Oh, you’re so tough, oh you’re so scary. WELL, YOU’RE PLAYING WITH THE BIG GIRLS NOW!!!” I keep imagining the sound effects as: BRUH-DUH BRUH-DUH BRUH-DUH BRUH-DUH BRUH-DUH!!!

Super Holly Hansson hates spiders. They have history. (As historically documented in my upcoming novel The Comic Book Code, Chapter Zero of which I put into Super Bad Hair Day!

P.S. I made nice progress on finally finishing the first draft of The Comic Book Code. Not sure if I will finish by Saturday midnight, but I am likely to come close. I find I have written a lot more than I thought over the years. And I just found that I can both cut one chapter way down, AND I can torture Super Holly by not letting her play in the newly superpowered Comic Convent! WIN WIN!!!

I am noveling again!!! Nanowrimo totally RULEZ!!!

I have returned to The Comic Book Code, the novel I have not finished of Super Holly Hansson’s origin story. I have my outline (30 chapters, I really can’t cut it down much). I started today filling in the gaps. I happily discovered that I made progress over the years; for example, I have Chapters 0 to 5 pretty much filled up.

I found a trick for filling in plot holes and adding some beloved gags I do not want to edit out. At the end of most chapters, I can add a page or so of quick behind-the-scenes stuff. Like Bennie the cop discovering that John Glutt faked his death: “Whoever was here, he lost a lotta ketchup.” Or Bunni Bonita seducing Harry Headbutt to be her muscle slave: (seductive bimbo Jedi voice) “You don’t need to see my badgie-wadgie, I’m what you’re looking for!” Neater and quicker than adding new chapters.

I started writing The Comic Book Code way back in the heyday of The DaVinci Code. Yes, it has been that long. But I switched to short stories when the novel got up to 80 chapters. That is WAY TOO MANY!!! I worked on the outline off and on over the past couple of years. I tilted it to fit our modern times. I think Billington Stumpfinger (Trumpy villain) will be in there, although he will not be the main antagonist in this book.

I also found a great way to tempt Holly to the dark side: offer her a role in The Last Super movie instead of doing her superheroine training. THAT is how you tempt a writer, with her own writing!

I do not know if I will hit 50,000 words. But I have a great shot at getting every chapter at least in first draft shape.

I love November. The nanowrimo write-ins, the word count, the big halfway party (hope that happens this year), and I hope a lot more novel at the end of the month. I need to finish this novel so I can get to my Super Civil War and have President Stumpfinger declare war on California.

Another Trump-tummy punch! And 3 days to Kickstart SUCKER vol 2!!!

Trump has a tummy that Super Holly loves to punch! John Heebink (instagram, a little bio) sent me this a few weeks ago, and just yesterday I realized I’d forgotten to put it on my blog. I imagine Holly is thinking, “My costume’s riding up again. Totally worth it!” John has done work for Marvel and DC, so maybe my little art commissions are moving up in the world!

Here’s a link to his Kickstarter for SUCKER Vol 2, a nice fun gory vampire graphic novel! From the Kickstarter page:

SUCKER 2: WASTED YEARS is a 64-page, full-throttle grindhouse vampire romp with nudity, dark sensibilities and hideous language topped with a light dusting of social commentary. In terms of tone and content, I like to describe it as The Wolf of Wall Street meets The Tomb of Dracula.

One day left to help Badass Girl save the world!

Please consider a little $$$ to kickstarter the comic book Badass Girl #3!

From the Kickstarter page: “Orphaned in the aftermath of an alien invasion that decimated the Earth, Badass Girl is raised in the forest by a mysterious Chinese woman, Ching Shih, who turned her into a weapon. Now, with no home, no family, and no friends, she walks the Earth seeking her place in a hostile world.” Super Holly would approve.

We have till Sun, October 6 2019 8:48 AM PDT to fund it. Okay, okay, I shoulda posted sooner! It still needs some help, some love, some BADASSERY!!! Give a nice kick!

Here’s a sample.