Friday, April 3, 2015

Task Force: Gaea Trivia aka Bet You Didn't Know...

In rummaging through a box of notes from the eaaaaaarly days of the first novel, I found some things you might find interesting:

Original design for PortalBearer
I originally planned on using a pseudonym of "David Chauncey," using my grandmother's maiden name.

The original title of the novel was The Olympus Corps after a short story of the same name I wrote in high school. It later became Task Force: Gaia—Destiny's Talisman.

The original premise was Star-Trek-meets-Greek-Myth.

The location for the ancient society was called Arvador, a name I created before I changed it to Arkadeia.

The book was divided in two parts: Dike (pronounced DIE-key) for Mortal Justice and Themis for Divine Justice. This premise was scrapped later.

  1. Danelos Fairmont
    • Originally Danaelos. Name shortened for ease of pronunciation.
    • Mother: Lydia; Father: Mark (Apollo in mortal form, unbeknownst to Lydia or Dan).
    • Brandon was born first.
    • Mark "allegedly" dies on an oil rig. Lydia gives up Brandon for adoption to Mark's best friend, Zachary Jeffries. Dan was born a short time later (Lydia was pregnant before Mark died).
    • Zachary consoled Lydia, later marrying her. Lydia was a teacher (not an Arkadeian queen).
    • Dan was a teacher for the gifted, not an archaeologist.
    • Originally, the sword was made of adamantium.
  2. Brandon Jeffries
    • See above about birth and parentage.
    • Much of his character remained the same in the later years.
  3. Aleta Halston
    • Originally Rebecca Halston.
    • Much of her character remained the same in the later years.
    • Her origin involved going to Ancient Greece to the first Olympic games where she saves a couple by throwing a javelin to stop a runaway discus. The couple was Zeus and Hera. Zeus endows the javelin with the power to call forth his lightning.
    • Danaelos had created a feather charm that hid her winged form from regular people.
  4. Sarah Jacobs
    • Sarah's parents were married until her father and brother were killed in a car accident.
    • She was a nuclear engineer that handled waste disposal.
    • Her abilities have remained the same.
    • Her original codename was Elemental.
Cover mock up before the days of PhotoShop.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Wonder Woman, Korra, and the Mother Goddess

I have a friend, well, he's more like a brother. We share an intimate bond where we appreciate the connection we have to two heroines: he is bound to Korra, while I am bound to Wonder Woman. The reasons aren't the important part, but what is important is the connection itself. We, like other friends of mine, are inextricably woven to these women, and I think I understand why. Well, at least part of the reason, anyway.

Millennia ago, when the most primitive of societies first emerged, they found comfort in a deity or entity that would encompass all of their beliefs. From the paleolithic period, societies had goddesses to worship: as early as the paleolithic period, Venus of Willendorf existed. Egypt had Isis, Sumer had Inanna, Crete had Atana, and Babylon had Ishtar. Greece, perhaps the most well known ancient civilization for gods, had Gaea, and Asia Minor had Cybele. Canaan had Astarte, and even the ancient Hebrews, before their monotheistic shift, worshipped Asherah.

All of these Mother Goddesses encompassed fertility, growth, nurturing, love, healing, and even war. From these grew the polytheistic societies of the world, namely Greece, with the Olympian gods. Each of the female entities embodied these characteristics to some degree—even virgin goddesses like Artemis also had fertility and childbirth as their purview. Qualities of the Mother Goddess grew within each of the goddesses who came after, with a deep-rooted connection the earth itself being at the core. Nothing else can happen without the Earth.

I became fascinated with the Mother Goddess idea when I taught the Hero's Journey (the Monomyth, according to Joseph Campbell). Many books I taught contained figures tied to the ancient maternal ideas, and by understanding the connection we have to them, we also understand our connection to other individuals as well. The ultimate ideal is to connect to the source of all power—the earth on which we live. Two of the heroines that fall into this milieu are Wonder Woman and Korra.

WONDER WOMAN was born from the clay of the earth, and brought to life by a combination of her mother, Hippolyte's, loving touch as well as the grace of Aphrodite (according to George Perez, Artemis, Athene, Aphrodite, Hestia, Demeter, and even Hermes were involved). So, in essence, Love and Earth combined to provide life to the champion of the Amazons. Perez's Demeter, goddess of agriculture, told Hippolyte: "I, Demeter, grant [Diana] the power and strength like that of the Earth itself!" We draw strength from our Earth Mother throughout our life, through plants and animals that grow upon it. Through that, we are tied to Diana, as she is nurtured by the goddess Gaea. The Mother Goddess idea pervades all aspects of Diana's life, especially since her people worship the goddesses and draw strength of body and spirit from them.

Like the early Mother Goddesses, too, Diana brings to the outside world a combination of attributes: compassion, love, wisdom, and strength. Through her actions, we are supposed to learn more about what it means to connect with that feminine ideal, that nurturance that keeps us grounded and forward-thinking. Another female figure grows from this as well—a waterbender from the Southern Water tribe.

KORRA, the girl from the Southern Water tribe, was born into the Avatar cycle, taking up that mantle without hesitation. Her role in the world is to learn all forms of elemental bending so that she might bring balance. The four elements: earth, fire, air, and water, each speak to different attributes of human nature and, although the Mother Goddess concept doesn't exist in the world of the Avatar, it is the influence of the Mother Goddess that allows for the existence of this reincarnated responsibility. One female who controls all the elements speaks to a larger concept of motherhood: nurturance and protection. Korra is steadfast in her willingness to protect those who cannot protect themselves; she not only draws from the energy around her to bend it, but she also has the ability to heal—through her waterbending. Ultimately, we find ourselves drawn to her because of her link to the most basic parts of existence, the elements that make up the world. She becomes a goddess figure in that she can attain the Avatar state, having merged with the spirit of peace and light, Raava. This female energy, linked with Korra, makes her an even stronger Mother Goddess figure.

The strength of the female, of female energy, of the most basic of nurturing sources touches a part of us that hearkens back to our ancient origins. We find comfort with these heroines, seeing a piece of ourselves in them: the heroic, the compassionate, the strong, the protective, the wise, and the empowered. Through Diana and Korra's connections to their inner power, they remain vital and relevant. Where Diana is the Amazon brought to life by the gods and Korra is the human inheritor of a vast responsibility, each remains true to her beliefs and her abilities. Perhaps that is one lesson we can also take from them: stay true to what you believe and what you can do, but always strive to be better. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

RainbowCon 2015—Panels I Can't Wait to Attend!

Panels provide some of the best insight at conventions, especially when dealing with topics that bring about conversation. I'll be a guest of RainbowCon this July in Tampa, and among the many panels to attend, three have caught my eye. I may be on some of them or at least in the room, but I can already tell they'll be worth the time investment.

Heroes and Heroines with Disabilities. Not every hero/heroine has to be perfect, and that definition can certainly very depending on whom you ask. Heroism doesn't always have two working legs, or arms, or even eyes. Sometimes a hero may not have what some would consider a traditional mindset, too. Who's to say that someone who is mentally challenged couldn't perform heroically in one form or another. This panel will be a forum for exploring the parameters of heroism within the scope of what being 'disabled' means. Barbara Gordon, once known as Batgirl, was shot by the Joker and paralyzed from the waist down, confined to a wheelchair. This didn't stop her from becoming Oracle, the eyes and ears for many heroes. Actions of valor and compassion do not have limitations or requirements, perhaps the only one really being the ability to discern right from wrong. The question worth exploring is, would a reader embrace a hero or heroine who doesn't fit the cookie cutter example of a 'superhero'? I, for one, want to know what people think on the subject.

Writing Diversity. Race, religion, ability, sexual orientation—these provide the parameters for much of the diversity in literature. Being an author as well as a teacher, I anticipate the exploration of this vast area of discussion, hoping to learn more about what other writers do in their books as well as what other books readers want to see. My novel series, Task Force: Gaea, has gay characters in Dan Fairmont aka Aegis, and a black female character in Dr. Aleta Halston aka Talon. The world we live in, and even the worlds of fantasy, has been painted with a broad brush that holds many colors. When writers blend certain colors together, they create a panoply of diversity. Knowing many of the authors who will be attending this convention, I look forward to bandying about ideas regarding what types of variety they include as well as what they feel is deficient in the genres.

Women in Fiction. The idea of women being sidekicks or back up or even the 'damsel-in-distress' archetype is changing. With so many heroines in the milieu of action/adventure/sci-fi/fantasy, the landscape is evolving to include so many powerful female figures. I made it a point of including powerful women in my own books, from Dr. Aleta Halston to Sarah Jacobs to Alkinoë, the wife of Apollo and queen of Arkadeia. They don't have to overshadow the men, although that isn't a bad thing, but they should share in the action. This conversation needs to happen with both men and women in the room so that authors and readers alike can explore what the future holds. As a feminist, I want to know just what others see and want to see. 

If you want a different convention experience, come attend RainbowCon this summer in Tampa. These three panels are just part of the myriad conversations that will be taking place in that weekend. If you're local, stop by; if you're not, check out their website about hotel information and make a trip to Tampa Bay. I know I'll be looking forward to meeting you (or seeing you again, if we've met before).

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Avatar: The Last Airbender—A World of Value

Lately, I've been posting pictures and ideas from Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra. Some of you might be curious as to why. Of all the television shows I have watched, these two espouse ideas of morality, intelligence and planning, innovation, faith (in higher power as well as one's own abilities), honor, wisdom, and conviction in a way I have never seen before.

Aang's naïveté becomes one of his greatest assets, becoming a staunch idealism necessary for an Avatar, but also for a human being. As an airbender, he has tremendous ingenuity and whimsy that allow him to grow into a creative and thoughtful individual. Mastering four elements is much like mastering our own various strengths, and once we have done that, we can approach our own obstacles with greater confidence.

Katara, from the very beginning, believed in Aang and his ability to change the world. It takes a person of great fortitude of spirit to be that devoted to the success of someone else. As a waterbender, she has a fluid personality, one that can be nurturing and healing, but also can be protective, even to an extreme. She has faith. That doesn't have to be in a higher power as much as it could be in an ideal or in a person. That also takes strength of character.

Sokka, although goofy at times, has an ability to plan and strategize that grows as the series progresses. He tends to be the comic relief, but he also has that same steadfast loyalty to Aang and his mission. While not a bender, he has strengths that sometimes go beyond the spiritual.

Toph, the rough, blind earthbender, is one of my favorite characters. She has a strength from the earth itself, and a stubbornness to go along with it. Her confidence (cockiness?) comes from her ability to surpass her physical limitations without sight and become someone who has vision. She creates metalbending which, in and of itself, is an innovation to their world, and that provides another metaphor of solidity and strength.

Zuko, a firebender, is a complex young man. He embodies honor. From early on, his drive to reclaim what he sees as lost honor drives him forward to accomplish many things, and that also means he has to work through issues with his father, Ozai, and his sister, Azula. He becomes a man forged in a fiery crucible, one of suffering and rejection, and also, like fire, can create as much as he can destroy. What started out as an arrogance borne of royalty and privilege becomes a confidence that becomes a foundation upon which the Fire Nation can grow into prosperity.

Iroh, Zuko's uncle, is also one of my favorite characters of all. He stands by Zuko from the very beginning, never abandoning his nephew, despite his decisions. He knows that Zuko will find his own path when he is ready. Some of the wisest words in an animated series come from Iroh. His lesson about the four elements to Zuko is, by far, one of my most treasured ideas. It mirrors the ideals of the Avatar. In truth, I think a bender of any element should appreciate, respect, and learn from the other three to achieve balance. One of the messages behind this series is that we can all become Avatars when we have mastered ourselves.

Azula's passion and Lady Macbeth-esque qualities make her a fun character. She becomes the opposite of Zuko. Where Zuko is sensitive with an underlying sense of right and wrong, Azula possesses a stalwart decisiveness about what her role should be. In some ways, I think she becomes a role model. She's a strong female character, like Katara and Toph, who forges ahead for what she wants. While her motivations may be misguided, she strives for the best she can be (unfortunately, disregarding those whom she regards friends). Where Zuko moves from a driving "madness" early on to a more grounded individual, Azula moves further into a darker place, ironic for a firebender of her skill.

I'm sure some of you have others ideas to share about this series, but these are mine. I'll formulate my take on The Legend of Korra soon. That series, while stemming from Avatar, has a starkly divergent feel, one that moves my spirit in an altogether different way.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Wonder Woman and Korra—Fantasy Meets My Reality

Wonder Woman / Korra by Stanley Lau (artgerm)
I’ve been having some conversations with a friend about connections to characters like Wonder Woman and Korra, and the more I think about it, the more I see how much being a lover of fantasy is just a large part of who I am and won’t change. Decades ago, I latched onto the fantasy genre (novels and comics) because I needed escape from this world into one where there were individuals more powerful than I was who could lead by example. I felt powerless for many reasons in my youth (fear of coming out, for one), and I saw the possibility for more from these otherworldly characters. Strength came from purpose, not necessarily physical attributes; higher powers interacted with these characters, guiding them in tangible ways (when I had felt abandoned by my own higher power); and, these characters inspired not because they intended do, but rather, because they just did by their actions. Back then, these characters—yes, fictional characters—spoke to me like nothing else did.

As an older adult, I don’t have the same needs, but I still feel connected to these characters. That may seem childish to some, but what they represent to me goes beyond—into potential. I can never be an actual superhero or character imbued with magical powers, but the idea that I can be something more all the time is what remains appealing.

I like having friends, some older adults like myself, who feel the same way. We find our path, our anchor, our impetus to move forward in myriad ways, and talking to like-minded people keeps me focused, ironically enough, on the real world.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Fatherhood of a Different Sort

Since 1993, I've been an English teacher, and I like to think that my students are, in essence, my children. I do help nurture them while they're in my class, but they were born to (and/or raised by) other people. Those people, in most cases, had the distinct pleasure of seeing their child from birth all the way through adulthood. Despite the fact that I have the ability to adopt children (having none of my own), I realistically won't, for reasons beyond this post. I've made my peace with that, actually.

I do, however, have children of my own. You're thinking, "Didn't he just say he didn't have kids?" I don't have the flesh-and-blood sort of children, but I do have offspring that came from the fruit of my... mind. My characters came from the blessed union of my inspiration and me. I know that sounds a bit odd, so I should explain. First, I have two sons: Danelos Fairmont and Brandon Jeffries. These boys are everything a father could want and more. 

Left: Dan by Silver Jow; Right: Dan by Mike Hamlett
Let me introduce you to Dan. My firstborn, he's an educated man, someone who takes excellent care of himself physically, mentally, and spiritually. He's a college professor of Archaeology and Antiquities at Boston University, a school where I would love to teach. Being a hero means he has to take care of himself, so he works out regularly (I wish I had his exercise regimen) and eats pretty healthily. Unlike his old man, however, he has long, black hair and blue eyes. No milkman here—he really is my kid, I swear.

He enjoys puzzles of all kinds, especially when it comes to figuring out prophecy, and loves crosswords. He's chosen a different spiritual path than I have since he's taken a sacred pledge to Gaea and Olympeia, the spirit of Mount Olympos. Hey, it makes him happy. While some kids go off and get tattoos, Dan wears a manacle that shows his allegiance to the goddesses to whom he's devoted himself. When he was old enough, I gave him his first weapon, PortalBearer, and he's mastered it like any good son would. He 'came out' to me when he was in his early teens, something I have no problem with, of course, and—like me—he's monogamous. I'm really proud of Dan for all his accomplishments, taking up with the U.N. Task Force Division.

Left: Brandon by Silver Jow; Right: Brandon by Mike Hamlett
My other son, Brandon, looks a little more like me (when I had more hair). He's my "tree hugger" son, the one who works as a zoologist also through Boston University, but he tends to work on making sure the animals are where they need to be. He's also like me in that he loves to be outdoors, hiking, camping, running, etc. Like Dan, he also takes excellent care of himself, eating organic food, avoiding processed products, and working out, but he stays more in shape from his outdoor activities.

His spirituality comes from his connection to the sky mostly, and looks for guidance in the stars. I tried to tell him he had taken on quite a bit, trying to find his path that way, but he's a stubborn kid. He has an amulet, something he never takes off no matter what, and it allows him to channel the abilities of the Zodiac signs. This boy has a heart of gold, and his connection to Virgo confirms that. Brandon doesn't have a devious bone in his body, and he would have been a Boy Scout or something similar if he could have. He, too, works with the U.N. Task Force Division, alongside Dan, and they're like brothers.

Now what kind of proud poppa would I be if I didn't tell you about my two girls, Aleta Halston and Sarah Jacobs. They are the apple of my eye.

Left: Aleta by Silver Jow; Right: Aleta by Mike Hamlett
From an early age, Aleta loved working with animals, birds especially, so when she wanted to go to medical school, who was I to argue? She graduated with a few degrees and expertise in genetics. The day she became Dr. Aleta Halston was one of the proudest moments in my life. My little girl—a doctor. Now, she's like me in a few ways, but the most obvious one is my sarcasm. This girl can wound with words in a way that makes some people nervous. Yeah, she got her razor sharp wit from me. Sometimes, her headstrong nature gets in the way of her relationships, and she hasn't had a serious boyfriend in a while. Baby steps, I say.

A father can't always be there when his little girl gets into trouble, and she was caught in the middle of an accident while doing genetic research. She'd developed a machine that could transport malignant cells from a body; this would work wonders with things like cancer exploration. One day, she ended up inside her machine while an albino eagle was also inside. When she came out of the hospital, she found she'd been genetically fused with the eagle. The first day I saw her fly—literally fly from the nest—I nearly cried. Okay, I did cry. When she came of age, she received her silver javelin, the one that gives her access to lightning. That's my girl.

Left: Sarah by Silver Jow; Right: Sarah by Mike Hamlett
My second little girl (not sure I can call her little since she's all grown up) is Sarah. Like Brandon, she's my "earthy-crunchy" child, someone who likes playing with clay, and is really down-to-earth in more ways than one. When she was old enough to understand certain things, she decided to become Wiccan, something I highly encouraged since I thought it would give her perspective. Not sure where she gets her red hair from, but she has that fiery spirit to go along with it. Of all my kids, she's the most artistic, making pottery and sculpting. A precocious child, she didn't have any problem speaking her mind. That's probably why she and Aleta get along so well.

At that special age girls get when they start pulling away from their father, I realized she needed to be able to protect herself, so I gave her a ring that lets her manipulate the four elements: earth, fire, air, and water. I didn't want her to get ahead of herself, so she can't actually create those things, only manipulate them. Merging her Wiccan beliefs with her understanding of the ring, she's actually quite a powerful young woman. But, if she's not careful, she could lose control, and that wouldn't be something I'd like to see.

I'm as proud as any father could be with my kids. They have their idiosyncrasies, as all kids do, but I raised them pretty well (or, at least I think I did). They do grow up fast, though.

If you'd like to read more about them, their stories are on Amazon.

Friday, November 14, 2014

A Friend and Muse—Meeting James Matlack Raney

A FEW years ago, I came across an author on Facebook who had recently published his first middle grades novel, Jim Morgan and the King of Thieves. I bought it on Kindle initially so I could read it during my school's Read-A-Latte, a day when we could bring our classes to the library and just have them read books, enjoy some coffee or hot cocoa, and a light snack. Well, all of my classes participated in this event, and I finished the novel in just a few periods, finding it a refreshing and engaging read for all ages.

This was my first exposure to James Matlack Raney.

Since then, I have read the second book in the Jim Morgan trilogy—Jim Morgan and the Pirates of the Black Skull—and this book blew me away with the vibrant imagery, spot on characterization, and fantasy world elements that I enjoy so much. Not long after reading the first novel, we started chatting on Facebook, and since then we've talked about our own books, writing in general, book publishing, promoting through social media, etc.

He was also kind enough to help me with a film treatment I was asked to write for my own debut novel, Task Force: Gaea. We spent hours over the course of a few days discussing this project, and his advice on books to read on the subject was invaluable. I am truly grateful for all of the time and effort he put into helping me make my project as strong as it could be. Not many people would take time of our their own lives to help someone they hardly know like that—he's truly a good-hearted person.

Having read James' works and talked with him, I found myself inspired in my own writing. A gifted writer, his advice and thoughts on various topics have come across as helpful without being the least bit condescending or pedantic. He truly knows his stuff. As I finished my second novel (and now my third), I can honestly say he was integral in helping to inspire me as a fellow author and a friend.

A few months ago, he re-purposed his blog—Storygazing—to showcase author's short fiction and poetry, and I was humbled when he asked me to contribute as well. The works that those authors have posted have been some unique and inspiring pieces, truly evocative of the inspired mind. As like minded storytellers, we both appreciate the written word and the effect it can have on others. My hope is that Storygazing will become an ongoing repository for creative works that people will enjoy for years to come.

Recently, while I was in Los Angeles for Bent-Con, I had the opportunity to meet James the night before I left, and it was like meeting an old friend. I have to admit: I was a little nervous. He's a role model and a sounding board, and I hoped I wouldn't make a fool out of myself. Our three-hour-long conversation couldn't have been more at ease, however, spanning comics, books, writing, movies, school, and even my favorite topic, Wonder Woman. 

Whenever I meet author friends, I feel like I'm meeting a member of an extended literary family, and in this case, I was meeting a brother. My hope is that we can make that meet up a yearly occurrence when I am out in Los Angeles.

It's not often one gets to meet a Muse, and I feel especially lucky to have had the chance to chat with someone whom I respect highly and for whom I want nothing but success.

Writing is a journey for the author as much as it for the reader, and reading compelling stories that can stand the test of time is something we all enjoy. I've only been an author for a short time (although I've been a writer for as long as I could hold a pen), and knowing others who would rather sit and write than do much else makes me feel more validated.

James' third novel in this series, Jim Morgan and the Door at the Edge of the World, comes out December 1, 2014, and I've been waiting quite a while to read it. You should definitely join the adventure of Jim Morgan—you won't be disappointed.

As his bio states, "James Matlack Raney grew up all over the world, in Europe, Latin America, and Africa. Now he calls Southern California home, writing adventures and occasionally living a few of his own," and I think we're all the better for it!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Holy Bent-Con, Batman—What a weekend!

Some conventions leave the most lasting impressions, and this year, Bent-Con 2014 certainly has etched itself into history as one of those. Held in Los Angeles at the Marriott Burbank Convention Center, this LGBTQ event brings together geeks, artists, creators, cosplayers, celebrities, and vendors from all over the world. Attending this extravaganza has only a little to do with me as an author—I truly go to see my friends.

This year, I had the great pleasure of meeting my friend Cyn Duby, who describes herself as "a solitary eclectic hedge and kitchen witch with Native American and Celtic leanings," and is a fellow author; she has a piece of my heart. We shared a suite this year which undoubtedly put us in the center of the action. Arriving late Thursday evening, we spent the rest of that evening just getting acquainted in person (we met on Facebook through mutual friend, Jezza Smiles, who unfortunately couldn't make it to Bent-Con this year). The rest of the weekend resulted in frivolity and madness that cannot be described in words. Suffice it to say, we had a hilarious time. Her daughter Stevie Montoy helped me tremendously by sitting at my table when I was away, selling books, and just being a good sport in helping out throughout the weekend.

Friday brought about setting up my table, something that establishes my base of operations for the duration of the convention. To one side of me was Jim Cartwright, friend and fellow author of the Las Vegas Bandits series, and to the other was Ashley of Monkey Minion Press, maker of posters, magnets, T-shirts, art prints, and so much more. Here is where I spotted my first "con" purchase, a print of Wonder Woman that I had originally seen on Facebook (eventually gifted to me by Cyn as an early birthday present). A few tables down was The Ninjabot, another wealth of art prints, and they have the Origin series which includes a stunning piece for Wonder Woman (that I ended up buying).

Top: Sean Maker, Jody Wheeler, Viktor Kerney, and PK Eiselt; Bottom: Michelle Lagos, Bellz Jordan, and Tomás Prower

Before I go into more detail, I want to thank those who make Bent-Con happen. Specifically, I have to thank Sean Maker, the president and founder. He has a big heart and warm smile, and he has become a dear friend as well as has Viktor Kerney, director of Outreach. Of course, I can't forget Jody Wheeler, VP of BC, and PK Eiselt, gentlemen I have come to know and respect over the past three years, and Bellz Jordan, someone I have known in passing, but would like to get to know better. This year, I also had the pleasure of meeting Michelle Lagos, Director of Programming and Talent Relations, and Tomás Prower, author and Youth Outreach coordinator. I hope to work with Tomás more in helping Bent-Con bring in the younger audience. Plus, I need to thank all of the volunteers and anyone else who makes Bent-Con so special.

Now for the main reason I go to Bent-Con...

Peter Saenz, Boston Blake, and me
To say I have friends who attend this event would be misleading—these people are family to me, some of whom I met online over a decade ago and only just recently met in person. These guys have my heart: Boston Blake, actor; Peter Saenz, author of Coven of Wolves as well as contributor to a few anthologies; and Phil Jimenez, writer/artist for Marvel and DC Comics, are brothers to me, and we share a tremendous longstanding love and respect for Wonder Woman. Missing from this 'family reunion' was another brother, Michael D'Alessio, who was unable to make it this year, but he was there in spirit. I had the privilege to meet artist Glen Hanson, someone whose work always leaves me breathless. Boston, Peter, Viktor and I had one of our Wonder Woman-themed dinners on Friday night, and the following night, Jase Peeples and Glen joined us for the second dinner devoted largely to our favorite Amazon princess.

Viktor, Peter, Boston, me, and Phil Jimenez
Some people I have met in person only in the past few years (having known them through message boards and Facebook), and they, too, make up my extended family. Augie Pires, who fought through illness to come to Bent-Con on Sunday, has tremendous energy and passion for our mutual comic book love, Wonder Woman. I was thrilled that he made it. Cosplayer extraordinaire and all-around sweet guy, Chris Riley—someone who has an endearing spirit and an appreciation for the LGBTQ fans of the art that is cosplay—helped make this weekend so enjoyable for me. I also had the opportunity to meet a longtime online friend Nick Corrin for the first time, and he is one of the sweetest people I've ever met. I joked with him about "snubbing" me last year since had walked by my table numerous times, but then he left BC without saying hello. This year, he made a concerted effort to spend time chatting, and I'm so glad he did.

Me and Chris Riley
What truly amazes me is that every single one of these people I met online, whether it be comic book message boards or Facebook. I can't imagine not having these people in my life—we laugh together, argue about comics over dinner, talk about each other's work, and listen to industry professionals talk about the impact so many issues has on comics or cosplay or novels or life in general. A few years ago, I started this journey as both a convention attendee as well as a traveling author. If you haven't been to conventions, you really don't know what you're missing.

In case you're wondering where the cosplay pictures are, I'm choosing to highlight the friends and family I have here at Bent-Con. If you look on Facebook, NewNowNext, or The Advocate, you can find all the cosplay pictures you like. And, if you check back next year, you might just see me in my cosplay debut. Yes, I am a cosplay virgin, and I have just the costume to begin that other side of my life. But, that's for another entry... Shhhh... but let's get back to the people to which I want to devote this blog post:

Augie and me, 2013
Chatting with Robert Chandler has always been a highlight of my Bent-Con weekend, and finally had the opportunity late in the weekend. David Reddish, an author of Sex, Drugs & Superheroes: A Savage Journey Into a Wretched Hive of Scum and Supervillainy and The Passion of Sergius and Bacchus, was also fun to spend time with, but we both agreed we needed more time next year. Artist Terry Blas has so much talent it scares me, and I had to get a Starlord print he did if I bought anything. Although I didn't get the chance to spend much time with them this weekend, I did get a little time to chat with Zan Christensen of Northwest Press, Jon Macy, and David Mizejewski. A.J. Catalano, an exceptional artist, and I had a chance to talk about a possible project we'll do related to Task Force: Gaea. Hush hush for now!

Artist and friend Steven Garcia arrived late due to traffic, but he did show up, with all his spectacular art (I bought three pieces!). With him was the ever-adorable Chet Barbour! I didn't have the chance until late in the weekend to see E. Robert Dunn, but he lives in South Florida, so I am sure we'll grab coffee sometime when I am down that way. A fellow Long Islander, Greg Fox has been one of my favorite people for quite some time, long before I ever met him. He writes the Kyle's Bed & Breakfast comic.
Me, Peter Saenz, and Greg Fox, 2013
I loved meeting Keith Chambers and his boyfriend Angelo Martinez—two sweet guys who had the cutest costume elements (and Keith came to my writing workshop)! Zachary Ledbetter gives awesome hugs, and we did have a chance to chat a bit throughout the weekend, but I hope to have more time to hang with him next year. Joey Dennis and I had only a quick hug hello, but I did see him randomly around the con. Next year, Joey, we sit and chat more! Lex White and David Cook (dressed like Arrow) stopped by my table—I enjoyed finally getting the chance to meet them in person. My across-the-aisle neighbors, Flex Comics, have the superbuff James Jamess and Jeremy Agapitos.

David Cook, me, and Lex White
My friend Jezza Smiles was unable to make it, as were Butch McLogic, Michael Annetta, William Thomas Damon, Paul Charles, and Joe Palmer. I missed them!

New to my friends list this year were artist and aisle-mate Jacob Mott as well as fellow artist Patrick Fillion who is with Class Comics (NSFW). Across from my table was the incredibly talented Rebecca Hicks with Little Vampires, and her Wolfie is just so adorable! My friend Cyn introduced me to Jasun Mark, producer/director with Titan Media (let's just say that it's NSFW). I also can't forget Billy Konstantine—he made an excellent Iceman!

ON SATURDAY, I facilitated my first convention workshop, Character Development 101, and although I only had five guests, we had a successful session, and one of the participants, Josh, who was looking into animation, felt like he had truly learned some new things that might help him in that medium.

Terry Blas and me
At 3 p.m., I attended my friend Boston's lecture, Wonder Woman: The Kink in the Golden Lasso, and this was an incredible discussion of Wonder Woman's history as well as issues like patriarchy, image adjustment, and her role in society. At 6:30 p.m., I participated on a panel, Spiritual Themes in Comics and Alternate Media, with Cyn, B. Dave Walters, and Buzz Dixon. After one of our famous Wonder Woman dinners (Peter/Viktor/Glen/Jase/Me), my fellow Amazons and I visited with Phil Jimenez for a while before attending a party in Zan's room—we actually chatted about cartoons! That's geeks for you!

Glen Hanson and me
SUNDAY went well, and I finished the convention having sold 17 of 20 books. Anne Rice and her son, Christopher, made an appearance, and then the exhibitor room emptied—quickly. Saying farewell to my Bent-Con family is never easy, and with big bear hugs and talk of next year, the convention came to a close.

It's not just the common interests that tie people together; it's the memories we create, the love and friendship we foster, and the networking we do to create bigger and better projects that can make a difference in the world.

Peter Saenz, me, and Billy Konstantine

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Fall 2014 Author Kindle Fire Giveaway

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1 winner will receive their choice of an all new Kindle Fire HDX 7" (US Only - $229 value), Amazon Gift Card ($199 value/International) or Paypal Cash ($199 value/International). Ebook prizes are the responsibility of the author(s). Ends 12/07/14. Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by Rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed. The winner has 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Indie Hoopla Services & Promotions and sponsored by the participating authors & bloggers. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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