Two Articles I Wrote on Art as a Parent

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I guess being a parent really does affect how I view art. Yesterday two articles I wrote dropped on different publications, Better Lemons and Dwarf+Giant, a blog of The Last Bookstore LA. I didn’t realize until I shared them to Facebook that both show how I view art differently since becoming a parent.

One is how The Cat in the Hat reads like a manual for child molesters. I thought I’d get more pushback on this story, but so far all comments except one appreciate my argument for removing that book from your collection. Thanks to Dwarf+Giant for publishing this one!

The other is the first in a series, What Theaters Need to Know: Courting Families on Better Lemons, a relaunched Los Angeles arts website. Here I detail how small changes and larger ones can go a long way towards making families feel welcome at your programming. Until you’ve had to change your child’s diaper on a nasty restroom floor while other audience members bang on the door during intermission, you really haven’t lived as a parent.

Stay tuned for some more interesting articles from me……

Book Review: The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

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This review was first published on Dwarf+Giant, a blog of The Last Bookstore.

I just finished Winter, the fourth and final installment of The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer (plus a villain back story and other intertwined short stories).

Usually I don’t want a series that I love so much to end, but Meyer wrung as much story out of these science fiction fantasy fairy tales as I think she could possibly find. All of her related short stories are pretty great, though, and I certainly wouldn’t complain if we pick up on some of these characters a few years from the end of Winter. As far as their lives within the limits of their original fairy tales, however, Meyer is done.

Goodreads is responsible for me finding this series, buying Cinder, then binging on it during an airplane ride cross country while my infant son lovingly complied with his Mama the Bookworm and slept the whole way home.

 

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Cinder

The first in the series, and an excellent example of doling out a story drip by drip, beginning with compelling characters (seriously, where’s the Iko spin off?*). By the time Meyer reveals the real plot point that drives the rest of the series, you don’t know whether to root more for her triumph in that regard (Spoilers!) or for Cinder and Prince Kai to kiss already. Throughout the whole series, whether or not she can have both is constantly brought into question.

This book really had me at Cinder being a cyborg mechanic, and it never lost that excitement with such a retelling. Meyer makes each separate iconic element of the Cinderella stories her own, but so beautifully weaves them into a futuristic fantasy world that the symbols of Cinderella often snuck up on me, making their reveals even more pleasurable. In contrast, something like Gregory Maguire’s Wicked had me looking for his personal touch instead of them all flowing naturally from the story.

One of my favorite changes by Meter is Prince Kai: he turns the damsel in distress cliché on its head. Kai often feels like his hands are tied and all he can do is wait in his castle for others – namely, Cinder – to take action. Although his role in the plot is key as the series develops, Kai can often only take so many steps towards helping the cause before someone has to save him. He is one of the best incarnations of Cinderella’s Prince, who is often given no character development, but at his best has to learn to overcome deep prejudices before he can accept the woman he loves. (Sapsorrow in Jim Henson’s The Storyteller series is actually one of the best examples of Cinderella’s Prince having a real and painful character arc.)

I wish this next point didn’t matter so much, but considering how many Cinderellas are blond, it does. Meyer set Cinder in the Eastern Commonwealth, specifically our China, as an homage to what is thought to be one of the first Cinderellas (where magical fish bones are the original fairy godmother, but that’s another story).

 

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Scarlet

The second book was harder for me to get into at first but worth the wait. I think my struggle is partly to do with how much I adored Cinder, and Scarletstarts in a different place (The European Commonwealth, in France to us) and centers around a human. I didn’t realize how intriguing I found Cinder right away by virtue of the fact that she’s a cyborg until I found it hard to connect with Scarlet.

Once I got over that, Scarlet opened up an entire new dimension of the Lunar Chronicles world, giving more clues to Cinder’s story and introducing Wolf! Scarlet and Wolf’s relationship proves to be very complicated, and once again, much more balanced than the fairy tale romances you know. Add to that an incredible backstory for a kickass Grandmother, and Meyer proves once more that she is no lazy storyteller.

By the time we meet up with Cinder and the charismatic convict Captain Thorne (more on him later), I was hooked, ready for all the adventure and trouble in which our characters find themselves. As opposed to a lot of novels where the ensemble sometimes seems to get into fights just for the sake of having conflict, the internal struggles of our team are well motivated, complex and difficult.

Did I mention Captain Thorne? Ok, good, because next up is Cress.

 

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Cress

This one was probably my favorite to read. I thrilled in all the storylines converging, getting separated then merging again. Plus the reimagining of Rapunzel tickled me in the same way as Cinderella: her tower is a small satellite, and she’s a hacker for Queen Levana, the nemesis of our heroines and heroes.

It’s hard to get into this story without offering spoilers, but suffice to say that Meyer pulls no punches in her interpretation. Cress’s relationship to her captors is complicated; her hair and ‘tower,’ though symbols of her imprisonment, are hard to leave; she must find her way through a desert, and her “Prince” loses his eyesight (the source stories blind him when he falls on a bush of thorns, so then we understand where Captain Thorne falls into the picture).

Thorne and his relationship with Cress (not even moving beyond potential in this novel) brought me right back to school-girl crushes. As great as Prince Kai and Wolf are for Cinder and Scarlet, respectively, Thorne takes the fairy tale romance to a new level. How Meyer creates a deep friendship out of a trope that Cress herself acknowledges is testament to her maturity and concern for her characters – and by extension, her teenage readers.

 

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In between Cress and Winter, Meyer published Fairest, the backstory to our villainess Queen Levana. I haven’t read it yet, possibly to keep something for when I get the itch to return to the world of The Lunar Chronicles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In Cress, we are introduced to Jacin, a Lunar Guard with unclear intentions but seemingly trustworthy, until he isn’t. It turns out that he is the childhood friend and desired love of Winter, our Lunar Snow White. She doesn’t use the mind control gift enjoyed by Lunars because she feels it is immoral, and that has her going mad.

Again, to go into too much detail basically gives the whole series away, but we are treated this time to an entire novel set on Lunar (with a few people en route). All of our ensemble play integral roles and hold their own even as their relationships and characters must fight internal and external forces in order to remove Levana from the throne and stop her from conquering Earth.

WIth Winter and Jacin, we are once again reminded that Meyer can write a damn good love story, a unique story with mutual respect and proving that both females and males can be vulnerable, strong, stubborn, gracious, right, wrong, and above all, equals.

Yet, the love stories are not even the main events in these books. Loyalties are tested and crossed, politics mingle with mind control, and an incredibly devoted team fight through so many dangers that I wonder if Meyer herself knew how to get them out of the traps she herself set.

It was a great ride. I always approach YA asking if it would have impacted me as their target audience, a pre teen or teenager.

I would have read the hell out of this series as a teenager, and made sure all my younger cousins read it too.

Male or female, you should introduce the young adults in your life to The Lunar Chronicles. They are equal parts Firefly, Star Wars and fairy tales.

 

 

*Silly me. Iko has her own graphic novel! lunarstars-199x300

 

Have not read the other supplemental to the series, Stars Above, which is a collection of short prequels and explorations of the Lunar Chronicles world, including a Little Mermaid story and a preview of a Queen of Hearts novel. 

 

 

 

 

The Vet and The Ring

Veterans Day was Friday, and I realized that I don’t have a lot of friends who are veterans*. Two of my cousins (one deployed now), my grandfather’s of course, one deceased Uncle and my Dad in the Navy, one dear friend who was in the reserves (but I remember the day very well when he got his “all clear”), and a friend’s husband (who is one of my favorite people to read on Facebook). I’m sure I know more who I can’t think of right now.

Then I saw my engagement ring. I never really thought about what kind of ring Dan would get me to propose; I honestly never considered we would get married two years after we met. We lived paycheck to paycheck in The Melody, an old apartment complex across from Warner Bros where they used to house their musicians.

I didn’t know that when we visited his family, he had asked his Mom for this ring.
This ring belonged to my mother in law’s mother, who gave it to her when she knew she was dying.
It was Dan’s grandmother’s ring from her first husband, who died in World War II soon after they were married.
They were very much in love, and Dan loved his grandmother very much. I never got to meet her, but he always said we would get along and drink many beers together.
Her photo is one of the only ones we have framed in our kitchen.
After we sang Happy Birthday to Dan on his 28th birthday, he turned around, got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. With a ring I didn’t know he’d gotten, with a sad story I hadn’t yet heard attached to it, with a stone perfectly suited to our tastes.
I feel honored to wear a symbol of love and sacrifice as a symbol of our love and life.
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*I think a veteran technically served active duty, bit anyone willing to enlist is a vet to me.

 

YA Book Review: Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

I’m happy to announce that I’m now reviewing books for Dwarf+Giant, A Blog of The Last Bookstore. My focus is on fairy tales, folk tales and mythology – classics and re-tellings. Follow my reading progress on Goodreads.

This review was originally published on October 14, 2016.

Dorothy Must Die isn’t so much a retelling of The Wizard of Oz as a continuation, an elaboration of Oz after Dorothy became a ruthless dictator and turned her companions into henchmen worthy of The Godfather. Amy is the protagonist, swept into a tornado after her alcoholic mother goes to a tornado drinking party and leaves her to fend for herself. Landing her trailer in Oz, she is assumed to be their saviour, her orders being simple: Dorothy Must Die.

I had a hard time getting into Amy, the protagonist. At first I thought it was because we had so little in common (trailer park vs upper middle class, alcoholic mother vs stable nuclear family); then I realized that I felt too close to her experiences being bullied at school. It hurt too much for me to bear with relating to her. In a lot of ways I wish I reacted to bullying more like Amy did.

Once we’re into the Oz part of the story, I flew through Amy’s journey. Struggling with who to believe and having a real stake in who is good vs who is evil is a pretty great hook. No icon of Oz is left standing here, and you get the feeling there is real danger. I didn’t read the summary to the second book, so to me, it was possible that Amy could have been killed before this book was done. That was a pretty great feeling to have as a reader, that anything was really possible and maybe this time, our heroine wouldn’t overcome her training and doubts.

I do wish there was a little more dimension to Dorothy, but I suppose that’s how the original villain (Wicked Witch of the West) is portrayed in the film…and maybe I’ll find the answer I seek in Paige’s prequels.

Cover Reveal- He Sees You When He’s Creepin’: Tales of Krampus anthology

If you’re anything like me, the slow resurgence of Krampus into mainstream holiday festivities makes you very happy. It makes sense, given our recent freedom to be skeptical and embrace the darker sides of history (often the actual reality versus the mythologies of history we are taught in school). When I grew up in a Catholic school setting, my only alternative to being good was a stocking full of coal. Perhaps they sensed that if I thought I’d get a visit from a half goat, half man, my curiosity would get the better of me.

I look forward to reading this new anthology when it’s out in November!

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Title: He Sees You When He’s Creepin’: Tales of Krampus

Anthologist: Kate Wolford

Publisher: World Weaver Press

Publication Date: November 22, 2016

Book Description:

Krampus is the cloven-hoofed, curly-horned, and long-tongued dark companion of St. Nick. Sometimes a hero, sometimes a villain, within these pages, he’s always more than just a sidekick. You’ll meet manifestations of Santa’s dark servant as he goes toe-to-toe with a bratty Cinderella, a guitar-slinging girl hero, a coffee shop-owning hipster, and sometimes even St. Nick himself. Whether you want a dash of horror or a hint of joy and redemption, these 12 new tales of Krampus will help you gear up for the most “wonderful” time of the year. 

Featuring original stories by Steven Grimm, Lissa Marie Redmond, Beth Mann, Anya J. Davis, E.J. Hagadorn, S.E. Foley, Brad P. Christy, Ross Baxter, Nancy Brewka-Clark, Tamsin Showbrook, E.M. Eastick, and Jude Tulli.

 

Cover Reveal: Covalent Bonds (Geek Romance)

This cover reveal is a little late, but hey, I had a baby.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00001]I’m on page 162 of Covalent Bonds. I do not normally gravitate towards romance as a genre, but Covalent Bonds is a geek romance anthology. It won’t be released until February 14, 2017, so I honestly should be reading another book whose review will be published sooner, but this is too much fun. If I had been into conventions or gaming as a teen, these would be my fantasies.

COVALENT BONDS

Anthology edited by Trysh Thompson

Red Moon Anthologies, Volume Three

It will be out on Valentine’s Day 2017, so stay tuned here for my full review and reminder when it is published!

World Weaver page | Goodreads

ANTHOLOGIST BIO: 

Trysh Thompson has written just about every form of non-fiction you can think of—everything from news, movie reviews, magazine columns, marketing hype, software manuals, and was even an editorial assistant on a gardening book no one has ever read (The 7-Minute Organic Garden—see, you’ve never heard of it, have you?). To keep from being slowly and torturously bored to death by her day job, she turned to fiction as means of escape—reading it, writing it, and editing it.

CONTRIBUTOR BIOS:

 

Wendy Sparrow’s first forays into fiction earned her time-outs, punishment, and “how many times have I told you the Boy Who Cried Wolf story?” But, she persevered. She’s stubborn like that. Now, all her stories have a happily ever after and the lies are sexier and more elaborate. Sometimes, they even contain wolves. (Ha, mom! So there!) She’s active in OCD and autism communities and writes on her blog to support awareness in both. If she’s not writing or wrangling kids, she’s on Twitter, @WendySparrow, where she’ll chat with anyone about anything.

 

From New Mexico to Nebraska to New York to Indiana to Qatar to Washington D.C., Jeremiah Murphy has lived everywhere. And he writes a lot. His work can be found in anthologies such as Fae Fatales, The Dark Lane Anthology, From the Corner of Your Eye, Pagan, and others, as well as at http://www.jrmhmurphy.com.

 

Charlotte M. Ray splits her time between all kinds of gaming, reading and being a wife. Oh, and writing down all those stories that keep plopping up in her mind and won’t leave her alone. She lives (physically) in Finland with her husband and their computers, and (mentally) in whichever imaginary world she is currently occupied with.

 

Marie Piper writes steamy western historical romance, so getting her geek on in Covalent Bonds has been a delight. Her trilogy, Fires of Cricket Bend, is being published by Limitless Publishing, and her short stories have appeared in collections from LoveSlave, House of Erotica, Torquere Press, NineStar Press, and Coming Together. Maidens & Monsters, Marie’s 5-novella old west mystery girl squad serial, is out now. For more information, visit mariepiper.com or @mariepiperbooks

 

Laura VanArendonk Baugh was born at a very early age and never looked back. She overcame childhood deficiencies of having been born without teeth or developed motor skills, and by the time she matured into a recognizable adult she had become a behavior analyst, an internationally-recognized and award-winning animal trainer, a popular costumer/cosplayer, a tabletop gamer, a chocolate addict, and of course a writer. Find her at http://www.LauraVanArendonkBaugh.com

 

Cori Vidae is an editor, anthologist and the founder of Pen and Kink Publishing. She works as an Assistant Editor at World Weaver Press and also occasionally finds time to write things (often Under Glass).

 

Mara Malins is an English writer of romance who battles spreadsheets by day and fiction by night. She lives in Manchester with her menagerie of three cats, two turtles and a long-term partner. She has work forthcoming with Pen and Kink Publishing.

 

Tellulah Darling

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  1. YA and New Adult romantic comedy author because her first kiss sucked and she’s compensating.
  2. Firm believer that some of the best stories happen when love meets comedy and awkwardness ensues.
  3. Sassy minx.

Both a hopeless romantic and total cynic, Tellulah Darling is all about the happily-ever-after, with a huge dose of hilarity along the way. Her romcoms come in a variety of heat levels and flavors; straight up romantic comedy, shaken with Greek mythology or stirred with urban fantasy.

 

G.G. Andrew writes quirky romantic comedy—stories about people who fall in love with the most unlikely person, and who stumble through some awkwardness and ill-advised kisses along the way. An avid nerd, she is a book blogger and host of the Writers Who Read interview series, which features writers sharing what’s on their shelf.

 

Marketing Fails & Immersive Ethics

A few weeks ago, I received an ominous text in the middle of the night:

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Needless to say, I was freaked out. Read the full story on No Proscenium to hear how an immersive marketing scheme backfired big time.

Then head on over to Story Forward, a fantastic podcast I just discovered. Noah J. Nelson of No Pro is on a panel discussing the ethics of immersive experiences. Whether you approach it as an audience member or creator, this is a great listen.

If you’re interested in knowing about immersive productions, escape rooms, etc in your area, here’s where to find NoPro. There’s an expansion to other cities in the works:

Email: no_proscenium@outlook.com (send announcements & tips)
Twitter: @noproscenium (look for between issue updates) 
Facebook: No Proscenium Page (Issue Archives for All Regions)
Medium: The No Proscenium Collection (Reviews and Essays)
Podcast: iTunes and RSS 
Patreon: Support the Newsletter and Podcast
New subscriber sign-up: noproscenium.com