Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Guest Post: Kristen Brand: Superheroes as Metaphors

It's my pleasure to welcome Kristen Brand to my blog this week. Kristen writes superhero, too, and we've recently "met" on the internet. She's the author of Hero Status, a novel I'm 3/4 finished reading and that I'm really enjoying! If you enjoy my Menopausal Superhero books, I think you'd enjoy Kristen's work as well. 

Here's her guest post on Superheroes as Metaphors:

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You’re running late for a date with the girl of your dreams. You’ve got errands to run, a demanding boss who won’t stop contacting you on the weekends, and to top it all off, the Vulture just started attacking Downtown, so you’d better put on your costume and swing over to stop him.

We’ve all been there, right?

Well, maybe not that last part, but most of us can probably related to being pulled in five different directions by vying responsibilities.

At a glance, superheroes don’t seem all that relatable, what with their incredible powers, idealized/sexualized bodies, and often otherworldly origins. It can be hard to see ourselves in billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne, who sneaks out of charity fundraisers to don a cape and cowl and beat up murderous clowns. But many of us can sympathize with having a loved one hurt by violence and feeling the burning need to do something about it.

And I doubt anyone reading this grew up on Themyscira (though if you did, could you tell me how to get there?), but we may recognize that feeling of leaving home for the first time, filled with wonder at the outside world, only to realize it’s filled with some terrible people and can be just awful sometimes. (But we have to carry on and try to make it better anyway).

The X-Men are a metaphor for prejudice and discrimination. Captain America is the perfect vehicle to explore the dichotomy of loving one’s country while fighting to fix its problems. Ms. Marvel is so popular in part because of how the title uses superheroes to address a number of social issues. As decades come and go and culture shifts, superheroes have stood for any number of things.

But boil them down to their most basic concept, and superheroes are about making the world a better place. There’s something appealing about that idea, that if you were bitten by a radioactive spider or secretly had alien DNA, you could use your powers to help people and truly make a difference in the world. Because face it—the world could really use some help, and it would be nice if all problems could be solved by flying really fast and punching a masked villain in the face.

Every year, there are articles saying superheroes are on their way out, that the market is oversaturated and there are no new stories to tell. I’m sure that will be true someday. Nothing lasts forever, after all. But as long as the genre keeps addressing meaningful themes in a way that resonates with its audience, I think it’s here to stay. Superheroes are about a lot more than epic, city-destroying fights with villains.

Don’t get rid of the fight scenes, though. That’s the fun part. 
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About the Author

Kristen Brand is a comic book fan and all-around geek. She writes novels with lots of action, witty banter, and a bit of romance. You can find out more about her work at kristenbrand.com, or check out her first novel, Hero Status, about a superhero who retired and married his arch-nemesis.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

IWSG: Evolution of Creativity


It's the first Wednesday of the month which means it's time to let our insecurities hang out. Yep, it's the Insecure Writer's Support Group blog hop. If you're a writer at any stage of career, I highly recommend this blog hop as a way to connect with other writers for support, sympathy and networking. If you're a reader, it's a great way to peek behind the curtain of a writing life. 

After you see what I have to say, be sure to check out the rest of the hope and our excellent co-hosts: Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor,Ann V. Friend, JQ Rose, and Elizabeth Seckman!

The November 7 question - How has your creativity in life evolved since you began writing?
I've been a writer since I learned how to write. Maybe even before that, because my drawings always had stories to go with them, even when I didn't know how to make letters yet. I was one of those kids that would make house guests grin tensely at my mother and say, "My, she certainly is creative, isn't she?" with a little nervous wobble in their voices. I guess not everyone was ready for gruesome ghost stories from a squeaky four year old. 

Luckily, my mom got it. She has a creative bent, too. And a leaning towards the weird and macabre. (like daughter, like mother?) She supported my endeavors, keeping me in paper, pens, bound books, and later in computers and printer ink. More importantly, she didn't try to tell me that my creations were inappropriate. I know now that I was very fortunate. A lot of young creatives don't meet with that same kind of support. 

My childhood creativity was half self-expression and half a desire to evoke a response from adults in my life. Whenever I felt strongly about something, you can bet I was going to write a firmly worded letter or a maudlin and melodramatic poem. If something I wrote got a gasp of surprise or a belly laugh, I'd feel like I'd won. 

As I grew into adulthood, writing became a coping mechanism. A lot of this was writing I would never show anyone, but writing that was really a kind of thinking and reflecting. 

Writing it out was cathartic, and helpful sometimes for organizing my wayward thoughts into a coherent understanding of my own feelings.  I still wrote all the time, but I wasn't seeking an audience for most of it. It was private. Almost a secret. 

I started lots of things and finished almost none. 

After a few years where I didn't write much at all (too much life in my way), I found my way back to writing while dealing with a bout of postpartum depression. Somewhere in there, I came full circle and writing became again what it had been for me as a child: half about self-expression and half about connecting with an audience. 

I think that's a long-winded way to say my creativity hasn't evolved at all. I just rediscovered what I once knew instinctively and claimed it again. Me and Pablo Picasso, huh? 






Wednesday, October 31, 2018

#31 of 31 Days of Halloween: Writing Horror Flash Fiction




Today I'm playing along with a blog hop: The Storytime Blog Hop and finishing my 31 Days of Halloween. Participants are asked to post a speculative fiction story less than 1,000 words quarterly.

I've been writing horror and Halloween-themed flash fiction all month for Bliss Morgan's Nightmare Fuel, so here's one of my favorite stories of the thirty-one I wrote this month. If you'd like to see the other stories, you can view the collection at this link.  I enjoy writing these short horror pieces each October and I hope you'll enjoy reading!
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Starving Artist

At first, she wove thin silken death for small foolish creatures, like the others of her kind. Subtle work, invisible unless you stood in right place. Intricate, delicate, effective.

It didn’t satisfy her. She wanted more. Something lasting.

She raged each time one of her creations was destroyed. She rebuilt over and over, until finally she decided it was time to move someplace more secluded.

She found an abandoned house and spun it throughout with masterpieces which hung glittering with condensation in morning light until the house glowed as if filled with gems. It made her heart full with delight for a while, but this too became not enough.

Wind blew through broken windows and snapped the edges, flinging her work aside. Frustrated, she fumed in cold silence, her heart turning chill with anger. Even here, alone, it was not enough.

Then she noticed the thick white ribbons of frost that streaked across a window. Inspiration. She sucked in great gasps of frigid air to fuel her. When she spun again, the strands were thick and soft and beautifully white. They glowed in moonlight and sun alike.

No insects disturbed their cold beauty, but hunger was nothing in the face of such creations. When she died, resting in the middle of a unbroken lattice of white snow, she had never been happier.

Be sure to check out the other stories in this blog hop. Happy Halloween Reading!

Snow White Tabloid Style, by Fannie Suto
The Halloween Dance, by Barbara Lund
Her Majesty, by Katharina Gerlach
Chris Bridges Posting Storytime Blog Hop.  Give her shout out and say Hello!
Black Moon, by Lauren M. Catherine
Poe's Heart, by J. Q. Rose
Hanks A Lot, by Joe Bouchard
In The Gray Lake, by Karen Lynn
The Right Honorable Brotherhood of Spirits, Poltergeists and Ghosts, by Vanessa Wells
Life of a Pumpkin, by Bill Bush
Why Should I?, by Gina Fabio
Reaper, by Juneta Key

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

#30 of 31 Days of Halloween: La Llorona


La Llorona is not a story I grew up with, but one I learned as an adult. She's a creature of Latin American folklore, a ghost or demon who preys on children who wander too far from home or on cheating men, depending on who is telling the story. She's a character in the traditional of The Woman in White, who is also a vengeful ghost seeking retribution for her wrongs or forgiveness for the wrongs she has done.

She's been gaining in popularity here in the United States, making an appearance on an excellent episode of the popular television series Supernatural

I love how these stories pull from many of my favorite ghost story elements. How ghosts can be remnants of powerful emotions, like vengeance, or how wandering as a ghost can be a punishment for wrongs, like filicide. Sometimes there's a phantom hitchhiker vibe to the stories, when the woman in white wanders the road, and might wreak horrible revenge on the man who picks her up.

There's a lot of meat to those stories and I end up being sympathetic both to the "monster" and to its victims, which is a place I like a horror story to take me.

Monday, October 29, 2018

#29 of 31 Days of Halloween: Werewolves


Of all of Halloween's creatures, my favorite is probably the werewolf. Cheesy or terrifying, I love the Jekyll and Hyde torment of a good werewolf character.

I don't remember when I didn't now about werewolves as a mythology, so I'm not sure who my first fictional werewolf was. Maybe Eddie Munster? Or Wolfie from the Groovy Ghoulies?

But An American Werewolf in London has remained a favorite film of mine since I first saw it as a teenager. It's the first thing I think of when I think of werewolves.

The special effects were amazing, but what really made it for me were the performances. When the two young men were frightened on the moors, I ran with them in my imagination. David Kessler's disbelief about what was happening to him and fear as he began to believe that maybe he wasn't "just" suffering delusions and hallucinations got me, too. It was also one of the first films I saw that combined the horrific with the comedic, which is a combination that still grabs me when I can find it.

As an old movie buff, I also love The Wolf Man. It's stilted at time, but oh-so-atmospheric and menacing at others. The 2010 update was equally flawed, but spot-on in some ways. I loved the family curse element of that story. Teen Wolf was a movie that I LOVED when I was younger, though I haven't seen it since and still haven't gotten around to watching the more recent TV series.

I loved Oz on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and was grossed out by the transformation portrayals in the first season of Hemlock Grove. Being Human (both versions) was fun, too, for the ways the bitten character tried to cope.

Got a favorite werewolf? Something I should check out? Let me know in the comments!

Sunday, October 28, 2018

#28 of 31 Days of Halloween: Spooky Sounds


In so many spooky scenarios, it's the sounds that get you going, make you nervous and edgy. Footsteps echoing in empty spaces. Distant wolves howling. Tiny scritching sounds that might be rats trapped in the walls. Dripping liquid. Creaks and groans of old wood. Wind through dry leaves. Murmuring voices where you think no one is present.



Right up there with shadows, the right kinds of sounds can feed my imagination and let me build up a good case of the heebie jeebies. Combine spooky sounds with other atmospheric details like moonlight and fog and we've got ourselves a setting for a horror story.

One of the advantages movie and television have over print media is the ease with which they can convey sound. Literally, they can make you hear it. It's harder for writers, but when done well, sound can be a very effective way to build tension.

What kind of sounds make you nervous? Got a favorite horror moment when it was the sound that got you? I'd love to hear about in the comments.


Saturday, October 27, 2018

#27 of 31 Days of Halloween: Masks


What is it about masks? Whether they're sitting on tables, hanging on walls, or covering someone's face, they are so inherently creepy. Something about those frozen facsimiles of faces, whether they imitate life, or distort it.

At the Halloween store, I can creep myself out just by standing at the wall of masks for a while. My vision will trick me into thinking the expressions have changed. Sometimes especially on the rigid ones that totally can't change expression.

The Phantom of the Opera, Michael Myers, Darth Vader, Leatherface. So many scary characters have been made that much scarier by the omission of their faces.

Got a favorite scary mask character? I'd love to hear about it in the comments.