Monday, August 12, 2019

Heroes and Villains: Know Your Origins... It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's ...

This is a re-post from my now-closed Word Press blog and part of a Heroes and Villains series, exploring the history, pop culture, viewing, reading, and writing of heroes and villains. Enjoy!

Can you finish the phrase?
It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s ...*
One of the oldest comic book heroes has an introduction we all recognize. 
But did you know, Superman didn’t always fly?
Upon his creation, Superman was only super-strong and his super-strength made him able to run fast (faster than a speeding bullet) and jump high (leap tall building with a single bound) because he came from a planet with heavier gravity than earth’s gravity. (And, actually the first time he was inked, he wasn’t a hero at all, but a villain instead … but then, the comic creators changed their minds.)
Every superhero has an origin story, not just the origin story of his or her powers and weaknesses, but also his or her origins in written history. Superman’s story has been with us since the late 1930s and it has been told and retold like Cinderella’s story has been told and retold. We like to retell stories that resonate with us and by retelling them, we make them our own.
Superman’s powers have shifted and morphed, his character has developed differently in certain settings, and even his backstory has evolved over time. Personally, I like one of the newer renditions of his parents in which his mom has become a self-made expert on astronomy and life in the universe as she has spent years researching the origins of her adopted son. It makes sense to me as a mom and as a mom of today.
We retell our favorite stories not to ruin them, but to expand on them and share our love of them with others. Those favorite stories often inform our shiny new stories which have been built on the foundations of our favorites.

One thing that remains the same in every Superman rendition: he is a baby sent away by his parents to live on a faraway planet. They do this to save his life. There have been studies done to show how this actually reflects an even older story from the Bible, in which Moses is sent by his family to live with Pharoah's family. In the Superman/Moses parallel, both of these heroes rise to save their people (Superman saves Earth, Moses saves his people from slavery). 


1. Every hero/villain has an origin story, both in their own fictional world, and in how they came to the page.

2. It's okay if your villain becomes a hero, or vice versa, in multiple drafts of your story writing. You are in charge of the outcome of your story. You don't know where your ideas will take you sometimes and it's okay to explore before you have it all nailed down in a final draft.

3. If you don't have every detail figured out right away, it's okay. I know this sounds a little free-wheeling and that might make plotters nervous, but I have seen a few writers who have expanded back story and world-building details as their series of work has expanded. I've seen this in Anne McCaffrey's Pern series, in John Flanagan's Ranger's Apprentice series, Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar series, and more. It's possible to know just what you need to tell the story of one novel or one section of a series, knowing you can expand in the next book.

4. Many heroes have roots in faith, myth, and legend. We don't create in a vacuum. We create based on experience, knowledge, stories we've seen and heard, and more. Superman has some similarities to Moses. Who does your hero/protagonist emulate? What favorite story foundations are you working with?

For more information about Superman and other superheroes, I recommend taking the free online Edx course: The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact on Pop Culture. I don’t get any kickback from this. It’s a course I took and one that was recommended to me by another author. The course is through the Smithsonian and features guests like the late Stan Lee. If you want, you can pay money to get a certificate that proves you took the course, but you can also sign up for free and take it for free.

Do you like superheroes? If you do, do you know their origin story of how they came to the page or screen? Do you have an origin story for how your hero/protagonist came to the page? 

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

IWSG August 2019

Many thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh, all of the administrators, and the blog co-hosts this month for making the IWSG an awesome place to hang out, let our worries fly free, and gain/give some encouragement!

My post will be super short this month as I'm currently cheering my lungs out at the American Canoe Association Flat-water Sprint Canoe and Kayak US Nationals in Georgia. (Can you hear me from where you are?) I will be commenting for IWSG sporadically, at best.

BTW, for an quick update on my kayaking daughter: she has friends who went to the Pan American Championships and Junior/Senior Worlds, but she elected to not go to trials and to save for college this fall. She is competing at Nationals.

Has your writing ever taken you by surprise? For example, a positive and belated response to a submission you'd forgotten about or an ending you never saw coming?

My writing surprises me all the time. Okay, maybe not "all" of the time, but much of the time. I went back to look through (purge) some of my old journals and found some writing gems I decided to keep - a simile, a few poems, a novel. They were better than I remembered - surprise! 

Has your writing every surprised you?

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

End of July 2019 Update

These posts started with reading updates for "fun" then I decided to add in my viewing updates, then my writing and pursuit of publication updates. These are all areas which intertwine in my pursuit of story-writing craft, publication, and the art of story. 


Non-fiction always takes me ages to read. I linger over several non-fiction books at a time, and sometimes a non-fiction book will take me years to read. However, these are some current notables: 

Language in the Schools: Integrating Linguistic Knowledge into K-12 Teaching edited by Kristin Denham and Anne Lobeck has an accurately descriptive title. The book is a collaborative look at "how basic linguistic knowledge can inform teachers' approaches to issues in the multicultural, linguistically diverse classroom." (Quote from the blurb). The two professors who edited this book were two of my top ten teachers at Western Washington University (and they still teach there). I didn't finish this book so it will just be something I dip into over the next several months. (purchased book)

GRIT: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth is a non-fiction book I picked up at Costco after reading an article in the Costco magazine (yes, someone reads those articles). In short, I thought I might need to read this book, then I buried it on my desk, re-earthed my desk, re-found this book, and so far it has hit the right spot.

Some quotes from GRIT:

"Even if some of the things they had to do were boring, or frustrating, or even painful, they wouldn't dream of giving up. Their passion was enduring" (page 8).

"... as much as talent counts, effort counts twice" (page 34).

The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars by Dava Sobel is a library book and, thankfully, it has an easy-to-enjoy narrative style and explains the technical jargon en route through the story so I am reading through it a little faster than the average non-fiction book. It's a fascinating look at the history of the women and men who discovered and cataloged the nature of the stars between the late 1800s and the 1950s with some notes up to 2005. So far, I would give it a 5/5.


Coraline by Neil Gaiman. Wow. Beautiful, haunting - a grim fairy tale come to life on the page. This book was recommended to me by a student and it reminded me of the work of Roald Dahl and the Grimm Fairy Tales intermixed. (library book, plan to purchase)
Highly Recommended! 5/5.


This section is both for enjoyment and research, as I intend to write a graphic novel script soon.

Angel Catbird by Margaret Atwood, Johnnie Christmas, and Tamra Bonvillain. I liked the premise, but for some reason I didn't love this comic book/graphic novel by Margaret Atwood - I really wanted to, but just didn't. (From the library.) 3.5/5

Nova: Burn Out written by Sean Ryan is a Marvel comic. I came into the story series partway through, but I enjoyed it. (I got this from the library.) 4/5

Foiled written by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Mike Cavallaro. This urban fantasy graphic novel for MG/YA readers had a fun mix of fencing terminology, first crush romance, and fantasy. (library) 4.5/5

Curses! Foiled Again by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Mike Cavallaro. For some reason, I enjoyed this second book in the Foiled series far more than the first. I really enjoyed seeing Aliera and Avery grow as characters and understanding more about how the fairy and human world are mixed up together. (library) 5/5

Knights of the Lunch Table: The Dodgeball Chronicles by Frank Cammuso is a MG graphic novel that I just loved! Maybe I'm mentally a MG reader of graphic novels, who knows? I felt like the clever dialogue and story-line were just awesome!
(Also from the library, but I'm thinking about purchasing my own copy because I liked it so much!)
Highly Recommended to any reader with a sense of humor!
5/5 Dodgeballs! (My favorite graphic novel of the month!)


Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep is a beautifully written, action-packed, intense epic fantasy. The world-building is embedded so flawlessly that I slowed down, went back, and re-read chapter one just because I thought "I want to write like this!" Lady Everleigh aka Evie is from a kingdom steeped in gladiator tradition but she's never been to the games, never had to fight anyone outside of training, until one of her cousins betrays their kingdom and attempts to assassinate everyone in the royal family to get the throne. Evie, with her secret immunity to magic, barely survives long enough to fall in with a gladiator troupe, which is in part a circus act and in part a deadly force to be reckoned with. Evie doesn't know what to do, but she knows she'll never let anyone put her in a corner again.
(I got this book from the library, but I want to purchase it.) 5/5 Highly recommended.

Hidden by Donna Jo Napoli is an action-packed historical fiction novel based on the legend of Alfhild, the first Norse woman pirate. Starting with a story of survival after escaping from slavers, 8-year-old Brigid is renamed Alf by her new family - a family that seems to despise her at times. I loved how this novel combined Alfhild's love for her family, her loyalty, her anger, and her compassion. (library) 5/5.

Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kirstoff is an action-packed science fiction novel with satisfying character arcs and development for each of the crew members, as they each deal with an unexpected catalyst - a girl rescued from inter-dimensional space who has been drifting there for hundreds of years and claims to be from a colony that never existed. I really appreciated how the writers captured each character's individual voice in point of view chapters. 5/5 Recommended.


Poisoned by the Pier by Ellen Jacobson is the third in a series of cozy mysteries following the adventures of reluctant sailor Mollie McGhie and her cat Mrs. Moto. 
I really enjoyed the two previous cozy mysteries in the Mollie McGhie series, but I loved Poisoned by the Pier! 
With quirky characters, twisty turns, and a bit of redemption for some of the characters, Poisoned by the Pier has everything needed for a clean, cozy mystery read! 
Highly Recommended to readers with a sense of humor and readers with a love of cats (and dogs). (E-book purchase) 5/5 Chocolate Cupcakes!


This is not the whole list, just the notables.

Spiderman: Far From Home - This is an action-packed fun with a chance for Peter Parker to make mistakes, sorrow over the loss of Iron Man but still give us plenty of chances to laugh, develop his friendships, and have a few awkward moments with a girl he loves. It's a great mid-trilogy film! 5/5 Favorite film of the month!

Stranger Things Season 3 - Continuing the adventures of Eleven and all of the original cast, this show is a family favorite (I have young adult children). I loved the way this season brought everyone together, brought new faces to the show, and deepened the relationships. I also hope there's a Season 4! 5/5 Favorite Series of the Month!


Oy. It's been sporadic. One awesome day, two missing days, a few mediocre days, and so forth. I haven't kept my goal for Camp NaNoWriMo. I'm far behind. But yet, I'm glad I tried it.

Words Written as of the 30th: 23,000 for the month, this includes a non-fiction article, an idea for a short story, some work on a novel, and a bit of journal writing.


0 for 0. I didn't send anything new out. I did receive a few rejections. Currently, I have one short story out there on submission, and then ... I need to start sending novel queries again. Maybe August will be a more productive month.