Sunday, August 30, 2015

Smallville Rewatch, Episode 1.02 Metamorphosis

The format is still evolving. I'll post about 3 of these this week to catch up, and then one a week after that.

Previously on Smallville... A recap of last episode.

Note: Clark's watching of Lana is still creepy.

Exterior, night, the Lang house.

Kid in a tree, filming Lana as she tosses a tiara into a drawer full. Impressive for a Freshman. She opens a plain brown paper box on her bed, and it's full of butterflies. they flit around her and stalker!boy films it, seeming pleased at her expression of delight.

He drives an old style Volkswagen Beetle, heading for home. Greg's mom confronts him about his taping of Lana and his bug collecting. She is, as is typical of small towns, more concerned with her own reputation and comfort level than the invasion of Lana's privacy. But she has had it and plans to call a military academy and send him away.

His butterflies are gorgeous, but rather too green. He's got meteor rocks in some of the habitariums. Thinking to take his collection somewhere save, he loads them all into his beetle but a stop sends one to the floor. The swarming wasps cause him to have a car accident, and the screams continue from the glowing green interior of the Volkswagen.

So, this is our set-up. Creepy stalker kid with a passion for bugs, gets hit with bug bites and stings compounded by meteor rocks. It's our first true Freak of the Week episode.

A cricket crawls on his broken glasses. A poster reads "Greetings from Californication" as Mom comes looking for him, only to find the habitariums gone. (this will be important later) Greg, looking about 30, sporting a lot of stings and marks, is plaster in the corner of the ceiling.

Opening Credits. The six kids: Tom, Kristen, Michael, Eric, Sam and Allison are billed. Annette gets a "With" credit and John gets an "As" credit. (I had to go to TV Tropes for this next bit, and I escaped unscathed) Tom Welling has top billing, because he is Clark Kent. The "With Annette O'Toole" indicates she is a better known actor, but has a smaller part. The "As" credit is much the same. Coming last, it means they are banking fairly heavily on John Schneider's name. More credits. This is first season, John Glover is still being credited as a guest star. Since he's not, expect no Luthor tension.

Chad Donella is Greg Arkin, the bug boy. He's been in Final Destination, Shattered Glass and Taken 3

Flying montage, right into Lana's room, where she is sleeping in a pretty white camisole embroidered in pink and yellow. She's on her back, her hair is perfect. She isn't snuggled down, drooling into the pillow with bedhead. He's hovering over her bed. She says "It's all your fault, Clark." Then Martha calls his name, Clark wakes and lands face first on his own bed, breaking it.

I've heard about sex dreams, but that was a lulu. Flying is nearly always a sex indicator, as is the presence of Lana. The fact Clark has actually achieved levitation indicates he'll be washing those jeans out before breakfast.

Homecoming banter at the farmer's market. And Clark brings the bitchery! Whitney tries passing the scarecroww bit off as a joke, but Clark isn't having it. he wants Lana's necklace back and Clark tells him to go to the cornfield and find it.

Lana is admiring stained glass butterflies when Greg steals up on her. he looks a l;ot better without the glasses and ferocious acne. This whole bit lends credence to my theory that Lana is herself a meteor mutant whose power is making everyone fall stupidly in love with her. And on some level she knows this, because when he proposes working on his paper at his house, she says library. His flat stare and intensity make him scary, even when asking for homework help. Whitney shows up to do the macho possessive thing.

And Lex appears, plucking an apple out of Clark's basket, complimenting him on his taste in women, and inquiring about the previous night. "You were tied to a stake in the middle of a field. Even the Romans saved that for special occasions."

Jonathan hesitates, but shakes Lex's hand this time. Lex comments on this. He stares after Lana, while taking a particularly large and symbolic bite from the apple.

Whitney is driving alone. Greg leaps into and then out of a tree, landing on the roof of Whitney's Ford truck. Whitney goes through a LOT of trucks this season and this may be the first casualty. Yep, it ends on its side, roof caved in, windows and windshield broken. Whitney unconscious on the airbag and a small fire on the undercarriage.

The Kents happen along. Jonathan grabs his extinguisher, but Clark is already pulling Whitney out. The truck explodes and Clark shelters Whitney with his own body. (That sounds a lot gayer than it is. OTOH, They're practically spooning in the middle of the road and Clark has his arms around Whitney as the fireball overtakes them) Jonathan burns his hand touching Clark's shoulder, but Whitney isn't even singed. Clark's sooty.

Father/Son talk time. He's worried about freaking Martha out. And he confesses the floating thing, wanting explanations. "As soon as you start breaking the law of gravity, we're in uncharted territory." Clark is afraid of the things that are happening.

Cut to Luthor Mansion and Lex examining the necklace before putting it into a box.
Cut to Lana on her horse, galloping and then walking him into the stables. Lex is there and offers advice. She's already seen more of Lex than Lex is comfortable with, after catching him skinny dipping about 5 years before. (And why would Lionel be having Nell stay over?)
The conversation is a lot of Lex playing dumb, getting answers that he already knows from Lana. And he drops the suggestion she ask about what Whitney was doing before the game.

This is typical Lex behavior. Many times, I think he's asking to see how honest people will be so he knows how to treat them. A hazard of growing up around a pathological liar. Lana's candor in this scene seems to have won him over.

Greg's mom comes home to find the heat set at 103. Her white walls are covered with handprints and Greg's room is full of webs. Greg, looking disturbingly like Christian Bale, shows up, shirtless, and possibly entirely naked. A brief, fairly brutal scene with a lot of unsavory implications, ends with him spewing webbing.

Clark examines Lex's mock up of the Siege of Troy. It was a gift when Lex was 9 to prepare him to enter the modern battlefield of business. Because it's Troy, he gets in a bit about a Whitney stringing Clark up out of jealousy. As he stands entirely too close... and he works those eyebrows. Also, his face is looking down while his eyes are looking up at Clark. This is classic flirtation, but again, a feminine position
(Note: it's always "The Quarterback" never Whitney or Fordman.)

Lex tosses out a sociopathic suggestion, that Clark should have let Whitney die in the accident. It would solve his problems. He rounds on Clark to check the response and reminds Clark he's kidding. Except he looks totally earnest. He then offer's Lana's necklace to Clark and observes that Clark is completely NOT fine around that necklace. The box is made of lead, and when it snaps shut, Clark is back to himself.

Lana confronts Whitney about the scarecrow. Whitney confesses he's lost the necklace.
And now Greg waylays her. She forgot the study date. He has a jealousy reaction over Clark.

Clark, meanwhile is experimenting with the necklace, only to find Lana in his loft. His "fortress of solitude". Clark asks why she's there. She apologizes for the scarecrow thing, even though it's not her fault. We get the story of the necklace again.

"Life is about change. Sometimes it's painful. Sometimes it's beautiful. Most of the time, it's both."

Cut to Greg sloughing off skin in the shower. Eww.

Jonathan is fixing a disc harrow. Clark comes down to help, and Greg jumps him. They hunt for Greg in the rafters. Greg pushes Jonathan through the loft rail, directly over the harrow. (saw this one coming. Lots of dangerous stuff on a farm) Clark gets between Jonathan and the harrow, bending several discs out of shape.

Clark is an expensive person to have around. He can do chores in 5 minutes flat, but he is destructive in the process of saving people.

Kent parents and Clark trying to figure out what is going on. Clark and Pete used to hang out with Greg in grade school. Now, Greg is leaving gooey green footprints on their barn ceiling.
"I dunni, seems kind of out there."
"This coming from a man whose been hiding a spaceship in the storm cellar for the last 12 years." I adore Martha's sass.

Clark tells Jonathan about the Wall of the Weird. He blames himself for the meteor shower. Jonathan suggests LuthorCorp is responsible for the weirdness. Cue serious bit of talk about feelings and being human.

School. Clark checks with Chloe about Greg. Brief cuteness.Then Research.

Greg's house. It's a mess, at odds with his neat freak mother. We hear about the tree fort. Chloe does B&E. They find bits of Greg in the drain. They piece together that Lana is in danegr, and find Greg's desiccated mother.

Whitney comes to talk to Lana. Jealousy caused him to choose Clark for the scarecrow. Greg shows up, tosses Whitney into a stall and approaches Lana who has the sense to be afraid.
Clark finds Whitney and they're off to the rescue together.

Or not. Clark gave directions and vanished as Whitney started up his new truck.

Lana under webbing. Greg is observing. And Clark is trying to reason with him. Greg knocks Clark out of the treehouse, and vaults the foundry fence. The foundry was hit in the meteor shower, so it's full of rocks. Clark is very sick when Greg hits him with the iron pipe.

fight and chase scene. Clark takes refuge in a lead crucible. Greg pulls the wrong chain and gets squashed into millions of smaller bugs.

Whitney rescues Lana from the web. Clark watches him get the hug and cuddle.

Clark hangs the necklace on her doorknob and vanishes.

Death toll: 2. Greg and Mrs. Arkin
Property damage: Whitney's truck, the disc harrow, Greg's Beetle, Clark's bed.

Information gained: Clark is very allergic to meteor rocks. They make his veins glow green. Lead blocks them out. Lana knows what Whitney's capable of. Lex discovers he likes Lana. And Clark can levitate, but only when sleeping.

Not a terrible episode. It's not as rich as they will become, but for a new show trying to find its feet, this is a good one off.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Smallville Rewatch Ep 1.01, Pilot

On Dreamwidth, some of us are doing a Smallville watch and discussion. The show is 13 years old.
I'll be reposting my commentary here.  The format changes over the first few episodes, so bear with me as I find my stride,

Episode 1.01, Pilot

Commenting as I watch:
Establishing shot is great. Subtle, in that if you're not paying attention you miss the afterburners.

Less than a minute in and I already ache for Lex. I want to cuddle him and tell him it's all right, helicopters are noisy and scary, and he needs to be wearing his ear protection. Parental pressure sucks. (also, Gene Wilder is shouting in my head "Destiny, Destiny, no escaping, that's for me!")

The bit with Lana and Martha in the flowershop is heartbreaking, knowing what's coming. And I kinda hate Nell. She manages to convey her desire for Jonathan and her contempt of Martha in five short lines.

And Annette is so beautiful. Just saying that right here. Schneider has aged since leaving Hazzard county but not badly. He's only 42 in this episode. (for reference, I was 35 when this aired) With a few expressions, he makes it clear Jonathan is clearly the former big man on campus, quarterback and all of it.

The colors are intense. The town is all red and yellow with that one oddly Spanish/Moorish building (they must not be far from Kansas City) right there. Very 1950s wholesome small-town looking. And Lex heading into the cornfield, his red hair the same color as the corn tassels, stark against the green.

The scarecrow... I used to think this was an anomaly, a cruelty specific to the comic book universe (and an excuse later to get Welling down to his boxers) As I've read in the years since, this falls very much in line with male tribal/pack behavior.

Okay, Langs, it's one thing to stare at the smoke trail. It's another to stare at the meteorite coming right at YOU! One point for carrying the stupid ball.

The worry changing to revulsion on Lionel's face. He does love his son, even as he has great plans for the boy, and now... now it may all be futile. We see a man whose future and dynasty may be crumbling around him. There's panic mixed in with the revulsion.

Tiny bare feet and big blue eyes. Meep. And the ship has changed shape since the pilot.


Cut to present. Clark is researching super strength phenomenon, a very David Banner moment. And I love Martha being harried as she tries to get everyone around. The milk bottle gag is great.

That even someone as good looking, tall and clear skinned as Clark thinks he's a total loser is interesting messaging. It speaks to our insecurities as teens.

Chloe comes off like a slightly hyperactive Willow Rosenberg. I adore her from the moment she appears. And Pete's off handed Scooby comment is perfect. Her reaction to the scarecrow tradition, "years of therapy waiting to happen" is also spot on.

Lana's meteor rock necklace... That's morbid as all get out. and "Statistical fact, Clark Kent can't get within 5 feet of Lana Lang without turning into a total freakshow." He doesn't know what's causing it. This also establishes Whitney as the current BMOC, getting his girlfriend to check his homework, lording it over the others.


And the bridge wreck. after seeing the computer simulation for several seasons, the scene itself is gut wrenching. We've all had bad moments behind the wheel, but this, and the fear on both boys' faces at impact, just left me a little queasy.

Clark doing CPR with no hesitation and Lex looking as if he's just seen an angel. No wonder it is an iconic slash ship.

"I could have sworn I hit you."
"You did hit me. You did." (right in the feels. There is no sub in this text)

Jonathan refusing to shake Lex's hand is a big bit of male symbolism. Men of his generation, and Lex's station, always shake hands. To refuse to do so shows you think someone is beneath contempt. It establishes his anger, his dislike of Lex and his position (again) as the male authority on the show.

The telescope thing, very Rear Window, but very creepy.
Whitney comes off as self-aware, ambitious. He knows that football stars are replaceable, there's a new one very year or two, and most of them don't ever make it out of their small towns. (Our own senior class quarterback is now the football coach at my old high school) They work and drink beer and never do much more than talk about their glory days in high school and maybe college. He wants more.

We're 20 minutes into the episode and we're just now getting some plot, instead of introductions. One of those "remember whens" Whitney was talking about. And he has learned nothing in the intervening 12 years.
He starts off insulting and confrontational and then quickly retreats behind "it was just a game, just a joke" after being shocked. This guy is Schroedinger's douchebag.

The sporty little red truck from Lex is a nice gesture (a bit grand, but hey, Luthors), but the look on Martha's face says he won't get to keep it.

Woodchipper. Never a good item in a scene. Someone's arm is going in that before the end.

Also, Jonathan wears proper safety gear. Now I want to do a Goofus and Gallant style cartoon strip. "Lionel arrogantly refuses to wear his ear protectors in the helicopter. Jonathan wears all his protective gear when operating heavy machinery." And just as a side note: an old piece of fic I beta'd in 2003.

Yep, Clark's arm into the chipper.
And now for the father/son talk.
"I suppose you stashed my spaceship in the attic?"
"Actually, it's in the storm cellar." Jonathan's calm, slightly embarrassed confession makes this scene.

The scene in the graveyard with Lana... Her Canadian accent is really strong. This one is a little morbid, but kind of cute. They're using her dead parents as a way to communicate, all the things they haven't been able to say to each other before now. And I love how fast Clark denies being upset about a boy.

The scene with Lex fairly pants with seduction. First the fencing lesson and the sword impaling the wall next to Clark. Lex stripping off his jacket and letting the suspenders fall as a prelude to taking off the padded trousers. The look in the mirror that goes on a beat or three too long, becoming vain and seductive instead of just a statement of fact. And "How about you Clark? Did you fall far from the tree?" There is nothing innocent or friendly in that smile.

Somehow the baldness makes Lex feminine. I'm sure there are endless papers about that. But I'm watching him move, very controlled, very conscious of every move, and very sexual. (I've been watching Michael Rosenbaum in "Impastor" and he moves completely differently as Buddy.) His voice is soft, sweet. Not a "hail-fellow-well-met," but "let me tell you secrets--like the flying during his near death experience--and look at you because you are shy and beautiful."

The gaze timing is perfect. It doesn't run long enough to make watchers uncomfortable (see the Hoth hangar scene) but it is quite intense.

Wall of the Weird. That is all

And at 34 minutes, we have hit the first Superman=Jesus moment. It's not the only one and it won't be the last.

Not going there. No. Lex is having a bad flashback night. I find the speed of his unknotting unrealistic. (okay, kid with superspeed, sure, untying ropes in seconds...oops) And Lex has his first piece of Kryptonite.

Although Jeremy and his vengeance are supposed to be the plot, he gets less than ten minutes of screen time as he tries to go Carrie on the Homecoming dance. (Chloe is having a blast with Pete. Lana and Whitney are being perfect and plastic)

So the players are all on stage, the relationships are established.
And Clark knows he's not human. It's not a terrible pilot.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Magic in the DJ universe

I write an Urban Fantasy series. And this questionnaire came over my tumblr.

So, let's talk about magic in my Urban Fantasy 'verse, where werewolves drive trolleys and teach New England Transcendentalist lit classes, where vampires are the shadow government, where biker mages deal with Nightside threats and where Cthulhu and other Great Old Ones seek readmission to our world (which is handy for the buses and closer to the shops)

(covers link to buy pages)

How is it learned and executed?

Magic is learned through schooling. A human child who exhibits power is tracked by the local wizards, until age 9-12. Then they are tested. This looks like any ordinary school testing. It is decided whether or not to train the children then. A child with some magic who is not promising (or of the wrong ethnicity) will be left to wither, becoming a No-Talent. No-Talents aren't human enough to live with normal people and aren't magic enough to survive on the Nightside.

"No-Talents like me go out one of three ways: a spike in the vein, pickled in the bottle or ripped apart by something Nightside. I wasn't guessing the first, but those who knew me had their bets on the other two."

 A child from a family of wizards will begin training in the cradle, especially fire mages. They tend to have a bit of a head start on those whose magic isn't a dominant trait. But it evens out by their twenties.

There is a strong hereditary component in magic. Many women are breeder witches, who are encouraged to have a lot of kids, starting quite young. They often have talents as doulas and healers, and all learn other forms of magic to practice and teach the kids. Moira McKay, a powerful Scottish breeder witch has 13 children, including 2 combat mages (one the first to retire in a century, the other the most powerful of his generation), a breeder, a necromancer, and others. She herself is a powerful talismonger in her 90s. Male breeders are more uncommon, but there are some.

Because of the high risk, male combat mages are expected to bank sperm each year. Female ones are required to have two children after training and before being assigned to a unit. Most combat mages don't have the right personalities for families, or even long-term partners, so the kids end up being raised by a breeder sib.

Kids are encouraged to get their basic learning out of the way. Magic training begins about 12-13, and is mostly extra-curricular.  At 15, combat mages are encouraged to get a GED or equivalent and start actual combat training. (those who delay until high school graduation, or worse, college, run the risk of losing all their power)  Breeders are encouraged to have their first child about 17.

Execution is simply bending mana to the user's will. Some need more ritual than others. Some store spells in objects for later use.

How is it accessed?

Will power, primarily. Imagine the ward, draw it in the air with your finger and open your eyes to see the pretty blue lines you made. Take aim, conjure the fire in your mind and scorch your target flat. Visualize your desired person, and talk to them. If they have a dab of mana, they'll hear. Visualize a double of yourself and send it to visit (sending a fetch) relatives clear around the world.

Does it have a will of its own?

Mana is much like the Force. It can nudge a user, or even compel her, but he also controls it. The mana works as an aphrodisiac bringing a couple together and smoothing the way for them to get together physically. But the couple can fight it, and do on several occasions. The magic isn't sentient, but it flows with events and shapes them at the same time.

Is it restricted in space and time?

It is to a degree. Spells have a limited range and duration. If you throw a small fireball, it will go only a certain distance, set stuff on fire and burn out. You cannot pull magic from a different time. However, mages from all over the world can send their power to a specific spot if needed.

What does available magic do?

Whatever the user needs it to. It can show the future, be used in battle, summon or banish demons, control the Fae (if briefly), move objects, make things visible or invisible, and travel between planes.

How does it relate to the character, plot and theme of the book?

Our lead is a No-Talent. So she has to deal with the derision of the magic folk she works with. Not having magic makes her job harder. She has enough to use magical objects, like banishing talismans, and to be aware of the magical world around her.

What is the cost of magic?

Magic is energy. Casting takes energy out of the caster, even if they are mostly channeling the power around them. A hard session leaves a caster hungry, thirsty and tired. Combat can also leave them jacked up, as if on stimulants, and very horny.

What can it not do?

It can heal, even if one is at death's door, but it cannot bring back the dead. It cannot make solid objects.  It is energy, and converting energy into mass is a pain.

How long does it last?

Most of the spell effects I've been working with are short term things: fireballs and such. Wards and illusions can last for weeks, months or even years, depending on the caster. Visions tend to be fairly brief, (DJ has about 2-5 seconds' worth of precognition, set about 2-5 minutes ahead) Banishment tends to be permanent, until the creature finds another path back in.

Who can use it?

Anyone who can access the mana. That means mostly those born into magical families, but some born to human parents as well.

How do others react to it?

Magic users tend to be delighted about other mages, to a degree. Combat mages, especially itinerant ones, are not welcomed by law enforcement. Some are old-fashioned and stodgy and secretive. Others are "Welcome aboard for a wild ride."  Humans for the most part won't see magic, even when it's staring them in the face. They don't know the signs that someone is a werewolf. People see what they expect to much of the time, and nobody expects pixies zipping around a McDonald's.

Then again, combat mage. He carried it around him like Marines carry their attitude or really wealthy people wear their money. He’d dialed it back after the entrance, but the power just rolled off him.

I’d seen mages that powerful before. They’d walk down the street and people would get out of their way without even seeing them. If you asked the passerby later, they’d have said it was body odor or something. Most people didn’t know magic when they saw it or felt it.

Excuses are almost always made when something large happens.

Jackson nodded. “You’ve tangled before then?”

I just pointed to my face. “Chernobyl. 1986.” We’d covered up my failure with the tale of a nuclear-power-plant accident, but people had still died. That was on me, all the deaths, and the magic, not the radiation, had rendered the place unlivable.

Why haven’t people with this power taken over the world?

They have. The humans just don't know it yet. The ones in charge are often born to human parents, so they regard themselves as humans who can do magic, instead of mages first. This is deliberate. It fosters a benign policy toward ordinary people--our parents, sisters and brothers--and keeps the monomaniacal ones from revealing the Nightside and turning humans into cattle (and some of that is the plot of the book i'm currently working on)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Fall Convention Schedule

Or as I like to call it, the Fall Death March.

Now, Elizabeth Donald's is deathier (hail Fearless Leader of the Literary Underworld), and includes things like DragonCon, but mine is still a challenge.

Gabriel went to Memphis Gaming Expo, and showed off Mortalus.

This weekend is River City Comic Expo, in Little Rock. $5 to get in, and we'll be at the Statehouse Convention Center.  Books, Jayne Hats and hobbit boxes.
Yes, those are actual pages. The copy was too dilapidated to keep and I was heartbroken to throw it away. Gabriel fixed the problem. This is mine, but there are two more, one with riddles and one with maps.

Mephit Fur Meet is Labor Day Weekend at Whispering Woods in Memphis (well, Olive Branch). I have a small but good writing track planned. This is a convention full of stuffed animals who hug you back. Inkstained Succubus is debuting our Conspiracy Arts line. (These are the things we do when we are away from the computers) 

And Olivia is selling her first ears and tails.

The Imaginarium... This is THE place if you want to be a writer or are starting to write, or are a writer. Best writing track around, and an expo hall--FREE TO THE PUBLIC!--full of some of the best small press work in the country. Louisville KY, Sept 11-13, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. 
I'll be there with the Literary Underworld. 

The Farmers' Market in West Memphis is Sept 19. Sanity may prevail and we may stay in. Or greed may win and I may haul everything out.

ContraFlow, New Orleans, Oct 2-4.  A small convention but we had a great time last year.  We hope to have a book or two to debut.

Festival of Souls, Oct 15-18. Meeman Shelby State Park, Memphis. This is a pagan festival. Conspiracy Arts is more our focus, but we will have books too. 

ConTraception, Nov 6-8, Kansas City, MO. (Independence) Brilliant little relaxacon. Books, crafts and other goodies, readings and a couple panels. This is just a fun weekend run by people I've known nearly 30 years. 

Geekonomicon, Dec 11-13, Biloxi, MS. This is a new con in our schedule.  We're hoping to do well here. The folks were very friendly and we felt terrible about cancelling out last year. 

Monday, August 24, 2015


Old King Plague is dead.
The Smallpox plague is dead.
No more children dying hard
No more cripples living scarred
With the marks of the Devil's Kiss
We still may die of other things
But we will not die of this!
--Ballad of Smallpox Gone, by Leslie Fish.

The other day, a friend asked what that scar on my back was. I've circled it in the picture above.  "That's my smallpox vaccination scar." I ended up showing it around the room of thirty-somethings, as if it was a relic of a bygone era.

Then I realized it was. The oldest in that room will be 37 next month. She has no smallpox scar. My children never were vaccinated for smallpox. The last case was in 1977. In fact, by 1914, most industrialized countries had it mostly wiped out through vigorous vaccination programs that started in 1800. there are only two places smallpox virii are stored, and WHO recommends destroying them.

The disease that killed Ramses V, Edward VI (Henry VIII's only son) Tad Lincoln (Abraham Lincoln caught it and had to be quarantined shortly after the Gettysburg Address), Jonathan Edwards,  and Pocahontas has not been an actual threat since I was in single digits.

When I was a kid, there was no question about vaccines. They used to line us up in the school gym, Army style, and use a needle gun. We all got them or we didn't go to school. If we missed them, the school nurse would have a shot clinic early in the school year. I was jealous of the kids who needed a polio vaccine, because it came on a sugar cube.

Now, intelligent people, people I know personally who should know better, are coming out anti-vax.
Presidential candidates are coming out against mandatory vaccines.

Let me repeat that.
Presidential candidates are coming out against mandatory vaccination.

This one phrases it as parental choice on "more esoteric vaccines" (in short, Gardasil) and that schools shouldn't mandate it. Others witter on about personal choice and freedom. People claim there is mercury in them or they cause autism. Both of these have been debunked so many times it's verging on ridiculous that people still believe it.

I'm waiting to see which of the other politicos comes out in favor of epidemics and death,

All right, let me lay this out.

Smallpox is eradicated. The scourge that haunted humanity for 10,000 years has been wiped out by vaccination, within my lifetime.

Measles was on its way out in 2000. There were no deaths from it for ten years
For reference:
Measles wiped out 1/3 of the native Fijians in 1875. In the 1850s, it killed 20% of Hawaiians.  7-8 million children died every year before the vaccine was introduced. In 1980, there were 4.2 million measles cases world-wide. in 2014, there were 426,000.  About 158,000 people a year still die of it. Compare that. 158,000 vs. 7-8 million.

My mother remembered the fear that summer time brought, and Polio. Of the avoiding public places and pools, and iron lungs. My grandparents remembered FDR in his wheelchair.
Donald Sutherland, Arthur C Clarke, Alan Alda, Mia Farrow(8 months in an iron lung), Dr. Oppenheimer all had polio. Dinah Shore still has a limp from it. Clarke died of complications from post-polio syndrome. Margaret Steiff, whose toy company makes famous teddy bears, was wheelchair bound from it.

My children know none of this. Only one of them ever got chicken pox. The rest got the vaccine.

My generation doesn't remember iron lungs. I think I knew one or two kids who got measles. My generation didn't have quarantine cards in the windows or classmates dying of it. And this is why the anti-vax crowd runs 50 and under.

I could keep going.
But those who believe won't hear facts. Facts only make them angry and they talk about falsification and conspiracies.


But let's talk a moment about Gardasil.
This protects against HPV of the kind that causes cervical cancer.
many people are against it for moral reasons. Although what morality there is in raising your daughter's chances of cancer eludes me.

I have sat on the table and heard the words "squamous cells." I planned and plotted and sorted in my mind for weeks. I know what it smells like when the doctor burns the top layer of cervical cells off with a hot electrode.

If I can spare my kid that, absolutely.
My daughters are going to have sex. Probably not with one person for the rest of their lives. I know this. I accept this. The people who are against Gardasil almost uniformly do not accept that fact. (even though they themselves are in the "more than one partner" corner)
If this was about lung cancer, there would be no controversy.
But Sea and Stars forfend that some woman should have sex and not die!

Get the vaccines.
Protect your kids.
Protect those who can't get the vaccines or whom the opportunistic infections would kill.
Think beyond "my kid is getting poked with a needle. NO!"

Saturday, August 22, 2015

My Sexy Saturday: That Sexy time of Day

There are people who make love in the morning. There are people who make love at night. Or maybe it’s the afternoon. Whenever it is, it’s that sexy time of day. 

From "WaterWheel" from the Devout anthology.

Buy Link

Let's face it; spirituality can be sexy. That goes double for men of the cloth, who display such passion and devotion toward their chosen deities. For some, nothing is more erotic than men dedicating their lives to faith and service. However, even the most pious men aren't above temptation, and the men of Devout find themselves more than eager to explore a more carnal interpretation of worship. So, sit back, relax, and enjoy five doses of old-time religion spiked with erotic intrigue and a delicious hint of sin that will have you reaching for some holy water, preferably with ice.

Lord Rhys, heir to the earldom of Kent, is intelligent and unattainable as far as Father Andrew is concerned. To avoid a great famine, the unlikely pair sets out to commission an engineer to build a much needed Water Wheel. However, if the power-hungry Bishop of Rochester has his way, their quest and budding affection are both doomed to failure.

Your Seven Sexy Paragraphs:

“Never desired a woman.” Rhys smiled. “But what of a man?” He leaned
closer, and the afternoon was suddenly much too warm for Andrew's liking. “What of
the bishop? I see the way he looks at me, and he regards you with the same hunger.”

Andrew looked at the ground, his clear eyes not betraying his disgust at the
thought. “My uncle keeps his own counsel on whom he takes into his bed, vows or no
vows. I am not among that number.” He looked up at Rhys, feeling his own hungers
naked on his face. “I would that you were not one of them either.”

Rhys said nothing but closed the distance between their mouths in a breath.
He lingered there, his lips warm and his breath sweet, until shivers ran over Andrew's
scalp and down his arms. The serpent he carried, the reminder of Adam's wickedness, rose and filled, as it sometimes did upon awakening.

Rhys chuckled as they parted. “You delight me, and yet you have no idea of
your loveliness or desirability. I would not fill the bishop's bed. Not for a hundred
water wheels or a thousand earldoms. For another kiss as that, I would fill yours with
nothing but happiness.”

Andrew blushed and looked at the river. “I have desired you as a man desires
a maid since Easter three years ago. You rode beside your father, and I was surprised
to see you grown so tall. The light from the windows fell on your hair, and I thought
of little but the smile on your face even as my mouth sang the service.”

Rhys pulled him in close and held him. Andrew remembered being cuddled
so as a very small child, but no one had held him close for years. Rhys' arms encircled
him as if keeping the entire world at bay.

Andrew tipped his face up and kissed Rhys, the soft pink lips enticing him
and sending his head swimming like fine wine. He wanted the afternoon to last
forever, the spring sun slanting through the budding leaves, the brook babbling
around their feet, and Rhys' mouth on his, their breaths mingling and their skin warm as they pressed together.

The Other Sexy People:

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Visualizing your novel, or Ways to Use Pinterest for your writing.

We're visual creatures. Writing a book is all about capturing what we're seeing in the mind's eye and putting it into words so the next person can see it too.

Some people go overboard with description, because they want there to be no ambiguity at all. The reader must see the exact shade of the character's eyes, know precisely how many bricks are in the wall and be aware of what every appendage of every being in every scene is doing.

Some people, myself included, are sparse with description. We're impressionists, not drafters, to use artistic terms. We assume our readers have mental sets marked "interior: bad mental hospital" or "exterior: decaying southern mansion." The latter differs, of course, from "exterior: haunted castle" and "exterior: creepy Victorian house." So, with a few necessary pen strokes, we fill in the needed details on the set pieces.
You get the idea. Some things are different, but two stories, columns, squarish, the whole ball of wax.

But how do we assemble our own set pieces?
We're fortunate to have Pinterest. The site's been up and running for 3 years and I find it extremely useful for visualizing my fictional worlds

How to get the most out of Pinterest for novel planning.

This assumes you have a pinterest account. Signing up for one is easy if you don't.

Create a board just for your novel or its universe. I call mine things like "Writing: 1920s Paranormal" or "Writing: the Cyber'Verse." So now you have a board. Think like a reporter: Who? What? When? Where?  (the Why and How are the novel itself)


Mentally cast your novel. This means assigning roles to various actors, living or dead, good or bad. Think about who you would want for your main character, who for the villain? Is he suave or rugged? Is she plain or vapid or austerely beautiful?

For instance, a year ago, I wrote a post called "Historical casting," imagining who would play each of several characters from my Nikolai'verse in various eras: Modern (early 2000s), the 1960s and the 1930s.

If you were making a movie, who would you want saying the lines you have put in your characters' mouths?

When you pin pictures of these people, add  a little about the character. A quote, a description. Be sure to say something like "Muse/Playerbase/Inspiration is [Actor's Name]"

Here's a sample pin from one of my boards. The picture, a listing of who it is, a quote from the book and the actor name.


Many times, objects are important in the universe as well as the people. Rings of power, swords of destiny, stolen data tapes, all of that.

Think about the things your characters use: cars, weapons, clothes, anything.

I did my homework on large motorcycles before selecting this one for a secondary character. DeMarco leads a group of biker mages, and has to show he is big and bad enough to do so. The Triumphs are some of the most powerful bikes on the road, and this one is top of the line. And it gives me a visual for when I think of him on Dorothy (his bike is named for Dorothy Dandridge).

Or also, links to useful articles. Eight Thrones is set in 2080-2090. This links to predictions of what the weather will become by then.


Time is a powerful thing. They influence everything from your characters' behavior to speech patterns to their very names. Knowing When your characters are from is as important as knowing where.

Pictures from the period, clothing of the period. if you can find your player bases in a movie from the era, it helps the visualizing a whole lot.


Location. Setting. These can play a minimal role or a vital one. Knowing your locations is important.
Sometimes, you can shoot your own photos, especially if they are places you know:

Nick Harper's Duplex from Alive on the Inside.

  The Restaurant that opens Power in the Blood.

But a good location pin tells you the place, and its significance to your universe 

The Loch Ness pin is gorgeous, but there is nothing to tell me why I pinned it on the DJ'Verse board. (Our hero's mum lives in a village just north of the Loch)

The 351 Carroll pin has a good pic, some history, how it connects to the universe, and the facts about the place.

There are all sorts of ways to use Pinterest.
I have music, screen shots from movies to remind why I cast a certain actor in a certain role, music videos.

But the best thing of all to put on your inspiration board?

The finished book cover!

Go forth and happy pinning!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Wake up calls in the middle of the night

I was doing fine. I had cleaned and done dishes and read from a physical book. I was winding down. I went to bed before midnight.

At 12:15, my 6'3", 17 year old son opens the bedroom door. "I'm bleeding."

I made Mudd get up and get him to the bathroom while I hunted for my caftan. I heard Mudd say "From your crotch?"  and blinked. Remember, son. I got my caftan on and joined them.

Jonner was sitting on the toilet holding a wad of toilet paper against a boil just under the waistband of his shorts. I go for bandages and ointment. I come back and he has no color in his face. He looks waxy and yellow, and his lips are the same color as his skin.

Mudd, looking quite pale himself, helps Jonner to his bed. I apply bandages and reassurance. I tell him he has to wash out his skivvies, but not to do it until he can sit up and not feel dizzy.

Color was coming back into his face when I went to bed. Mudd was doing the Lamaze breathing thing he does when he's trying not to pass out himself. I cuddled him, checked on Jonner and now I can't sleep.

Apparently, "Mom, I'm bleeding" is better than amphetamines at waking me up. Only worse way to wake up is a sudden ejection of bodily fluids all over you.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Watching A Sex Comedy with my teenagers

I have two teenagers. My older two children are out of the house.
Jon is 17 and Olivia is 15.
Jon is reserved. A lot goes on in his head, but very little makes it out of his mouth.
Olivia is less so. She's always been the most gregarious of my kids.
He is not sexually active. We assume he's heterosexual because he likes busty anime girl video games.
She is actively bisexual and prefers girls as partners.

And I told you all that so you have some context.

Thursday was a crafternoon. My partner, Gabriel. and I get together at zir place, watch movies and do crafts. I found out Gabriel had never seen Deuce Bigalow, Male Gigolo, which is one of my favorite bad comedies, and features Oded Fehr at his dead-level hottest as Antoine, the very sexy and very bad-tempered.

So, Gabriel painted, I knitted, Jon played video games, and Olivia watched the movie.
I hadn't expected the kids along when we planned the movie. But I had promised naked!Oded, and I was going to deliver.

Olivia sat next to me and cracked up at all the right places. I knitted along.

I was surprised neither of them were embarrassed at watching the movie. Then again, the sex is minimal (he does make love to the girl he has fallen in love with). The language is a bit raunchy (what with one of the dates having Tourette's), but as I recall, we only get a wet t-shirt clinging to a bra-less woman, and rear male nudity.

Jon said nothing, but Olivia got the message about half way in. These are women who deviate from the norm in some way: extremely fat, extremely tall, Tourette's, narcolepsy, one-leg. And Deuce finds a way to make them feel like real people instead of the freaks that society tells them they are. When he offers the narcoleptic lady the helmet so they can go dancing together, the look on his face is sweet and hopeful. And her response shows it's the nicest thing anyone's ever done for her.

The message is that kindness wins over everything: looks, money, prestige. Deuce shows it to everyone, including Antoine who has issued him at least two death threats. He even shows it to the cop who gives him grief through the whole picture, helping fix the man's marriage and turning him from an enemy into a friend.

Jon mentioned it later. Because he always needs a bit to process fiction.

And both of them came away with the message that being kind costs nothing, and gains everything.
Which isn't a bad message for a dumb little sex comedy.

And just because I can:

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Social media and numbers

I've had social media for a long time. My LJ is 13 years old.

And I was asked to sort out my media, check out the numbers. Gaining followers has never been a huge motivation, so I don't try.  I'm kind of surprised the numbers.

Where to find me around the net:

Author sites:   317 friends, some of whom are dead

I don't say the dead part jokingly. We've lost a few to various causes over the year. I thought the number was higher. It cross-posts to LJ and Twitter.    4 followers. I average 30-40 views per entry.

This is us here. Because it crossposts to facebook, Google+ and twitter, it brings in readers

Amazon Author Page:

Facebook (account and page)
Angelia    950 friends, at least 10 of which are dead

Again not joking on the dead part. I had a pretty good grasp. And I know only about 100 people see any given post and only 50 or so will like it. My LJ, Tumbler, Blogger and Pinterest all crosspost here

Author Angelia    328 total page likes

Google+, Angelia Sparrow,   332 people in my circles

I can't get the hang of this piece of media. I try, but revert to just crossposting.

Twitter: asparrow16   320 followers

My LJ, blogger and Pinterest all crosspost here. I do not like the format. It posts back to my LJ.

Pinterest:   414 followers

I was surprised that iI had so many. I love this piece of media. It appeals on a lot of levels.

Other SN platforms:    70 followers

I like Tumblr, but it's mostly my fannish activity these days. A mix of SW, SPN, HP and Inception, with lots of knitting and crochet.    222 connections

Another thing i haven't gotten the hang of.  310 friends

My blogger crossposts here. but I find the groups tedious.   11 followers

 (this is a backup to LJ)  171 connections

Haven't used this in 5 years. Need to get back to it. 65 followers

Figuring this one out.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Photo Scavenger Hunt

Here are the rules. 
1) The pictures are posted at Livejournal. Answers can be left there, or at Tumblr or  Facebook.

2) There are 10 pictures and clues. Answer with the book title. Book titles can be found on my website

3) Leave a screened comment or a PM or an inbox message. You must include your email address to win. The screening and privacy measures should be adequate.

4) All 10 clues right gets a short story in .pdf format

5) On August 5, I will draw a name at random (from all the correct entries) for a copy of Terror of the Frozen North. (If you have Terror, please feel free to let me know and choose another novel) 

Here's the link