Literary Homicide

Literary Homicide

Does anyone else get jabbed in the side during movies for muttering, “That’s not how it is in the book?” (At least, if you’re polite, you mutter. Sometimes it slips out at a higher volume because you can’t restrain yourself due to outrage) Or maybe you walk out of a theatre with intense back pain because you slouched lower and lower in the seat, mortally embarrassed for your favorite author, beloved characters, and a treasured fandom. Not to mention, you’ve had to grin and apologize uncountable times to the person in front of you for stomping your foot every time someone screwed up a line or behaved so far out of context, your body reacted without thought.

It’s appalling!

And Hollywood loves doing this. They destroy our favorite books left, right, and center. It’s almost to the point that you start to believe they’ve hired someone who’s only job is sitting in a corner of the room, plotting how to unravel plots, twist characters, and murder classic lines. The Anti-Author, if you will. Maybe other people in the audience don’t realize what’s going on (other than to whine they don’t understand what the hype is about said book), but YOU know. And you slowly hemorrhage as hundreds of potential readers turn their backs on a work of literary genius. All courtesy of the Anti-Author.

Friends and family grew so tired of my endless diatribes against poor film adaptations, they refused to go to the movies with me. Hell, they wouldn’t even sit in a living room with me if they knew I’d read the book already. And I couldn’t blame them or get upset about it. I felt personally victimized by the actions of a bunch of Hollywood executives sitting in a back room, hacking apart my favorite fictional pieces. Seeing that “Soon to be a Motion Picture” sticker on a book in the store? That felt like a knife in the guts.

I needed a new habit.

Rather than feeling my blood pressure reach stroke level, I decided to flip the order of things. Any book that caught my interest courtesy of a movie or television trailer stayed on the shelf until AFTER sitting through Hollywood’s version. But I promised myself not to let that version taint my opinion. (After all, I was intrigued enough to consider it, and odds were pretty high I’d already skimmed the book jacket) Even if I rolled my eyes through the movie and left with a sour taste in my mouth (*cough* Artemis Fowl *cough*), I determined to return to the book after. Usually because I was so convinced there was NO WAY the author was THAT bad.

It’s a system that’s served me well about 99% of the time. (There are exceptions to every rule, and that 1% proves that sometimes even Hollywood can’t make something better) Instead of driving everyone crazy in a semi-quiet theatre – a rant for another time – I can wait, blithely innocent of every twist and turn with the rest of the audience. And THEN I can prattle on about everything Hollywood got wrong once I’ve devoured the book…depending on who I can track down and get to hold still long enough to listen.

But it isn’t a perfect system.

Sometimes those magic makers get sneaky. They decide to turn pieces into film that I’ve already read. It’s a wrinkle in the system that I can’t account for. (NOT reading isn’t an option) For instance, the Shadow and Bone trilogy. I started my usual grumble-fest – until my husband looked at me and told me he was enjoying the series. He hadn’t read the books, but I HAD. So I bit my tongue. (And, honestly, on the scale of adaptations, it’s not bad)

Then there are a few times I’ve been TERRIFIED to watch a movie because of how fantastic a book was. I didn’t want to witness the burning destruction of a phenomenal piece of literature. But those teasers and trailers are SO tempting. They crawl under your skin with appropriate lines, glimpses of characters better than you imagined, and hints of accurate plot. So I braced myself for disappointment – which never came. A Monster Calls and The Fault in Our Stars? They got it right. I’d read the books before the movies hit theatres. And I didn’t want my emotions shattered. (We won’t touch on the fact that either one will cripple you emotionally on their own) But someone hog-tied the Anti-Author in both instances. Because the films created the same depth of feeling the books did.

So while there might be some bugs in my system (and an occasional exception to the rule), it’s kept me from losing my cool as often. And I don’t have as many bruises on my ribs. It DOES mean I have to wait to read certain books, which is frustrating. But when you balance a potential stroke against a little delay? Yeah, health ranks higher.

Suicide Squad Vol 1.: Kicked in the Teeth

Suicide Squad Vol 1.: Kicked in the Teeth

Suicide Squad, Volume 1: Kicked in the Teeth by Adam Glass

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This is a situation I prefer: I’ve seen the movie before picking up the book. (So I don’t spend the entire film screaming at the screen that they screwed things up) But, to Mr. Glass’s credit, it’s not terribly far afield. Oh, the plot’s not the same, but the underlying characters are there. And so is the twisted logic of the operation of Task Force X. This comic just presents everything in a more twisted light that’s appropriate for comic readers and fans of the various characters featured. (Okay, so-so: I reserve my judgment on his treatment of Harley given how the final half of the volume proceeds) Unfortunately, if you DON’T know the characters that aren’t given an introduction – or some form of context – you’re left grasping for details to figure out who they are and why they’ve landed in Belle Reve. And while DC has plenty of villains (and vigilantes) to choose from to populate the prison, that can get irritating. Reading with a scorecard is never an enjoyable experience (coughSpider-Verse or Game of Thrones cough). Overall, though, it’s an interesting change from the comics I’ve currently delved into – I’ll give Mr. Glass that much credit.



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Black Cat Vol. 1: Grand Theft Marvel

Black Cat Vol. 1: Grand Theft Marvel

Black Cat, Vol. 1: Grand Theft Marvel by Jed Mackay

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Now, I’m not opposed to tackling comics about villains (though we know antiheroes are where my heart lies), and Mr. MacKay does a credible job of making Felicia likable. (It doesn’t hurt that she has an affinity for cats, either) Pairing her up with the best henchmen to ever enter the realm of villainy doesn’t hurt, either. She may want to set up a course on where you find them, as most help is hard to find for the villain sect. And the humor’s priceless. But what does Marvel have against unique names? Black Cat AND Black Fox? Could Mr. MacKay not come up with anything else that sounded clever and mysterious? Not to mention that, as a first volume, it might be nice to lay down some backstory for readers who haven’t picked up the Spider-Man comics where Black Cat made her first appearances. It leaves you grasping at straws and attempting to figure out a major plotline you don’t have much of a reference for. (I get it; you expect someone to rush out and buy other storylines. But as someone who isn’t THAT invested? It’s not going to happen, so mission fail) Not the best comic I’ve encountered to date, but not the worst.



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Review of Harley Quinn: Gang of Harleys

Review of Harley Quinn: Gang of Harleys

Harley Quinn and Her Gang of Harleys by Jimmy Palmiotti

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Mr. Tieri and Mr. Palmiotti did a fantastic job of giving the Gang of Harleys their own individual niche, carving out their personalities a little more. (Not to mention filling in that gap in the storyline I knew I was missing to make sense of the Rebirth volumes) There was more to this installment, though, outlining that the majority of the villains Harley and her group tangle with aren’t one-dimensional. There’s pain taken to delve behind their actions, giving them motivation for their actions and personalities (not unlike the driving forces of the Gang, actually). And while you still won’t find yourself cheering for them, you can’t hate them 100%, either. It’s a balance that few writers manage to get exactly right (and why I love this series so much). Definitely an important addition to the shelf for any genuine Harley fan.



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The Writer’s Best Friend

The Writer’s Best Friend

Stack of Notebooks
Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

Mid-May means that the school year is starting to wind down. Colleges are celebrating graduations and sending their students out into the workforce. (Or, you know, handing them back into the hands of their parents) Other schools are gearing up for major testing. At least, that’s what happened when I was in school. Now that standardized testing rules, I have no idea what actually goes on. And since my kids don’t attend educational programming (something that’s for the best, because NO ONE wants to see Tonks’s evil mind guided into further intelligence), you’d guess I don’t have much interest in such doings. But you’d be wrong. The end of the school year means one very important thing:

It’s almost time for back-to-school sales!

Yes, I know, it drives the school-age population nuts that they barely set foot in summer vacation before stores start cranking out supplies and clothing to send them back. But I LIVE for those sales. There’s nothing more exciting for a writer than aisles and aisles of pens, pencils, and NOTEBOOKS – all put on sale. It’s literary Christmas! And in Virginia, if you can sit on your hands and restrain yourself, the beginning of August brings Tax-Free weekend. So you can stock up on all of those supplies without needing to pay pesky sales tax. Plus, they don’t make you prove you have a child. ANYONE can go into their store of choice and walk out with a giant stack of notebooks and twenty packs of pens. The cashiers don’t even bat an eye! (Well, they might – it depends)

I admit, I’m the first person to recommend turning to handy programs to help you organize your thoughts when you’re writing. As publishers function in the computer age with the rest of us, odds are pretty high that you’re working in a word processing program on a laptop or desktop. So it makes sense that you’d turn to a form of technology for your notes. And that’s fine. I do the same. But I also have notebooks – TONS of notebooks. And they perform the same organization function.

Because sometimes? You need to set pen to paper.

Call me old-fashioned (don’t call me old), but there’s something inspiring about watching ink flow from beneath your hand. It sparks something in the brain. When everything else is locked up in your mind, sitting down and scribbling out a dozen scenes that go nowhere feels more accomplished than hitting “Delete” over and over again. You can actually SEE what you attempted to do. When you “Undo” something on the computer, all you get for your trouble is a blank screen (and the vague knowledge that you made an attempt at a scene 42 times). Even if I end up with crumpled paper balls on the floor around me and one sentence for my trouble, I have physical proof that I made an effort. It’s more satisfying for me to struggle through writing in a notebook than it is to fight with writer’s block on a computer screen.

But I have notebooks for other reasons, too. One of my oldest is where I have story ideas. Some of them have early starts as novels in my terabyte drive. Others? I’m still letting them ruminate in my mind. But I don’t want to throw out that notebook simply because I have Evernote now. Why would I? The notebook isn’t “broken,” for all that it’s “ancient” technology. It’s covered in multi-colored ink, with tabs dividing the type of work, and Post-Its with potential character names. There’s HISTORY in that notebook. When I flip through it, I remember what was going on in my life each time I sat down and scribbled those notes. Some came from dreams, others phrases in other books, and one or two from something I saw when I was sitting on the train. I can’t transfer those impressions into a computer; it would lose something – the depth of the pen in the paper, the slant of the writing that shows my emotions.

I have notebooks that track the posts I make here, ensuring I don’t repeat myself (at least, not too often). And there’s another for Silentio Sonante. When I write up my white board schedules for work, I take the time to come up with post ideas for both blogs, too. Then I divide the topics up between the notebooks. And while it might be easier to run a “Find” on a program, I like getting to flip through pages and see what I’ve done in the past year. Again, it’s a history thing. I can touch pages and count “steps.” Dragging a mouse down a screen? It doesn’t provide the same feeling.

And, yeah, there’s more.

I have non-writing notebooks, too. One keeps track of all of my weird medical crap. Because trying to remember which doctor needs what report at my appointments? My brain can come up with new worlds and story ideas without a problem. But asking it do that is impossible. So I have a notebook where I write everything down, complete with times (since my atypical migraines do seriously odd shit at times). Then I can take it with me and skim what’s important. The animals have THEIR medical notebook, too. (When you have three cats, trying to remember who threw up a hairball when is impossible)

Don’t get me wrong: technology is great. But (so far as I know), you learn to write for a reason. And a writer NEEDS to remember to connect with that part of their craft. What are you going to do if you’re ever in a situation without a computer or phone? (Don’t laugh – it might happen) Are you going to just REMEMBER your brilliant line? You know that isn’t going to happen. Wouldn’t it be a better idea if you get in the habit of keeping a notebook with you – just in case? (Why, yes, I have a tiny notebook in my purse – it has kittens on it) Even artists don’t stick to one strict medium when they work. Why should we?

So this summer, when you hear about those sales, consider dropping by for a peek. Touch those pages and remember what it felt like to set a pencil or pen to them. Then go look at the pens. (You know you have a favorite) Pick up at least one of each and go home. Write something – ANYTHING. Odds are pretty high you’re going to find yourself going back for more. Because it’s addicting. But it also helps with the writing process. (Besides, you can always type whatever you write with little trouble)

Review of Harley Quinn Vol.6: Black, White and Red All Over

Review of Harley Quinn Vol.6: Black, White and Red All Over

Harley Quinn, Vol. 6: Black, White and Red All Over by Amanda Conner

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


And here it is, the end of an “era:” the final volume of Harley that I had yet to read (written by Ms. Conner and Mr. Palmiotti, at any rate). And at least I can say it doesn’t disappoint. Red Tool’s grand entrance is every bit as hysterical as his existence in the remainder of the comic series. And you can’t help but love him – on some level. He’s the perfect comedic foil for Harley. (At any rate, his heart’s in the right place) In a lot of ways, having read ahead, it makes his motivation that much easier to comprehend. The nuances of his character pop out. And, of course, the introduction of Chief Spoonsdale is perfect. (I had wondered when he was going to make an appearance) This tied together all of the loose threads in a way that made me sitting back, satisfied that I’d found the remainder of the story.
(Well, perhaps one loose thread is still hanging. But since I have a related volume sitting on my shelf as I speak, I’m going to guess I’ll have that answer shortly)



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Review of Harley Quinn Vol. 5: The Joker’s Last Laugh

Review of Harley Quinn Vol. 5: The Joker’s Last Laugh

Harley Quinn, Vol. 5: The Joker’s Last Laugh by Amanda Conner

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Ms. Conner and Mr. Palmiotti delivered one of the best volumes to date. (And, yes, I realize I’ve read things out of order. I read what I get when I get them) Harley’s confrontation with the Joker is everything it should be – and probably not what most people would expect. The emotional (and psychological) growth is phenomenal. You want to cheer (and then scream all the more when you realize those silly “Harley Loves Joker” volumes appear in the Rebirth collections). And to cap things off with a Harley-version of the “three wishes gone wrong” trope? Priceless. It settles the world down – particularly for those of us who know what’s coming next. (And, seriously, the flaming dogs running around the loft – how do you not burst out laughing?)



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Review of Shannon Messenger’s Keeper of the Lost Cities: Neverseen

Review of Shannon Messenger’s Keeper of the Lost Cities: Neverseen

Neverseen by Shannon Messenger

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


While Ms. Messenger did plenty that was interesting and even beautiful with this installment of the Keeper of the Lost Cities series, there were also plenty of failed opportunities. And it made for, I suppose, a well-balanced book that failed to provide much in the way of excitement or trouble. I don’t think that’s what her intent was, however. When you have a plague, two rebel factions, and the first forays into Exillium? A reader expects more. And it wasn’t delivered. Rather, it wasn’t delivered with the potential punch it could have been.
Instead, you anticipate every “surprise” revelation a mile away. There are no red herrings to lead you astray. The clues take your hand and walk you down the path. It’s frustrating when other volumes have provided the occasional surprise. The reader does get to encounter new Talents, which was a refreshing change. And the deeper probe into the cracks and shadows beneath the surface of the Elvin world adds color and depth to Ms. Messenger’s creation. Not to mention the introduction of Calla and glimpses into the gnomes and their history. Those items alone make the book worth reading. But the excitement factor falls flat. With luck, it’ll start to pick up once again. (Particularly as I’ve already purchased the next two volumes – and I hate to spend money on books I don’t intend to read)



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Business Savvy

Business Savvy

Business taxes
Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

You have a few certainties in life: birth, work (you can define that however you want), death, and taxes. You don’t have any say-so over your birth or death. But your work and taxes? You have control there – even if you think you don’t. You still need to find that job that alleviates the tedium of existence (hopefully, you’re working at something that does more than that). However, you’re not assigned a position and locked into it for life. And while everyone will insist you don’t get any freedom in the tax department, that isn’t necessarily true. (And, no, I’m not advocating that you skip out on paying them) Because if you’re a freelancer? You have some wiggle room.

But you need to think through things.

The tricky part of working as a freelance writer (or any freelancer, really) is YOU have to manage all of the business end of things yourself. You’re the employer. While you work for a client, they’re not going to handle taxes for you. That falls into your lap. And how much you have to set aside from every job? That depends on where you live. But, on average, 25-30% is a good place to start. This makes sure you’ll have enough to keep the IRS, your state, and (potentially) your local governments happy. But, depending on your situation, you have some flex in that percentage.

For instance, you may not need to pay for your own health insurance. Or you can elect to not pay into social security. (It’s NOT a requirement) And as a self-employed worker, plenty of local governments cut you some slack if you work from home. It involves a TON of reading come tax time, and you may need to ask questions to understand all of the jargon, but you can find neat little ways to save yourself some taxes, courtesy of functioning as a business. And while an accountant can walk you through all of this (and happily take your money doing so), tax programs will do the same for a fraction of the cost.

Then there’s the REAL fun.

You’re an independent business. (Or, you know, you may work in collaboration with others) But that means you’re entitled to claim business expenses on your taxes. And when you look at it, that includes PLENTY of your day-to-day materials. Everything from paper to printer ink (even pens and pencils, if you want to go that far). You also get to list all of the subscriptions you use for your work – something I like to forget as I stare at the prices and agonize over whether it’s worth using some of my hard-earned funds or not. I can’t survive without Evernote or Grammarly; they’re in use EVERY SINGLE DAY that I work. And the free versions? While functional, they don’t provide the same services. I also use Adobe Stock Photos because (now and then), I need to chase down an image I can’t find in the LONG list of free stock photo search engines I have bookmarked. And all of them are business expenses I list on my taxes!

But I struggle to remind myself of that fact. When I look over my account each week, I need to take a deep breath and remind myself that certain things are worth the expense. (Which is crazy, considering I’ve smashed every financial goal I’ve set) Maybe other freelancers do so without a second thought. I’m someone that’s always watched every cent and needed to justify a purchase that wasn’t strictly necessary for survival. So starting on the freelance writing path? It took a shift in my mental processes. Despite all of my research and reading, I have to coach myself and go through a list of questions before hitting that, “Accept” button:

  • Will I use this often enough to justify the cost?
  • Is this going to benefit my writing?
  • Does the premium version offer more than the free?
  • Did you forget this is a tax-deductible thing?

If you’ve never handled business expenses, financial planning, or taxes on your own, it gets overwhelming. And doing my taxes this year? They were frightening and involved a TON of reading and research. But, between my husband and I, we got them completed without too much trouble. Luckily, I use a financial program to track every cent in and out. Plus, I keep my business receipts so they’re easy to enter into TurboTax. (If you stay organized, it makes the business side of things simpler to deal with) And reading? Yeah, I did as much of that as possible before I ever submitted my first proposal for a job.

You’re not going to get out of paying taxes – even with the freedom being a freelancer grants you. But you WILL find ways to make that particular guarantee easier to manage if you’re smart and do your homework. (And that means knowing you can’t claim the chair you bought for your cat to sit at your desk) And once you understand your way around things, it gives you a breath of fresh air so you CAN start to pick up the things you need to function properly. It’s a careful balancing act. But with a little work, you start to get it down.

Review of Shannon Messenger’s Keeper of the Lost Cities: Everblaze

Review of Shannon Messenger’s Keeper of the Lost Cities: Everblaze

Everblaze by Shannon Messenger

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Ms. Messenger continues to develop a delightful series, building upon the Elvin world with the subtle strokes of a painter adding detail to a painting. It’s slow progress that gives the reader a chance to absorb the new information without getting overwhelmed. And it makes sense – something you don’t always get with similar series. It’d be nice if the characters showed the same progression of growth, but Sophie, in particular, seems to remain in a circular path that’s getting stale. There’s no need to introduce new abilities to keep her interesting. Still, her personality or even the chance to LEARN from the past would go a long way to make her more empathetic (an ironic statement to make, given the world Ms. Messenger has created, I know). Rather than feeling for her – especially toward the final chapters – you grow listless and even start to understand the Council’s position. Perhaps that’s what Ms. Messenger intends? (Doubtful at this stage of the story arc) And while the revelation of one of the antagonists was a surprise, the other unraveled too soon to hold interest. This left the volume unbalanced, unfortunately. Then again, this seems to be a common curse of the third volume in most series. Hopefully, the next book in the series will redeem the shortcomings.



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