Sunday, December 30, 2007

A new year is upon us ...

Tomorrow, you may be preparing food for a party or some gathering to celebrate the ending of 2007 and the beginning of 2008. I still haven't decided what I'm going to do for a New Year celebration, but the one thing I do know about 2008 is, I'm not going to make new resolutions this year.

Do you want to know why?

I've never, ever kept any of my New Year resolutions, at least not for as long as I remember. Of course, often I think of things like world peace or doing something else generic and quite possibly impossible. This year is going to be different.

I'm not going to make a resolution this year - I'm just going to do what I need to, want to, promised myself to do, instead of just saying I'm going to do it. A resolution won't make things any different - I will make things different.

I hope you can still do your resolutions, if that works for you :) Make a resolution - and make it work for you. You can do whatever you want to in 2008, and if that means finishing that project - or starting one, finding an agent or an editor or even just a friend who believes in you, then step out there and do it. We have faith in you and in each other, and that's the bottom line. We're here for each other - and with that help, we can make 2008 the best year ever.

Happy New Year!
Jeannie

Friday, December 28, 2007

Are We Tired Yet?

If you’re like me, you’re probably exhausted right about now. No rest yet, though, because a new year is peeking just around the corner. This, of course, is the traditional time to assess your life, to look at the good and the bad and make plans for improvement in the future.

As I look back on 2007, I realize what an eventful year it’s been. From a forced move that screwed up my back more than it already was, to my stepdad’s near fatal accident, it was a year for bad. But there was a lot of good too, my signing two book contracts, reconnecting with my mother, realizing that my stepdad was less "step" and more dad—and that I really do love him. There were the personal insights that were neither good nor bad, they just were. That I am not dealing with my chronic illness in a healthy way, that my physical and emotional issues are not separate entities that can be split apart like strands of embroidery thread. I am who I am, and I have to find a way to deal with that.

My goals for the last few new years have been mostly writing or weight loss related. This year it’s time to work on something more basic, more important in the long run than the contracts I hope to sign or the weight I probably won’t lose anyway. I have several interconnected physical illnesses, including serious issues with my spine. Because of the pressure on my spinal cord and the nerves coming off it, I have chronic pain (that’s gotten far worse in the last year). I dodge paralysis on a daily basis. And the emotional fallout—to both me and my friends and family—can be harder to deal with than the physical problems.

Yeah, I should just be happy with what I have. I’ve seen my daughters grow up and give me grandchildren. And they are the center of my life. I’m living my life’s dream of being a published novelist. I should be content. And yet I want more. I crave stability and a life not defined by the catastrophe du jour. I desire a house that’s ours and that will accommodate my needs. I dream of a time when I don’t have panic attacks over survival as the end of the month (and money) comes. And I want a better relationship with my family. In spite of our religious and philosophical differences, I’d like us to come together and try to understand each other.

And that is what I’d wish for the world if I could. To be more stable, to reach for and achieve dreams, to understand each other. Maybe if each of us works toward that in our own lives, in our own families, then there’s hope for that beautiful blue sphere we live on.

May all of you reach your goals and dreams in 2008!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Home for Christmas

Note: This blog post does not contain any snippets of humor, witty tips on writing, or tread into the paranormal world. Instead, today I will talk about something serious that is taking place in my life this holiday season.

As for most, Christmas is a special time of year for family. It’s even more so for me this year. Sure, I have two very excited children eagerly awaiting the arrival of Santa come tomorrow morning. But my extended family is first and foremost on my mind this holiday season. You see, I came home for Christmas this year. Not because it’s my parents’ turn for Christmas with us (as opposed to my in-laws), but because my uncle is dying. He’s 79 years old and has been a building contractor all of his life, specializing in plaster work. They say the asbestos he inhaled day in and day out for years has finally taken its toll. As we stand around his hospital bed with my aunt, his devoted wife of 58 years, it brings back vivid memories of a similar family Christmas two years ago. That year, my family stood around another hospital bed. That time the bed was in Walter Reed Hospital and the man lying in the bed was my brother.

In December 2005, while serving in Iraq, a man in a car loaded with explosives pulled up next to my brother’s armored humvee. Manning the gun turret on top of the vehicle, he didn’t have time to maneuver the machine gun around. Instead, my brother called on his training not as a soldier, but as a police officer, and pulled his hand gun, taking aim at the driver. The man in the car panicked and prematurely detonated the car bomb. Because of my brother’s quick actions, the soldiers in his humvee and the one in front of them are alive today. He also saved countless civilians standing up ahead at the crossroads waiting to watch the soldiers pass by. In the explosion, my brother suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns on his arms and legs, shrapnel wounds all over his body, two blown eardrums, and his right arm was nearly severed above the wrist. There was nothing left of the bomber or his car. That year, we spent Christmas around my brother’s hospital bed, thankful that he was alive and praying that he would recover enough to live a normal life.

So this year for us Christmas isn’t all about Santa, or the decorations, or the presents under the tree. This year, Christmas is about family. This year my brother, who was nearly killed two years ago, is standing at my uncle’s deathbed, fully recovered and holding his precious 7 month old daughter in his arms. It’s a living picture of the miracle of new life, blessings received and prayers answered, and the end of a life lived well.

Blessings to you and yours this holiday season.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Ho Ho TiVo!

Since we're all laying around stuffed with Christmas goodies at the diner for the next little while, and since writing, for once, isn't at the forefront of my mind (well, I mean, it's not like the usual panic isn't lingering a LITTLE, but I'm trying), here, for your viewing pleasure, is a list of my favorite specials to watch during the holidays. Sadly, they don't even show some of them anymore, but I've got 'em all and break them out faithfully every year. My kids are fully indoctrinated:-) I think I might have to start searching for DVDs of some of these specials, though, because my twenty-year-old VHS tapes are getting a little rough. Anyway, without further adieu, and in no particular order, here we go.

1. Emmett Otter's Jug Band Christmas - Anyone else remember this one? Emmett and his poor washerwoman mother, and how he and his buddies put a hole in her washtub so that they could try to win a battle of the bands against the odious Riverbottom Gang? Jim Henson is sorely missed, seriously. He gave me a lot of great childhood television memories.

2. The Christmas Toy - More Henson...Apple the doll and a much-maligned cat toy named Mew have to try and convince last year's special Christmas toy, the egotistical-yet-loveable Rugby Tiger, that he really doesn't get to do the whole thing over again this year. Kermit has a couple of cameos at the beginning and end, always a treat, and the story is bothe sweet and funny. If you've never seen it, you must search for it so you can check it out!

3. The Garfield Christmas Special - The Fat Cat goes to the farm for Christmas and learns about the joy of giving...and about how cool Jon's grandma is. Flaming hot Texas-style sausage gravy forever!

4. A Charlie Brown Christmas - Do I even need to explain? Warms my heart, year after year.

5. A Muppet Family Christmas - Are you seeing the Muppet theme here? Everyone from Big Bird to the Swedish Chef piles in on Fozzie's grandma for Christmas. Even the Fraggles make an appearance! And Miss Piggy, as always, is in her glory. Cookie Monster meets Animal...how can you beat that??

6. The Claymation Christmas Special - I think this one is on a DVD collection now, actually. I always loved watching Herb and Rex, the Claymation dinosaurs, argue their way through a presentation of much-loved Christmas carols. The last one is Rudolph the Red-Nosed reindeer done by the incomparable California Raisins! And, um, I'm really dating myself here, aren't I?

7. Any Rankin/Bass special - I'm not going to pick one, because they're all great in their own ways. My husband is all about the Heat Miser and the Cold Meiser, for some reason. I usually end up watching Rudolph, mostly for Yukon Cornelius. And there are a few obscure ones that are pretty fun, too.

8. Christmas Every Day - I haven't seen this on TV in YEARS, but the animation is paper cut-out style, like South Park, and it's all about this little Victorian-era girl named Tilly who tells the Christmas Fairy that, you guessed it, she wishes it would be Christmas every day. It's really funny (they receive so many puppies for Christmas that eventually they give up naming them and just use numbers), and I wish they'd start playing it again. This is on one of my almost-trashed VHS tapes from when I was ten.

9. The Chipmunks' Christmas - Alvin's mercenary quest for the funds to buy a coveted golden harmonica still lands in my top ten. I used to have the Chipmunk Christmas record, so how could I ignore it? Count me among those glad to see the small furry ones back in theaters this year.

10. A Christmas Story - Yeah, yeah, I know it's technically a movie. But I watch an awful lot of TBS's 24-hour marathon of this one every year, and it just never gets old for me. Who among you hasn't exclaimed "You'll shoot your eye out!" at least once in your life? Ho...ho...HO!

So what about you? Which specials have you glued to the tube year after year? Share with the rest of us. C'mon...I triple dog dare ya!

Merry, Merry Christmas,

Kendra

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Captivating Carols








Thirteen Captivating Carols


It’s the holiday season and I bet you’re as busy as I am, shopping, wrapping, cleaning and baking. Even when I’m the busiest, one thing I still have time to enjoy is Christmas music. I’m into Christmas carols because I hear them only in the month of December -- and they’re special. Some I value for the words, for hope and joy expressed. Some I like for the buoyant music. Others evoke fond memories.

Here are my 13 favorites …in alphabetical order because I can’t decide which I like most:

1. Angels We Have Heard On High. I love belting out the Gloria, In Excelsis Deo chorus.

2. Away in the Manger. I remember gazing at the snow-covered manger display on our front lawn as I reviewed the words of Away in the Manger. Living in Wisconsin, I wondered for the longest time why no one in the Holy family wore winter coats. Somehow I figured the song contained the answer.
3. Christmas Shoes. This one tugs at my heart.
4. Deck the Halls. I think of parties, eggnog and mistletoe.
5. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. As a Christian, I like the reassuring words.

6. Hark the Herald Angels Sing. I just love singing this one.
7. It Came Upon the Midnight Clear. The words soothe. “Peace on the Earth. From Heaven’s all gracious King.”
8. Jingle Bells. I like the bells and thinking of the holiday sleigh rides my father-in-law organizes.
9. Joy to the World. It’s hard to be melancholy when singing this song.
10. O Come All Ye Faithful. One year my Sunday School class performed this one so I know all the words.
11. O Holy Night. This was my great-grandmother’s favorite. I think of her and smile when I hear it.
12. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. What can I say? I’m a reindeer fan.

13. Silent Night. To my mind, this is one of the most beautiful hymns.
14. White Christmas. I like the mellow voice of Bing Crosby.
Yes, I know I cheated, slipping in an extra carol. There are just too many good ones. Which do you like? Do you have a favorite? Why? Please share.


The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!








Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Cutting yourself some slack

Okay, so the format here at the diner for the next few weeks is freestyle easy. There's a reason for that since this time of year packs mega-stress along with mega-cheer. Everyone is rushing around trying to live up to impossible standards based on Norman Rockwell pictures or Martha Stewart-like magazines. So today I'm here to remind everyone to let go of the guilt and embrace the day.

Not so easy when you're wearing at least 15 different hats without a major holiday looming in the near future. Normally, everyone wants a piece of you--now they want your wallet, too. Resist the urge to be Superwoman or Megamom because it's okay to be human. Really. Isn't that one of the things we explore in our paranormal writing--the essence of being human? Aren't mistakes and what we learn from them, the defining experiences that shape our character, create our courage and connect us to each other?

You're allowed to make mistakes in writing and in life. Find one thing to be thankful for among the chaotic bustle that surrounds you. Yesterday, I was thankful listening to Josh Groban's rendition of Ave Maria. Today I was thankful for both luck and skill involving a loved one. At the very least, tomorrrow I will be thankful for another day to read and write and tell my family that I love them.

Remember to breathe. Remember to relax. And cut yourself some slack.

Blessings,

Talia

(special thanks to Faheem Quereshi for the photo)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Vacation Daze

For the next couple of weeks here at the OTD, the rush of customers dining on our fine holiday pies and cakes, not to mention the other food, is going to require our full attention. We'll resume a regular posting schedule on January 7, 2008, but until then things will be a little...erratic. However, that doesn't mean we won't be posting anything at all! Feel free to visit us during the holidays to see what we've had time to gab about in between serving food, clearing tables, wrapping gifts, bustling around, giving irate customers the finger behind their backs but never, ever spitting in their pie or coffee, and so on.

Enjoy your own winter holidays, however you choose to celebrate them!

Jody W.
A SPELL FOR SUSANNAH--January 29, 2008, Samhain Publishing
http://www.jodywallace.com * http://meankittybox.blogspot.com

Saturday, December 15, 2007

One Writer's Journey

In the summer of 2006 I finally sat down and did what I'd always wanted to do, write a book. For the next two months, that was what I did whenever I had a moment to spare. Working two jobs for an average of 48-60 hours per week, plus throw my husband and four kids into the mix, it was no easy task, but after 2 months, I completed my first manuscript which was 309 pages. A comedic romantic suspense that I absolutely adored! It was perfect. The best book ever written.

Right?

WRONG!

Boy, was I ever in for a huge surprise. Everyone wanted to be the next famous author. I was a grain of sand on a sandy beach. I sent my book out to agents, only to promptly get rejected. One agent was even kind enough to write a nice comment, "Sorry, but the characters weren't as deep as I thought they were going to be."

Deep characters? What was he talking about? Needing to know what was wrong with my MS, I promptly started researching on the internet only to learn how much my book really stunk! Apparantly, there are rules in writing that next best seller, and I'd pretty much broken all of them. *sigh*

Determined to learn everything I could, I joined a national romance writing organization called Romance Writers of America. My life has not been the same since. Through RWA, I joined my local chapter Heartland Writers Group, became part of a critique group and learned about the craft of writing. I wrote every day and joined HWG's board members as their communications coordinator. I organizing chapter contests, helped re-do their website, and entered RWA writing contests.

I never gave up. I never let life get in the way of my goal of becoming published. I continued to produce those pages.

Ready to try again, I sent a query to The Wild Rose Press for my second completed manuscript, The Doctor's Deception. Within two days, I received a request for a partial manuscript. I promptly sent the first three chapters per their instructions. Eight weeks later, I received a request for a full manuscript. And, a week later, an email from my editor with an offer for a contract.

My hands trembled and my heart raced. I yelled for my husband who was in the other room with the kids and he came running into the living room thinking I was dying or the house was being robbed. I tackled him, shouting, "You have to read my email!" I had done it! I was going to be a published author! My kids were jumping up and down hugging me, too. Once I was calmer, I called the rest of my family to tell them the news, then started sending out emails to my friends and fellow RWA members.

Now that I have a contract, I'm not staying idle. When "The Doctor's Deception" was completed, I started my next project. Perseverance and hard work does pay off. Be active. Get involved. Learn your craft, and you will be sucessful. Those are the things I have learned on my writer's journey.

***

Kathleen Grieve has been a registered nurse for twelve years, and writes medical romances with humor and spice. Her website is currently under construction. Soon, you will be able to see her at www.kathleengrieve.com. In the meantime, check her out her myspace page for her continued journey as a romance author at http://www.myspace.com/kathleengail789

Friday, December 14, 2007

Holy Inspiration, Batman!


I haven’t read a lot of comic books. I’m not sure why, except maybe that girls in small Southern towns are not encouraged to pursue such seemingly masculine activities. But I did watch television, and one of my all time favorite shows was the old Batman series starring Adam West. Campy and fun, the series left me wanting to go out in the backyard and pretend to be Catwoman. (I doubt I was the only little girl who liked Batman’s nemesis better than his ally Batgirl.)

I tended to watch every superhero television show or movie that crossed my path, from reruns of the 1950’s Superman show to the animated X-Men that I watched with my kids – and even when they weren’t home. I might not have read the comic books, but I did love the film versions.

Without being a true comic book fan, the comics had such an impact on my life that the hero in my very first attempt at writing a book length manuscript was an actor who played a superhero in the movies. I’ve always said this book would never see the light of day. But lately the characters have been calling to me. I’ve been asking “what if” and thinking how to update the story. Because I really like the heroine, and the hero still makes my heart beat just a little faster.

Oh, and I always knew that Batman and Catwoman were in love. In my backyard yarns, they got married. What, you’re surprised? I’m a romance novelist, what did you expect?

Have a great weekend, and remember to take time to relax!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Writing What You Want to Read - In This Case, Superhero Romance

OWD Note: Eilis's book is out on December 13!! Quick link.

Eilis Flynn and Carol A. Strickland have known each other for over 30 years, starting from their days as Legion of Super-Heroes comic fans. Being females in a mostly male-oriented venue, they both yearned for superheroes and superheroines with real interpersonal relationships ... but they couldn't find any to read about! They kept yearning until they realized that they had to write about them on their own. Jody Wallace of OtherworldDiner asked them to talk about the subject of superheroes and romance, a subject they're all too familiar with. Where to start on such a broad topic? They figured they'd start at the beginning, where it's the most logical place to start...


Eilis: What took superheroes so long to make their way into romance, do you think? Was it the fact that paranormals were persona non grata so long?

Carol: Romance has always had its alpha males. Some of them, with their Olympian physiques and unlimited energy levels, could slip on a mask and cape and make their way in the world as a superhero if they wanted. ("I am Alpha Man! Tan ta-ta rah!") It was only natural that paranormals would up the stakes.

The first super-types I can recall reading in romance fiction were in Julie Kenner's "Aphrodite's Kiss" (2001), where the offspring of the gods had superpowers and a Justice League-type organization. The eye-catching cover showed Our Heroine using her x-ray vision to see underneath Our Hero's pants. Just to find out if he was a boxer or brief man, of course. Uh huh.

Eilis: The chicklit-type thing you mentioned for the Aphrodite's Kiss cover drove me batty, but chicklit was big at the time (superheroes are serious business, after all, and the x-ray vision thing was frivolous!). And the fact that Julie's characters were gods, not superheroes (I was always more of a DC Comics fan, so Marvel's version of the Norse god Thor as a superhero was always an afterthought for me). After those came Kristin Grayson's books, which were closer to the superheroes I was used to. Off-conversation, you mentioned Kristin Grayson's tip of the hat to The Ultimate Superhero, Superman...

Carol: Well, Kenner's half-human, half-god folks had limited powers (unlike their godly parents) and worked on prescribed missions like superheroes do when they're in a union. Now, when you talk about Kristin Grayson's Dexter Grant (from "Simply Irresistible," 2002), you've got a gorgeous guy with a bunch of powers, a la... Well, two Cleveland teens happen to see him in secret action one day in the 1930s and it inspires them for the idea of a comic book character: Superman. I thought that was a neat twist -- and eased back in case a lightning bolt from DC Comics' lawyers should fry the air around the book. But it never came.

Then again, Dexter didn't strike me nearly as sexy as most of the Weather Wardens from Rachel Caine's fabulous series (beginning with "Ill Wind," 2003). We're talking about a "super"-governmental, international organization of people who can control the weather, fire, and/or earth with a decidedly scientific and limited slant. Most of them are concerned with protecting unsuspecting humanity from Nature's fury. Our storm-weaving heroine, Joanne Baldwin, likes her heels high, her cars classic and fast, and her djinn lovers super-hot. (Author Caine likes her endings cliffhanging, which drives me crazy. Write faster, Rachel!)

Eilis: For our blog-readers out there, Carol's reference to the Cleveland teenagers is about Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the creators of Superman, who were from Cleveland and were that young when they came up with ol' Supes. If I recall, Kristin Grayson also had a little acknowledgment in that book to Julius Schwartz, the longtime editor for Superman comics, who had just passed away at that point. Rachel Caine's work could almost have come from DC Comics of the 1960s, couldn't it? But the comics themselves just didn't have enough romance in 'em.

That's one of the reasons I got interested in writing romance. In college, I'd published some Superman stories with DC Comics, but as much as I loved comics, they were mainly for guys, and romance comics were mostly odd. I wanted something that merged both the high fantasy of the comics and romance.

Eilis to Carol: Is that why you got interested in writing romance?

Carol: I couldn't get my "strong woman" fix from reading comics. Various tries at solid, modern heroines from both major companies at the time, DC Comics and Marvel -- characters like Power Girl, Ms. Marvel, the Cat, Storm -- all broke down somewhere along the way. Through the years my favorite, Wonder Woman, has had her ups but mostly downzzz. If I wanted to read about a super-heroine who interested me, I had to write her myself.

Eilis: That's familiar -- that's exactly how I came to write "Introducing Sonika" too.

Carol: And strong women characters need romance, too! When I finished the first draft (so long ago!) of "Touch of Danger" with such a woman in it, it shouldn't have come as a surprise that I'd written -- OMG! - a romance. Since I wasn't up on the genre I bought stacks and stacks of it to see what I'd gotten myself into, and now I generally race toward the romance section of a bookstore as often as I do the F/SF section.

If a romance novel can add a comic-book kind of fantasy to its storyline, I cheer. That's why I'm looking forward to "Introducing Sonika" so much!

Carol to Eilis: So do you think Sonika is the beginning of a true superhero trend? Do you use the added level of fantasy involved in superheroing to require more of your characters? Does the superhero element raise the stakes within their romance? Or do you write it just because it's so doggoned fun? Bzzap!! (Sorry, that just slipped out.)

Eilis: Ka-Pow to you too! I'd love to believe Sonika's the beginning of a true superhero trend in romance -- not comedic, just straight superheroes, but that's up to the readers, obviously.

When I wrote "Introducing Sonika" back in 2001 (finished it in three and a half months, a record for me), I wanted, as you pointed out about your own writing, strong women, superheroes, and romance, and I wanted it NOW. You know how you're supposed to write what you want to read? That's what I did, just like you, Carol!

In "Sonika," I added the complications of having a secret identity, having to avoid a social life to conceal that secret life, like most superheroes (but not all, of course). And Sonika has an added element of worry -- since she has to reveal her other life early on to the man she's falling for, is he only interested in her because he's really a groupie? Add to that a menace from her past coming to haunt her ...

Carol: Secret identities are classic. I'm already rooting for Sonika's guy to be more than a groupie. Hard-working heroes deserve a happily-ever-after!

Eilis: Geez, I loved writing this book. While every book you write may be the book of your heart, this book reflected a lot of the factors that formed my very personality. It was fun! It was romantic! I even wrote my cat Rover in, because she kept coming into my office and demanding attention as I was writing it. She didn't seem impressed when I told her.

Anyway, "Introducing Sonika" is releasing on Thursday, December 13, from http://www.cerridwenpress.com/. It's the culmination of a long six years to see her story come to light, and I'm hoping to write more stories about her world ("Earth Sonika," so to speak).

Carol: One last thing -- my critique partners drove me crazy telling me to stop writing with so many exclamation points! Since I grew up on comics I'm used to 'em being at the end of every sentence. Or maybe it's just that I get excited when I write superheroes! Did you find yourself exclaiming a lot?!

Eilis: Are you kidding?! I get excited writing about superheroes, too! I'd probably use more exclamation points, but I've been an editor in the financial services industry for decades, so I've had 'em bred out of me for the most part!! Ahem, for the most part.

****

Eilis Flynn is a longtime comics fan, even marrying one. Her books from Cerridwen Press -- "The Sleeper Awakes," "Festival of Stars," and now, "Introducing Sonika" -- all have an element of the fantastic in them. In "Introducing Sonika," Sonya Penn is a physical therapist working hard to pay off the enormous medical bills that remained after her parents’ deaths. Like so many of her generation, her career has left her no time for romance. But the medical bills she’s working hard to pay off were incurred when her super-hero parents were killed by their arch-nemesis, Gentleman Geoffrey. She finds herself coming back to the family business when she finds out her newest client, John Arlen, the heir to an engineering fortune, was injured by a super-villain -- the son of Geoffrey. In order to keep the brilliant scientist from getting himself killed in his misguided quest for revenge, Sonya travels down two paths she never expected to — she’s becoming the super-heroine she swore she’d never become... and she’s falling in love. Find out more about "Introducing Sonika" as well as her other books at http://www.eilisflynn.com/.

Carol A. Strickland is about to sign with Ellora's Cave for "Touch of Danger," a novel about a not-so-ordinary woman with a paralyzing phobia to touch. She's thrown into the company of a sexy superhero too mighty to handle human flesh without shredding it... until a new weapon strips his powers away for two days. Just two days and then it's back to being untouchable. They both have their (ahem) work cut out for them! You can read more about it at http://www.carolastrickland.com/.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Loveable Loser



Many, many years ago, I dabbled in drawing a comic strip. It had humorous text and crude drawings about the life of a newlywed couple. My inspiration came from my love of Charles Schulz's 'Peanuts'

Charlie Brown is one of my favorite comic strip heroes. Charlie Brown, a hero? "No way," I hear you shout.

Au
contraire.

Charlie is kind, polite, smart and always on the look-out for a friend. He never gives up, evident in his ongoing struggle to kick that football (he never did kick that ball, RATS!!). The one time his team won a baseball game he was at home in bed, (AUUUGGGHHHH) but he pitched every other game, never giving up hope his team would triumph again.

He may have been a loser but he was never a quitter. He has a strong sense of what's right, even though he's often blamed for things he didn't do.

Whose heart didn't go out to this adorable blockhead and his unrequited love of a certain red-haired girl? Even though Peppermint Patty wantonly threw herself at our hero, his heart belonged to another and his adoration never faltered.

What other eight-year-old is so independent. His parents were never around. He took excellent care of a dog (my very favorite character, Snoopy) who only referred to him as "that round-headed kid" and he was a good influence on his annoying little sister, Sally.

So, okay, he's an odd choice for a comic strip hero, but I'd like to see anyone find one more lovable.

Charlie Brown a hero? Good Grief!!

~Maggie

Monday, December 10, 2007

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s . . . Ralph Hinkley!

When the staff here at the diner came up with the topic of comic book heroes for this week’s blog, I panicked. It seems I’m the only one in this group who has never bought a comic book. Nope, not a one. Oh, I’ll admit to perusing the magazine stand at the local convenience store a few times when I was a kid while my siblings argued over which flavor of Hubba Bubba gum to buy. But even then, the ones I usually glanced through leaned toward the horror comics, full of evil spirits, zombies, and hideous monsters eviscerating poor unfortunate humans. Nice choice of material for an impressionable tweener to be looking at, let me tell ya. But I honestly can’t say that I ever glanced over at the super hero comic book section, not even once.

So what the heck am I going to talk about today? Well, while I may not have read comic books in my youth, I did watch plenty of super heroes on T.V. Come with me while I take you back in time, to an era when there was no cable television and only 3 channels to choose from -- at least at my house. Boy, did I just date myself or what?

I’m sure just about everyone watched Lynda Carter dash around in her red, white and blue bathing suit saving the day as Wonder Woman. What little girl didn’t spin around in circles wearing patent leather boots, a tinfoil headband, and a jump rope for a golden lasso? And do you remember Isis? She was the archaeologist who found an ancient amulet which turned her into a super heroine goddess. How cool was that? Together with a black raven as her partner, she managed to fight off the bad guys in little more than a white baby doll nightie and lace-up sandals.

As for the super heroes in my past, I’m going to confess to having a huge crush on Billy Batson, Captain Marvel’s alter ego on Shazam! Sure, Marvel had the cool super powers, but since I was only 10 when the show first aired, he was a bit too old for me. I’m almost positive I had a poster or two of young Billy over my bed. (Tell me, did the guy ever wear anything other than that sorry-looking red shirt with the yellow collar?) I’ll also admit to admiring Lou Ferrigno’s fine physique as the Incredible Hulk. Call me weird, but I thought he was kinda hot, bad green paint job and all.

But my favorite T.V. super hero of all had to be Ralph Hinkley, aka The Greatest American Hero. Come on, you all know the song. Sing it with me now . . .

Believe it or not, I’m walking on air.
I never thought I could feel so free.
Flying away on a wing and a prayer.
Who could it be? Believe it or not it’s just me.

Yep, there was just something about William Katt’s character Ralph. He was the cute guy next door, suddenly having to deal with super powers he didn’t fully understand and couldn’t quite control thanks to losing the instruction manual to his super suit in the very first episode.

Unlike the other super heroes I just mentioned, Ralph was never a comic book super hero. (Isis didn’t start out as one either but she sorta got adopted by DC Comics later on). Interestingly enough, DC Comics sued the show (unsuccessfully) because they thought Ralph was too close to Superman. Huh? Okay, let’s see . . . Superman wore a blue body suit and Ralph wore a red one. Check. Superman came from outerspace and Ralph’s outfit came from outerspace. Check. Both wore a cape, although Ralph’s was black while Superman’s was red. Check. Both had super strength, resistance to injury, super speed, and X-ray vision. Check. Ralph had ESP abilities while Superman did not. Ah ha, take that flyboy! Okay, so both could fly. Check -- well, sort of. Poor Ralph had a bad habit of flying into walls every now and then due to the above mentioned lack of a training manual.

Nope, even though I will admit there were some similarities, my Ralph was not the studly Superman at all. He was more of a bumbling Clark Kent at all times, even in super hero mode. But he was my kind of super hero. There’s just something about a less than confident average Joe, given the power to save the day but not quite sure how to do it. Man, I miss Ralph.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

More than Superheroes


Hi all,
Yes, I love super men. A Lot. But my brush with the comics was not in the super hero world. In fact, I thought those comics were kinda dumb (12-14 year old girls were generally not impressed with comics). But then I inherited my sister's comic books. My eyes popped. Why? They were ROMANCES! Some of them even depicted some seriously steamy kisses - well at least to my eyes at the time. I hadn't yet seen an R rated movie - which back in the day was as hot as you got if you were a "good" girl.
I think these comics were my introduction to romances because I hadn't picked up my first Barbara Cartland or even discovered Georgette Heyer yet. Of course they were filled with angst, teen and otherwise, so I really related to them. Some of them were funny, some serious, and some had ugly ducklings that got the guy. I related to those the most.
Hot kisses abounded and there were betrayals enough to satisfy even a fan of Desperate Housewives! I don't know if I absorbed any of the storytelling technique, but I sure absorbed the stories. I read and reread them. Heck, I still have them in a box somewhere.

They showed fantasy lives I wanted to live when I grew up. One series that I remember was called Millie the Model. Those girls were so catty at times, they could teach a few things to the contestants on America's Next Top Model.
Millie was blonde, cute, and sweet. Chili, the redhead, lived down to all the worst stereotypes about redheads. Catty, scheming, but they managed to humanize her and make readers like her anyway. That takes talent.
I cut my romance eye-teeth on these. So when you think of Marvel (and other comics) giants, don't forget their smart marketing. They went for the girl's money as well as the boys by providing reading material geared for the young ladies of the 50s, 60s and 70s. Yup, romance comic books were printed in different incarnations for thirty or more years.
If you see one somewhere, pick it up. I'd guess you'll learn a bit about pacing, cliff hangers, and grabbing the reader from these little blasts from the past!

Friday, December 7, 2007

He Had Me At "BAMF!"

I'm going to admit right up front that I'm not, like, astonishingly well-versed in comics-ese. My little brother didn't read them much, and I usually had my nose stuck in something totally age-inappropriate (The Stand in 6th grade, for instance). However, all three of us kids watched plenty of television, back when there was cool stuff like Voltron and Thundercats and She-Ra to enjoy. It was there, on my friendly TV, that I first met the gang of supers that I would STILL join over any other: the X-Men. And though I have progressed from watching cool kids' shows to watching cool comics-inspired movies, there's one superhero who still shines for me more than all the others: Kurt Wagner, aka Nightcrawler.

Why, you may ask, all the affection for the dude with the indigo fur and tail? Well, I actually love the way he looks (not surprising since Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite fairy tales, plus, seriously people, I write paranormal romance). But more than his striking, some would say "demonic" appearance, Nightcrawler is a walking contradiction, the ultimate illustration that you should never judge a book by its cover. That he suffers some over the disparity between his looks and his nature only adds to his depth and appeal as a superhero. I mean, hey, they all gotta have a little angst. Kurt, however, deals with his really well. Possibly because he can climb walls as well as Spidey himself when he needs alone time. I can only dream of such abilities (and believe me, I do).

Like a lot of the X-Men (and comic book characters in general), Nightcrawler's story is long and winding. To try to boil it down for you, though, he's the abandoned child of Mystique and one of a demonic-looking race of mutants named Azazel. Yes, Mystique, otherwise known as Rebecca Romijin looking better in a latex skinsuit than I ever will. Not that I really want to reopen that wound on my psyche, thank you. Anyway, baby Kurt was tossed by mom, rescued by dad, and raised in a German circus (he's Bavarian) by a gypsy sorceress and a bunch of loving, non-judgemental performers. He was lucky enough to grow up happy, even using his superhuman agility to become the star acrobat and aerial artist in the circus. He's also, in juxtaposition with his looks, a devout Catholic who studied for the priesthood, a trait that makes for some interesting internal conflict. As an X-Man, he's known for his jovial, gallant, and swashbuckling nature, his charm, and his penchant for practical jokes. Well, and his ability to teleport by briefly entering another dimension, leaving behind nothing but the smell of brimstone and his signature sound, "BAMF!" He's buddies with Wolverine. He has a love life. He fights bad guys. And he even slowly comes to understand that not all average humans are horrified by his appearance.

Did I mention that Nightcrawler rules?

Um, anyway, I think that apart from his singular appearance, what I love about Nightcrawler is his persistent good nature, his zest for life despite how obvious a target he is for those with prejudices against the different. You can't go by the movie version to see that side of his personality, since in that he's played as more serious (though played very well, I thought, by Alan Cumming, a nice surprise since I had never quite pictured one as the other though I do enjoy Mr. Cumming's work). Still, I was so disappointed when he wasn't in X-3! In the comic, Nightcrawler can be a prankster, and is adept at bolstering the spirits of the team. Rather than being a sort of tragic monster, a role for which he had originally been intended at his 1975 introduction, Nightcrawler is comfortable in that furry blue hide, and we fans are all the richer for it. Three fingers and toes on each hand and foot, glowing yellow eyes, pointy ears and a prehensile tail; Tim Gunn would be proud at how Kurt "makes it work." But above all, it's his heart that makes all the difference. I love that Nightcrawler is both angel and demon, a savior with the heart of a knight and the looks of the dragon. That's my favorite kind of hero, after all.

So what about you? Who's YOUR favorite X-Man (or woman)? And as an aside, what mutation would you have if you could join? I always wanted to be like Storm, myself...controlling wind and lightning is just so COOL! Of course, I'd have to be able to fly, too. Just sayin':-)

Kendra

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Thirteen Favorite Super Heroes and Heroines

You know how sometimes when you’re talking and a topic comes up, you can’t wait to put in your two cents. That’s how I feel about Comic Books and Anime. I’m an avid fan. Now I have a chance to share my favorites with you.







Thirteen Favorite Super Heroes and Heroines



1. The Green Lantern. Anyone can become an intergalactic officer in the Green Lantern Corps. I like that. You’re there after you get a ring, which seems to be only limited by the wearer’s imagination.

2. Batman. The cheesy 1960’s Batman played by Adam West, where the fight scenes are punctuated by such words as: “Bam!” “Pow!” and “Wham!” I enjoy Batman because of the adventures my younger brother and I made up years ago based on the series.

3. Batman from “Batman Begins.” I like Alfred and Bruce’s relationship and the clear development of Bruce’s motivation in becoming Batman. And I love this new Batman’s command of fighting skills.

4. Mystique, a.k.a. Raven Darkholme. I like her shape-changing abilities, her competence and her secrets.

5. Magneto. Actually, he’s a villain, but way back in his history he was a friend of Charles Xavier and for a while worked for good. Magneto has the power of magnetism.

6. Mr. Incredible. He’s a middle-aged superhero with an expanding waistline, a family, a job and all the problems of mundane, ordinary life.

7. Elastigirl. This take-charge, spunky heroine is married to Mr. Incredible. She makes stretching look fun rather than gross.

8. Psylock, a.k.a. Elizabeth Braddock, has telepathic and telekinetic powers. After several dimension hops and body alternations/wraps, she has become a wicked opponent with her psychic knife.

9. Storm. She’s strong, insightful and her weather-control power is cool. I love her abilities, but I often wonder what changing the weather would do to the global environment.

10. Forge, a.k.a. Jonathon Silvercloud. He creates whatever he imagines.

11. White Queen, a.k.a. Emma Frost. She’s a telepath, who isn’t reluctant to use her powers.

12. Charles Xavier, a.k.a. Professor X. No list would be complete without the noble leader/ mentor of the X-Men. His mental abilities seem boundless.

13. Rogue, a.k.a. Anna Marie. She’s a southern beauty who drains others of their abilities through skin contact. She has permanently absorbed flight and super strength. If she can only figure out how to control her vampiric power, she might have a dating relationship.

Now it’s your turn to pipe in. Who are your favorite super heroes? And why do you like them?

Brenda


The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!




Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Everything I Know I Learned From Stan Lee

Okay, well maybe not everything but growing up with two older brothers in the 60's and 70's you can bet I was indoctrinated into the Marvel world at a young age. Thank Valhalla! I owe Stan Lee so much including:

1. Norse Mythology 101 -- The Mighty Thor and his Mjolnir. Who knew? Growing up Italian-American, I didn't even know the Norse had gods! (I was also eight.) But a rainbow bridge? Kewl! Balder the Brave? (He dies?) And Loki? That dud had dibs on horns long before Hellboy. ;)

2. Geeks rule -- Peter Parker aka the lone webslinger, Spiderman. You never looked at the smart kid in class the same way again. So think twice before leaving that shy, brainy kid for last when picking teams in gym class.

3. Geeks can get the girl -- Mr. Fantastic married Sue Storm when she could have gotten Dr. Doom to take off more than his mask and Namor, the Sub-mariner, to trade in his gills for a set of lungs just by asking.

4. Nobody's perfect -- Superheroes aren't right all the time. Even with superpowers, they make mistakes. They suffer through frustration, alienation, and self-doubt. You are not alone, kiddo. Not by a long-shot.

5. Girl's got power, too -- Storm, the Scarlet Witch, Rogue, the Invisible Woman, Jean Grey, Valkyrie. Need I say more?

6. Tolerance -- Now really, would Hulk have rampaged all over the place if they'd stopped shooting at him every time he went green? And don't even get me on mutant-phobia.

7. Don't give up the good fight -- When life throws crap at you (and it will), don't just lie down and take it. Get up and push through it. It's Clobberin' Time!

8. Everybody wants a home -- That's why superheroes who started out solo often joined teams like the Defenders, the Avengers or the X-Men. The human (or mutant or android or alien) touch is universal. Don't believe me? Ask the Silver Surfer.

9. Use your imagination and read -- Everything about comics ignited my desire to read--the world, the characters, the conflicts. The influence of Marvel spurred my love of paranormal in what I write today. Though I illustrate with words and not pen and ink I've taken all of the above lessons mixed them up with romance and given them to my own characters. My passion for heroes has never dimmed in forty years. And for that all I can say is...

Thank you, Stan Lee!

'Nuff Said,

Talia

Monday, December 3, 2007

Superhero Romances -- I'd Read 'Em!

This week at the Diner, we're going to be tackling superheroes and supervillians. Well, we're not going to tackle them literally, because we'd never be able to catch them, but we're going to talk about the influence of comic book and similar heroes and villains on popular culture, in particular their influence on paranormal romance.

Paranormal romances had a fling with readers in the late 80's and early 90's with a spew of futuristics and some angel and time-travel stories. There was an ebb, and now, as we all know, there's a flow. A torrent of vampires, werewolves, magic users, aliens of the outerspace variety, gents and ladies with psychic powers, secret paranormal agencies, you name it, it's available for purchase! One thing there hadn't been as much of, and which I hope is about to come into its own, is the use of the traditional "superhero" in romance fiction.

First, let me define traditional superhero. Or do I need to? Comic books and their characters have been so deeply ingrained into popular culture, especially here in the United States, it would surprise me if someone wasn't familiar with at least a few of the gang. The two primary companies that publish traditional superhero comics right now are Marvel (Spider-Man, X-Men, Hulk, Captain America, Fantastic Four) and DC (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern). Here's the Wiki for "Superhero". The basic definition there, with footnotes: "A superhero (also known as a super hero) is a fictional character "of unprecedented physical prowess dedicated to acts of derring-do in the public interest."[1] Since the debut of the prototypal superhero Superman in 1938, stories of superheroes — ranging from brief episodic adventures to continuing years-long sagas — have dominated American comic books and crossed over into other media."

This link leads to a brief history of comic books that describes their evolution into the incredibly varied art form they are today. Comics aren't only about superheroes and villains. There are also horror comics, romance comics, teen comics -- in fact, here's a brief history of romance comics if you're in the mood for a tangent.)

God, I love surfing the internet. Anyway, back to my topic.

The first romance genre books with traditional superheroes I remember reading are the very funny Aphrodite books by Julie Kenner which debuted in 2001. In 2007, we've had a few more superhero romance stories make it to print, like Jennifer Estep's cheeky Bigtime series. When you're talking traditional superhero stories, which we are, more appear in science fiction, young adult fiction and from smaller publishers, like the superhero pax at Amber Quill Press called "The Lusty League" and the antho at NCP called "Ultimate Warriors". Author Eilis Flynn has "Introducing Sonica" coming out from Cerridwen quite soon, December 13, I believe. I am drawing a blank on those YA novels, but some were along the lines of the movies "Sky High" and "Zoom".

Trends in popular culture all begin somewhere--sometimes simultaneously, sometimes bleeding from one medium to another. In my opinion, the popularity in recent years of converting traditional comic books to movies and television started with "Batman" in 1989. The Donner Superman films were huge, but until "Batman", special effects were more challenging, and it was harder to make the superhero stuff "really cool", as my husband just explained. He also said, "In the late 80's, superheroes became darker. When Frank Miller did "The Dark Knight Returns", that was a completely new spin on the Batman mythos, and it was his take on Batman that influenced comics and went on to influence the 1989 movie to be darker and more serious." Then, with the success of the X-Men and Spider-Man on the screen (which had similarly dark overtones), the result is the era we're currently in--an era ripe for a superly heroic romance genre uprising!

I know of at least one author whose agent loves her excellent superhero romance, which I hope gets published soon so we can all enjoy it. I mean, with fascinating, powerful and conflicted characters like Wonder Woman, Superman, Spider-Man, Batman and Wolverine, how can we not write romances about our own superheroes?

If anyone can add to this kind of list of superhero romances in the comments, please do and I'll update! I know there are more titles out there I am forgetting.

Jody W.
So much cyberspace, so little time!
http://www.jodywallace.com/ * http://www.elliemarvel.com/
 
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