General

Blue Marvel

Marvel has been a large presence in my life for the past sixteen years. And of course, that includes the huge run of blockbusters, even though it started humbly enough, with my dad’s old comics up in Grandma’s attic.

By now, my husband and I are starting to get a little tired of the whole movie thing, though, and it makes me pause to reflect on my favorite titles from the cinematic universe. And the result was a little surprising. My top picks have a distinct element of sadness to them.

To me, that’s surprising, at least, because I will defend happy endings vehemently.  I can rail against other bloggers who claim that Harry Potter is inferior literature because it ends on a happy note. But apparently I like it best when super heroes lose a little.

My favorite is Captain America: The First Avenger. The movie has a lot of heart, but it ends on kind of a double-whammy: Peggy Carter, the Colonel, and Howard Stark mourning their friend and then Cap awakening to almost all of his friends being already dead or in the midst of dying of old age.

Thor ends with the titular hero mourning the loss of his brother and separation from Jane Foster.

Black Panther sees one of his best friends betray him, as well as many within the Wakandan government collaborate with Killmonger, plus the knowledge of his father’s mistake. And there’s the historical baggage prompting some of the plot.

Maybe my fondness for the bittersweet endings stems in part from the fact that I don’t like the silly humor element that is shoehorned into a lot of the Marvel canon. You can argue that it works for Iron Man (I don’t like him, so I’m not the person to ask about those movies). And it definitely works for Guardians of the Galaxy, but it doesn’t work for Thor. It doesn’t work for Dr. Strange.

And while both Black Panther, Thor, and First Avenger have many upbeat scenes with organic humor, they are tonally consistent throughout the movie. Dr. Strange constantly undercuts itself with a forced joke, and as such, has problems with tone. Thor: Ragnarok completely junks established character traits for Thor to make it more like Guardians of the Galaxy.

Finally… bittersweetness means that there are stakes. Marvel has attempted to add stakes to other movies, but being told about the death of a bunch of faceless extras in Eastern-Eurovania doesn’t hold much weight. It’s not like hearing about a real world tragedy on CNN in a real Eastern European country because it’s fiction, and it doesn’t hold much weight dramatically because we have no connection to the dead people. When War Machine falls out of the sky in Civil War, realistically, he should have died. But he lived, just suffering spinal injuries that had been fixed by the time of Infinity War.

And speaking of Infinity War… well, one quick look at the upcoming list of Marvel movies tells us who’s coming out of that alive. The cinema was dead silent when the movie ended, but we all know we’ll be meeting our favorite characters again soon. And it’s a little disappointing.

Going back to my earlier Harry Potter example… by the time “all was well” that happy ending had been amply earned. Characters died, and the heroes suffered to get there. And it could be a difference in mediums, admittedly, because books can do things movies can’t, and vice-versa, but if we want things to work out for our Marvel heroes, they need to earn the eventual ride into the sunset. And what is a sunset but the end of a long, arduous day, with shadows.

And I guess I like the bittersweet endings because all of those elements are found in those movies. They feel complete to me.

Hopefully Infinity War Part 2 will be, too.

Advertisements
Standard
General

Thank You For Your Manners

Not infrequently, I’ll talk to a customer service rep, or a fast food worker, or someone similarly employed in the service industry, and they’ll thank me for being nice to them. It always makes me a little uncomfortable, because they should not have to thank the customers for treating them like human beings. But I understand it. I work in a call center, and I spend most of the day with people either yelling at me or weeping down my neck. I go into work with a stomach ache or shaky hands most days.

It’s such a relief when someone is nice.

And I understand the power setup. The oppressed kick downward, as Blackadder explained to Baldrick (“I kick the dog, who bites the cat, who scratches the mouse, who bites you, since you are the lowest thing on God’s earth”). Customers are upset about their bills, so they take it out on the reps, who are powerless to do anything about it. There’s no Gus to turn loose on bothersome customers, like in the Los Pollos Hermanos training videos.

And, despite how we all like to fantasize about doing with the credit card numbers and other information we have at our disposal, we’re too nice (or need the job too much) to actually act on it. But it gives us something to draw on for that smiling customer service.

So, customers… take a leaf from our book. When you’re angry about something instead of biting off your barista’s head because the cream is too rich, do what we do. Go home and scream into a pillow. Stab a tomato. Write a story about the person who slighted you having to live with their offense in Purgatory, or take up kickboxing.

Be nice to your rep/barista/clerk. Don’t make them want to weep from happiness when they get a thank you. We’ll all be better off for it.

 

Standard
General

In the Full Moonlight

MoonlightCover

Original photo by Michael Samerdyke

I recently put out my third ebook, a short horror novel titled In the Full Moonlight. This is probably the fastest I’ve ever put out a book– probably from inception to posting, it took 13 months. And if I hadn’t waffled so much over the editing phase, it wouldn’t even have taken that long.

Interestingly enough, I got the idea for this novel from a Reddit thread. People were talking about supernatural experiences, and someone wrote in about their grandparents being chased by the rougarou, the Cajun werewolf. I started to write a short story about a werewolf in the American south, and twenty pages later, it wasn’t anywhere close to finished. So I kept writing.

The story follows a young librarian named Caroline Schaffer, who encounters a monster one night while out on a midnight walk. As she recovers from the scare and begins a relationship with a man the incident put her into contact with, she begins to explore the history of the monster and her new community. As events build up, the desire to stay safe conflicts with her wish to do something about it.

Now that I’ve finished this project, I still have a laundry list of other books to complete. My fairy tales, I meant to complete at the end of 2016, but…. In addition to the fairy tales, I have two other horror projects in the works, one involving a vampire and one involving ghouls, as well as a big fantasy project. As I make progress, I’ll post.

In the Full Moonlight is available at the ibookstore (apple.co/2Li4fDL), Barnes and Noble (goo.gl/kepeZV), Kobo, and a few other vendors.

Standard
General

Writing About Writing 1 of…

I can’t believe how long it’s been since I’ve last published something on the blog… eighteen months more or less!

In that amount of time, I got married, moved to a new state in a new timezone, started a new job, and put out another ebook (foreshadowing). That’s two out of the three things newlyweds aren’t supposed to do in the first year of marriage, but we’re not doing Number Three (having a kid) yet.  In all that adjustment and chaos, regular writing got kind of pushed to the wayside, although mostly in recent months, I’ve made up for some of the lost time.

It makes me think a bit about my relationship with writing, actually.

I’ve been a writer since before I could write. When I was really little, I would draw pictures to tell the stories I wanted. And as soon as I actually learned to write, I did. I did that all through school, often as an escape. I kept it up through college, but it wasn’t until I got to graduate school that my personal writing started to slow down. In part I blamed that on my physical and mental health, and I definitely did over the year I was underemployed and essentially in limbo. Almost nothing I wanted got done then.

But then, employed full-time, and finally married, I still didn’t write as much. But the urge was still there.

I write because I have to, and because I love it. But I need something else.

I don’t think it’s necessarily time, although that’s definitely a necessity. I can’t bang out a 100 page novella in a day, and while I can write a 60 page research paper in 17 days, I definitely don’t want to do that again! That one time in grad school was more than enough.

It’s a cliche, and I think a dangerous one, to say writers have to be unhappy to produce good work. And I write good stuff, happy or unhappy. I prefer to not be unhappy, and I think my work is generally better when I’m not weighed down by the world. Besides, if unhappiness meant I’d be more prolific, I’d have composed a second War and Peace from June 2016-June 2017.

Maybe it’s just mental energy. Depression wears you out. Moving wears you out. Starting a new job is tiring. Keeping a job you don’t especially like is tiring. Major life changes in general are just tiring.

Maybe writing is a sign that there’s the potential for things to get better. I don’t want to get overly mystical, but it seems like a possibility. After all, authoritarians want to crack down on ideas, and writing is one way for them to spread. Maybe, as long as we can write, there’s the potential for something better.

And there are always red pencils to help with the actual written material.

Standard
General

Deep in a Glass: Alcoholic Poetry

Cover Art by Nutmeg Nautilus, 2017

I have a new book! Deep in a Glass: Alcoholic Poetry is my first poetry collection, and two of the poems started out as blog posts: “My Danish Love, or an Ode to Vodka” and “Haiku Rosso y Bianco.”

You may find it at Smashwords.com, Barnes and Noble (ebook only), Kobo, and the iBookstore, among others. I am very excited, after publishing nothing for several years.

Because the book is so short, and because I released two of the poems already, there is no sample download. However, you can read the wine and vodka entries here: (https://kathysghost.wordpress.com/2016/09/14/my-danish-love-or-an-ode-to-vodka/) and here (https://kathysghost.wordpress.com/2017/03/06/haiku-rosso-y-bianco/).

My first book, No Rest: A Noir Collection is already available at the aforementioned retailers.

Standard
General

12 Things I’ve Learned From My Students

One of my day jobs involves taking care of kids after school… tutoring, crafts, and a lot of improvisation.

Two sixth-grade girls said I should do a blog-post about each kid. I don’t think that’s a good idea, but a more general blog about working at the school is doable. More specifically, I’ll go into what I’ve learned working with kids. And yes, all of these have happened since January.

  1. Big boobs are something of a liability on the job. (I’m constantly telling kindergartners “personal space, honey!”)
  2. Construction paper robots have to have perfect weddings, with all the trimmings.
  3. Knot-tying is best taught with animal metaphors (“the little eel swims into the cave”).
  4. Not being able to spell “turkey” is a 12-story crisis.
  5. Five AM at Freddy’s is fun, but Home Alone is terrifying. (Who knew?)
  6. Hair clips are surprisingly sharp, and they can cause quite a lot of blood.
  7. They remember and forget bodily autonomy with no set pattern.
  8. Wet paper towels make everything better.
  9. Dolphins and tigers are the most fascinating animals on earth.
  10. I constantly have to drop subtle messages like “moving chairs isn’t just for boys” and “being a girl doesn’t make you a scaredy-cat.” (Thanks, co-worker.)
  11. Asking them if they follow what I just said (like the bad guy in The Sting) gets amazing results.
  12. Most importantly, they know how adults are supposed to behave and remember when the adults in their lives (or the President) don’t live up to that standard. (Just for the record… they volunteered their disdain for the creature sitting in the Oval Office. I guess that means there’s hope for the future.)
Standard
General

Defining a Villain

Mr. Auric Goldfinger… widely regarded to be the best Bond villain, although not my personal favorite.

A brief glimpse into how my Borg-like mind works… recently I thought of making a list of my favorite Bond villains, but I’ve only sat through nine Bond films in their entirety (Goldeneye made me mad enough to turn it off within 20 minutes). But it gave me the idea to do a post about villains, and what makes one. And what doesn’t. No matter what the AFI’s Top 100 Heroes & Villains list says, the shark in Jaws is not a villain (the real villain of Jaws is clearly capitalism– just kidding!– sort of).

I’m getting ahead of myself.

The ever-faithful Oxford English Dictionary defines “villain” thusly: Originally, a low-born base-minded rustic; a man of ignoble ideas or instincts; in later use, an unprincipled or depraved scoundrel; a man naturally disposed to base or criminal actions, or deeply involved in the commission of disgraceful crimes (“villain, n.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2017. Web. 3 April 2017).

Class still plays a big part into the hero vs villain dynamic (a lot of heroes were born with a silver spoon and villains tend to have built up their empires from the ground, especially in comic books), but “villain” doesn’t necessarily mean lower-class anymore. So let’s throw that part of the definition out.

More interesting is that the definition of villain is very gendered… a villain is a “man” pretty much every time. I had to scroll all the way down the OED’s page to find a note that says the definition applies to womyn as well. My spelling, not theirs. But obviously, anyone of any gender can be a villain. And probably some of the first villains kids encounter were female: the witch from Hansel and Gretel, the step-mother in Cinderella, the queen from Snow White, Professor Umbridge…. But the male villain is still what most people associate with the title. Googling “top movie villains” as I write, I see one female villain– Annie Wilkes from Misery. It takes a couple clicks to get to Nurse Ratched, Alex Forrest, and the Wicked Witch of the West. (Disclaimer– Google is changeable, but  my point is still valid.)

The rest of the definition concerns being unprincipled, depraved, and association with crime. The “crime” part of the definition is interesting, and certainly many villains are associated with it. Returning to the James Bond example, SPECTRE is obligingly clear about their motives (Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion is their anagram). It’s even a little too on-the-nose.

The definition of crime itself is a knotty one. After all, as the memes point out… slavery was legal. And O’Brien from 1984 is a horrifying villain, but everything he does is legal and encouraged under Big Brother’s regime.

So it seems being “unprincipled” and “depraved” are the best ways to determine a villain. It’s still a bit knotty there, but then you can have a “straight-edge” villain who still has people messily murdered as a point of pride. Or the villain might not kill anybody, but still causes pain just because they can (which shows a lack of principles).

And of course, a chilling smile or laugh always helps. But it is almost overdone, so not a requirement.

Standard