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The New Elementals

The New Elementals

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Mythical beings, creatures invented, designed or created to explain the world around us. To explain the world, nature, Paracelsus in the 16th century identified four elemental beings, the fundamental building blocks of nature.

  • gnomes, earth elementals
  • undines, water elementals
  • sylphs, air elementals — clouds
  • salamanders, fire elementals

An interesting concept of beings controlling the one thing that we can’t control, the natural world. Many authors approach the idea of controlling the four elements, and if all went up against each other, which element would win? Because each element, could destroy, the flood, the fire, an earthquake, a tornado.

I bring them up as I watch one of my favorite shows. Not necessarily about the elemental, but about those with special powers in which to control the elements around them. If you haven’t watched Avatar: The Last Airbender, I can honestly say, your missing a well written, beautifully drawn telling of the story of a young boy with the ability to control each element. He’s an Avatar, master of each element,  and it is up to him to bring balance to the world after the lengthy 100 year war, in which his people, the air nomads were destroyed.

His name is Aang, a 12 year boy trapped in the ice as the world becomes a dangerous, out of balance place and when he’s brought back, he learns he has only a few months to master and control all of the elements and stop the fire nation from destroying the rest of the world.

I don’t always think of the my kids’ shows as supernatural or fantasy because they are simply the shows my kids watch. Stories with concepts and worlds so unlike our own.

The moral and lessons of the storyline is to bring balance to the world, to become one with nature, bring hope to those living through the war and find a way to win against the aggressors.

I fell in love with the story, with the characters, with the idea of becoming one with the world around us. We are all a part of the world, responsible for maintaining and protecting it.

In the end the Avatar reaches deep inside himself, a bridge between the spirits and the present world creating peace and harmony. For a chaotic mind such as myself, I’d like to revel in that balance.

If you could control an element, which would it be? I’m partial to water, as ironic as that is since I’m petrified of the water. But the fluidity of the water, the way it moves with the water bender, as it lures you into a false sense of security before it floods and drowns you.

Or would you rather create a landslide, fireball or fly through the air?

 

 

 

The Sidekick

The Sidekick

Superman, Arrow, Batman, Sherlock Holmes, literary heroes with something in common, yeah they all fight evil, stand up for the common man, they act on the belief that justice will be served.  

With all that said, I’m really thinking of the sidekick. You know, that person who hangs around the hero, the character you can far more easily relate to because they’re more like us, the one’s we think we can be like. They hold many roles, these sidekicks do. Oftentimes they act as the comic relief, or the straight man all with the purpose to better the hero, make them more likeable. The character of the sidekick gives the hero a friend, someone to talk to, and someone to assist them in bringing about justice for the victim. They are the confidante, understand and know the character better than he knows himself and offer the hero a mirror which reveals their true selves.  

I know of Batman and Robin, Of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Superman and Jimmy Olsen. But I really know of Oliver Queen and Felicity Smoak, at least through the eyes of Arrow the television show that I discovered in the middle of last season. As much as I love Urban Fantasy, I’ve never been much of a fan of the comic book. I find them confusing in that the story is mostly told through the drawings. I far more prefer prose, and all that words bring to the story, but now I digress. What I really think about is the role of those sidekicks and what they offer to the hero, to the story.

Oliver Queen the billionaire playboy. Portrayed as the most unlikable character that cheated on his girlfriend with her sister, before getting shipwrecked on a deserted island where he survived for five years. Flashbacks, reveal a glimpse of the irresponsible, selfish man he once was. We compare his past to the man he’s become and the mission that his father left for him before he died in the boat disaster. He becomes the Hood in order to save his beloved city and take it back from those who wish to harm it. While in the process of protecting his secret, he chooses to let those who once knew him believe that he was still that man.

But through Felicity Smoak, the computer genius sidekick, we catch a glimpse of his other self, for she defends him and the choices he makes. She spends her time assisting him catch the villains with her computer as well as coming up with quick snippets of wit, in the middle of an intense storyline, offering that touch of comic relief.

I often wonder who in The Day of First Sun, is Annie’s sidekick. It occurs to me that maybe the role belongs to Sturtagaard the vampire who offers comic relief or the character to play off us. But that’s not really it. Maybe it’s Cham, her best friend who takes a back seat to Annie. But he’s not the sidekick either. It’s not until I started writing Heavenly Gifts where I really think Annie has found her sidekick. A young Wizard Guard named Emerson, the one who worships the more experienced Guard, the one who’s not quite a full-fledged Wizard Guard, who needs just a little help, who might be able to humanize Annie. It’s something I hadn’t really thought about until just recently. Who will be Annie’s comic relief, who will offer her assistance and who will defend her above all others?

We all need our champions.

What the Heck is a Tardis?

What the Heck is a Tardis?

If you have to ask you’ve never watched Doctor Who. Okay. So I don’t watch a lot of Doctor Who. It’s not because I don’t want to, the show is right up my alley. It’s mostly because I’m woefully far behind and have no time to catch up. Instead, I watch when I can. But then there’s my daughter, the one who I’ve managed to turn into a geek, the one who loves, The Walking Dead, Torchwood, and Comic Con. I’m so proud.

She’s now a Doctor Who fan, the kind that sat with the Ipad for six hours to watch season six and then declare, she wanted to go to Barnes and Noble and buy his screwdriver. Yeah, the kid is a culture nut and I’m the proud mommy.

But it had me thinking about space and time. And how in all of these science fiction and fantasy entertainment vehicles that it’s the vehicle, the way the characters move within the storyline from place to place and time to time that is what the show is centered around.

Even if you’ve never seen Star Wars, you know the Millennium Falcon. Han Solo’s ride, his home, the only thing he owns worth anything and yes it saves all of their lives by flying them away from the Death Star and in the end it’s the machine that allows Han to assist Luke Skywalker blast the hell out of said Death Star. You might also be aware that it’s a rust bucket and the hyperdrive doesn’t always work.

I’m sure even if you don’t watch Star Trek you know the USS Enterprise. Or Back to the Future you travel through time in a DeLorean. But these types of time and space travel seem practical, seem as though they fit, belong in the realm of their reality. So who then, came up with the Tardis?

Even I know, having only watched maybe five episodes of Doctor Who that the Tardis is the time machine moving the Doctor and his companion through space and time. Tardis stands for Time and Relative Dimension in Space. Yeah a time machine; where occupants can transport to any point in time or place in the universe. 

I had to look it up, understand what this thing was that took on the shape of a 1960’s style London police box. Its chameleon circuit is broken, (a mechanism which is responsible for changing the outside appearance of the ship in order to fit in with its environment, leaving it in its current state). It’s an ordinary object used for extraordinary things. A time machine with a mind of its own, rather than going where the Doctor wishes to land, it lands where he is needed the most.

These machines spark imagination; make dreamers into creators who might attempt to recreate what they’ve seen on television, in the movies and make them reality. So I sit and examine my daughter’s new purchase, a miniature Tardis; an object of dreams and wishes to discover, to explore to assist and make better. If we could go back into time, would we and while there is it practical to make changes? Would our lives be better or would we destroy all that we know? Would that one little change, change everything? And the Tardis, opens the whole of the universe to us. Would you take a trip through time and space? I know I would.

It’s a Crappy New World – Then Why are We So Happy About It?

It’s a Crappy New World – Then Why are We So Happy About It?

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Utopia, the perfect world, where the sun shines daily, people are equal and no one lacks for anything. While we realize that this is probably never going to happen as each side of every issue have difficulty finding a happy medium, we trudge through our daily lives, going to and from work, schlepping our children from activity to activity, and paying those nasty bills instead of finding Utopia. Okay so our lives aren’t as awful as I just made it seem, but I am getting to my point. We don’t live in Utopia but we also don’t live in a Dystopia either.

For those unfamiliar with that term, think The Hunger Games, think The Walking Dead. It’s the opposite of a Utopia, a world that we wouldn’t want to live in, something frightening and unfamiliar, as a result of  an event, biological or otherwise which leads to the cataclysmic decline in society. Stories are filled with the dehumanization of the person, totalitarian governments, lawlessness. So then, why are these television shows, movies and books so popular?

We are huge The Hunger Games and The Walking Dead fans in our household, classic examples of the dystopian society. In one story line we see the catastrophic spread of a disease which turns the human race into flesh-eating zombies. A society whose only purpose is to run from the zombie monsters and survive.

In The Hunger Games, we’re entrenched in a world that is recovering from a revolt attempted by the less fortunate. Citizens living in the outer districts, being controlled because of The Hunger Games. A world where the government controls the masses by sending children 12 – 18 years of age to the spectacle, where they must fight to death. Who in what society would allow this to happen? How does it get to this? Again, an impossible world that we can only imagine, one that is terrifying and decidedly not where we would want to live.

So again, the question is, why? Why are we so interested in these horrifying societies, unreal and yet manage to hold our fascination? I’ve said it before but I always think it’s easier to solve our real world problems in a world devoid of the rules that we know and understand. Where we can feel that justice is served because we can make our own rules, as needed based on impossible situations because shooting an arrow through the brain of a zombie solves the problem neatly and cleanly.

I think that for us readers and viewers it’s a glimpse into something far more fantastic than our own lives and in a way that’s a little scary. We need something so unbelievable, so frightening, so awful to grab our attention and thrill us, or maybe the questions that these stories pose, allow us to think about the consequences of our actions. Topics and situations that gives us a reason to discuss and conclude something about our own lives. Or maybe it’s a simple as hope. the belief that things can get better if we work hard, think it through and fight for what we believe in. Trust in the people closest to us and care for them through the impossible.

In The Hunger Games, Katniss’s simple gesture to honor a fallen child is turned to hope. And she will use that to protect those she loves as she’s propelled into the face of the rebellion. We cling to the hope as we watch the rebellion move forward and we cheer when she makes the right choice and earns her freedom and the freedom of those she loves.

Hope is different in The Walking Dead, because there isn’t a cure for the zombie disease. It’s about finding a stable environment in which to make a life. a place to be safe. Ironically, it’s the prison. Because they stumble into the now unused prison where they are able to defend their position and remain out-of-the-way of the zombie hordes, it becomes a place worth protecting and fighting for, escaping destruction and loss of more of their new-found family group. It gives them hope.

Or maybe I’m over thinking it and it’s simply a bit of everything wrapped in a warped and wonderful visual experience.

 

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Wizard World, Comic Con and Visionaries

Wizard World, Comic Con and Visionaries

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I’m either the best mom ever or I’m spoiling my kids and will live with the consequences forever. Or maybe I’m really just a big old geek and like to drag my kids along to things like Wizard World Chicago.

And to think, there are Comic Cons all over the world, big, crowded and entertaining, all about celebrating love of the genre. It all started with a man named Shel Dorf a comic book enthusiast who in the sixties, envisioned a one day convention celebrating that love. He held his convention in 1970 and called it “Triple Fan Fairs,” in Detroit. It was that convention that later moved to San Diego, becoming the juggernaut that it is today.

 What once celebrated super heroes inside the pages of comic books has since grown into this all-encompassing entertainment fest. Not just for the geeks anymore, even people like me who once sat on the outside looking in, who enjoyed yet not fully embraced all that the genre involved, can now become excited to the point of nausea if the right item, actor or character crosses my path. Who knew seeing Jayne’s ugly knitted cap would make me laugh to the point I nearly bought one for myself and now I simply regret not coming home with one. Seriously they were all over the hall. Still scratching your head, think Firefly. Still don’t know it, you need to watch one of the best cancelled shows ever.

jayne's hat

It’s about enjoying and taking it all in. Getting your picture taken with the actor who plays Daryl Dixon on The Walking Dead. Yes we stood in line for an hour to get our picture taken, or seeing John Barrowman, the Captain Jack signing autographs and jumping in line, because really who doesn’t want to meet him. And of course I told him I was a HUGE fan. That’s what I said? Well duh. Why else would I be there. I’m such a dork… It’s seeing the costumes of the characters that you enjoy so much and chasing them around the hall just to snap a picture. Well my daughter did, but I kinda made her do it. Yeah. That’s Wizard World. And it’s the regret of not having met a favorite character or buying that soft kitty plush toy, you know the one that sings that song…

John Barrowman

But if you stop and examine it the phenomenon, really think of them, the artists, the writers, the creators, as visionaries, their ability to imagine the world as a different place,. A world that inspires others to create what they’ve dreamt up. And we love them. It’s a chance to play, to imagine and celebrate behind the doors of comic con. Embrace your inner geek.

Prophecy, Choice and Character

Prophecy, Choice and Character

Prophecy is a message given to a prophet, someone who communicates it to others. It’s oftentimes the vehicle for a fantasy plot line.

As a fantasy writer, even I’m not immune to the use of the prophecy. In She Wulf, it is what the story is centered on. Throughout the story, my assertion for Annie is this; do we have to follow through on a prophecy or do we have free will to simply say no. Or because of her character does she simply not have a choice but to accept her new destiny.

 

prophecy girl

The question of prophecy and free will is in more than one series. As a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, episode, Prophecy Girl I’ve often grappled with that question and wonder what would happen if Buffy simply waits until the next day.

In this episode Giles discovered an ancient book called the Codex, one in which foretells of several different prophecies, all which have come to pass. It tells of Buffy’s death at the hands of The Master.

 

 

Giles: I wish to G_d I were. But it’s very plain. Tomorrow night Buffy will face the Master, and she will die.

But my thought every time I see this episode is this; what if she waits one more day or even an hour after midnight, will the prophecy still hold true. Will waiting allow her to live and still kill the master or will it be her downfall anyway? But it’s her calling as a slayer to fight the Master and ensure he doesn’t rise. For if he did, all forms of evil will break through the Hellmouth and terror will reign. In the end Buffy doesn’t believe she has a choice. She accepts her responsibility and submits to the prophecy.

The other prophecy that always had me wondering came from Harry Potter.

“The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches … born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies … and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not … and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives … the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies …”

—Prophecy made to Albus Dumbledore by Sybill Trelawney

 

harry prophecy

Having not heard the entire prophecy Voldemort doesn’t know for sure which child will bring his end and he chooses Harry rather than his other possible choice of Neville Longbottom. But he marks the child and walks directly into a self-fulfilling prophecy in which one of them will have to die by the other’s hand. Would he, had he not marked Harry his equal, been able to avoid the prophecy and succeed in bringing about his plan?

Having their destinies thrust upon them, both Harry and Buffy accept the prophecy and their role in it, not because of the prophecy but because of their character. For Buffy, she is the slayer, and in the simplest terms, it is her job to stop evil. She is able to do this because she is grounded to life by her friends and her mother. Though Harry is responsible for stopping evil, it is his love for his friends and the memory of his parents that keep him fighting. He accepts his role when he realizes he is the only one who can stop Voldemort and keep those he loves safe.

The prophecy is the story’s catalyst. It propels the characters into their journey one in which they learn about themselves and come into the person they were meant to be and in the end, they discover what they are truly capable of accomplishing.

It is our choices…that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.  Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Spoken by Albus Dumbledore.

For Buffy and Harry it is their choices to not run but to fight that make them the characters they eventually become.

 

Merlin and the Everlasting Sting

Merlin and the Everlasting Sting

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I have this sense when I watch a movie or television show that there will ultimately be a happy ending. The Hollywood ending, where the main character might go through a little hell before eventually coming out on the other side, happy, serving justice, killing the demon or winning. You can always count on it. Well maybe not, because sometimes there are those shows whose writers take a non traditional approach to the ending.

I generally find myself not enjoying the epic fantasy. I’ve tried but I much prefer the Urban contemporary Fantasy to that of the medieval epic. But sometimes I find myself falling for one, becoming friends with it, getting attached to the story and the characters and ultimately getting angry when it ends. That’s where Merlin came in, the epic fantasy retelling of the Legend of King Arthur.

I should have hated it and yet I didn’t. I like funny, and quirky and every week I found myself entertained by characters and the magic and the dragon and loved visiting that realm. Early on I realized that the prophecies were of great importance and they held the seasons together. They weren’t just a hint of what was to come or a guideline on how to change the future, they were the future. We shouldn’t have been surprised when the end came and yet we were.

SPOILER.

Don’t read if you’d haven’t seen it or would like to see it, because, it’s the series finale and it makes me think. After five seasons with the characters, I grew to love Arthur and Merlin, Guinevere, Gawain, Lancelot and Percival.

But the writers warned us early on that it would be a painful love as we slowly watched all of our favorites die. It started with Lancelot as he saved Arthur and then Elian and Gawain. I usually respect writers when they kill their characters because they stand by their vision. I’m not so sure I could do that.

What we thought we learned through these prophecies is that Mordred would kill Arthur and Guinevere would be queen. What we had hoped was Merlin would save the queen who would simply be queen because of her husband.

I distinctly remember sitting there during the series finale with ten minutes left still hoping that Merlin would save the King. Five minutes passed and yet, Arthur lay dying and my heart sunk. It wouldn’t be that Hollywood ending I so hoped for after Morgana was finally taken down. With her she took Arthur and as his body burned upon the boat as it was set out to the middle of the lake, I realized that these prophecies couldn’t be undone.

It still stings months later and I was reminded of that when I came across an article about the series finale. I’m not alone in my dislike of the ending and yet, we should have known it was coming. But I still wanted that happy ending, to see Arthur and Guinevere happy and living out their days together in Camelot, in peace and prosperity. It never happened.

I’m not sure if I respect the writers or dislike them for chosing this path for their characters, not that it came from out of nowhere. I since learned that several of the Arthurian legends end this way. Or maybe as a writer I should simply appreciate their willingness to piss off their fans and go with the story as it should be rather than make it fit what we readers want. Still I would have loved to see the happy ending because I love my characters too much to see them end.

The Walking Dead Part Two

The Walking Dead Part Two

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We spent Spring Break 2013 watching The Walking Dead marathon leading up to the season finale. Four days we stayed up as a family until 3 am, watching every episode. Well we missed a few, so when AMC decided to run another marathon over July 4th weekend, we partook for a second time in the craziness that is known as The Walking Dead.

We re-watched episodes we had seen before and caught up on those we missed, though I still managed to miss Rick murdering Shane the human and Carl killing Shane the zombie. Maybe the next marathon.

What makes a normally rational family go ape crazy for one show, when normally the four of us can’t agree on anything?

Maybe it’s the fun, well written stories or the complex characters that have flaws and despite them, find a way to survive in this improbable and impossible situation.

I always contend that the fantasy backdrop works because within the confines of these unfamiliar worlds, justice prevails in a way that it doesn’t in our reality. A place where we can watch Rick go up against the Governor and they can take each other out because the rules as we know them, no longer exist.

Why do we watch The Walking Dead? It entertains and believe it or not we actually discuss as a family, what we would do in those circumstances. Whether or not we could forget our humanity and survive in that new world?

I hope I never have to find out. Until then there’s always The Walking Dead. And as I side note, my daughter and I will be meeting Darryl Nixon at the Chicago Wizard World this summer. No kidding. It’s all she talks aobut.

 

Top 10 Things I Miss About Being a Stay at Home Mom

Top 10 Things I Miss About Being a Stay at Home Mom

Been there. Done that. Today.

 

I recently got a job. I know, you roll your eyes because you too, work full-time. Well I haven’t worked full-time since before my children were born. That would be sixteen years to be specific. Since then, I’ve been at home, a volunteer in the classroom, running to the doctor’s office, grocery story, Tae Kwon Do, softball, basketball. You get the picture.

The job is contractual and I’m done October 1. I look very forward to it. So in honor of Mother’s Day I thought I’d share a few thoughts about why I miss being a stay-at-home mom and remember they’re in no particular order.

  1. My kids. Actually what I really miss is taking them places. No, I hate driving around for hours at a time. But at least while we’re in the car I have a chance to talk to them. They might not want to talk to me but at least they see and hear me.
  2. Sleeping in. It used to be 8:30 in the morning. Now sleeping in is roughly 5:30am. That is if I don’t have to wash my hair in the morning.
  3. Procrastinating. Yeah there’s something in the idea that there’s always time tomorrow. You might not get as much done but eventually you will.
  4. Napping. That’s self explanatory, because really who doesn’t like a good nap in the middle of the day?
  5. I miss stuff for my kids. I don’t like that. I’ve missed doctor’s appointments and track meets. I can’t always take off and be there, that’s a little disconcerting.
  6. Working on my book for lengthy periods of time. Now I have only a few hours and it might take all that time to finally get into the      groove. Now I have to accept a sentence as being good enough.
  7. Getting all my errands done when no one is around. It’s awfully crowded after work. I much prefer daytime shopping.
  8. Re-runs of Gilmore Girls. Since they’re on at 10 am I’m just not around to watch them. For some reason that show just make me happy.
  9. Not feeling so tired all the time. It’s exhausting getting up early and I can’t quite figure out how to make it to bed before 10:30 pm.
  10. Lunching with the ladies. Okay I really don’t lunch with the ladies but I could if I wanted to when I was at home. It’s simply knowing that makes it  worthwhile.

I’ve gotta admit though, the bonus to working outside the house is continuity, and having a place to go. It’s also about talking to real adults, gaining experience and possibly bringing something to my writing. Though I’m not writing as much as I’d like, I find myself far more productive in other ways and for that, I guess the experience is worth it. Not to mention at the end of the day, there’s always a pay check to enjoy.

It’s a change, and in the end I’m sure I’ll be used to it, just as the contract writing gig winds it’s way down and is done. Happy Mother’s Day!

One Rant and then I’m Done

One Rant and then I’m Done

Okay. I’ll admit, I watched a few minutes of a few episodes of one of the Kardashian’s many mind numbing shows. Not because I was curious but because I wanted to know why. I still want to know why the television audience is bent on a bunch of rich people make asses of themselves? Well actually I think I can figure that one out, besides being totally ridiculous it gives us something to point and laugh at.

I purposely avoid anything to do with any of the reality television stars. I refuse to join their clubs, watch their shows, buy their books, perfume and shoes, because I really don’t want my hard earned cash landing in their talentless pockets. It’s frustrating for me to see how many people are willing to purchase books written by Snookie, Skinny Bitch and Lauren Conrad, when I struggle to get mine noticed.

Frankly at this point I’m simply tired of them baring it all. I really don’t need another naked, pregnant celebrity gracing any magazine covers, or shooting pictures of themselves on vacation, or tweeting about their bling, because I don’t think they’re any better than me except in one major arena. Marketing.

What I think I’ve since discovered is the fact that what they are really good at is marketing themselves. Getting themselves out there, putting it on the line, letting it all hang out.

I try to write a good role, a strong female character who’s real and complex in a world that seems to only value roles models who are self absorbed and lead seemingly meaningless lives in comparison to the rest of us. It’s sad because we can only find strong female role models in the form of science fiction/fantasy characters. Is that because we can only accept them as such in a world that’s not quite so real?

Honestly, I really have no problem with the guilty little pleasure. What I have is a problem when the guilty little pleasure has a bigger presence in the world than it should have for as long as it has, more infamous than famous. Only we can stop the onslaught.

Oka, now I’m done. Is your guilty pleasure really cool, really dorky, really original? Share it here.

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