Monday, November 23, 2015

Saying Goodbye

This post is my way of voicing my feelings about the end of my relationship. It has nothing to do with books or writing, but it has everything to do with me.

Being single after fifteen years feels like I've had the wind sucked from me. I have told people and myself that the break up was mutual; it wasn't. My ex told me after he came back from visiting his family that he wanted to move on. The mutual part was that I didn't disagree. We both had been living as friends—good friends—for a long time. We had tried to fix the problems, but neither one of us really tried all that hard. It was because we knew that we didn't really belong together anymore. I want only the best for him, and I hope that he finds someone who can be the person I couldn't.

After he told me he was leaving, we were going to live together for about two more weeks until the closing of his house (He had arranged this while he was home). We spent many days not really talking, mostly on our computers. To be honest, that was what most nights had been like for a while. With the finality of everything coming, I had a hard time talking to him about anything. Even though we are friends, this transition pushed so much front and center for me. I felt inadequate. Impotent (in a life sort of way). Regretful. Apologetic. I wished I had either been the man he wanted or had had the guts to pull off the proverbial Band-Aid and end the relationship years ago when it probably should have ended.

It's been three days since he moved out. I took off work the day before to help him pack and load the truck, and to achieve a little closure. After Friday morning, I wouldn't see him again for G-d knows how long. That day I was there was so hard. I fought back tears all day. The fact that this was an amicable parting made it harder. I had no reason to be angry, not really. He was doing what he needed to do for himself. It would be for the best for both of us.

That night, after we picked up another piece of furniture that he was taking, we grabbed dinner. More awkward silence. Then, the most punctuating moment happened. When the server came to bring the bill, he brought separate ones. We've always received one bill or been asked (to which we replied "Same check.") We just looked at each other when the separate bills sat on the table.

It really was over. Two separate bills. Two separate lives.

The next morning, before I left for work, we had a few hugs with tears. He had to move the truck from the driveway so I could leave. When he was about to step into the truck, I gave him one more hug. More tears. That was the last time I would see him. If only I'd had a reason to be angry at him. I could have cursed his name as I drove to work. Instead, because we left things so amicably, I was inconsolable the entire 12 minute drive to work. I almost had to pull over I was crying so hard.

That night, I spent the evening with friends at a winery. That meant so much to me. It helped raise me up a bit since I had been dangerously close to losing it throughout the day.

I know the road ahead of me will be one of new adventures, new people, and perhaps, someday, a new love. Right now, I need to figure out just who I really am, what I truly want, and what I need to work on. Perhaps it's because I'm older, but the idea of self-discovery isn't that scary. I welcome it. I need to learn what it is that makes me who I am. In the process, I need to let go of the sadness little by little and replace it with hope—for me, and for him. He spent almost a third of my life with me, and he's left an indelible mark on my heart and soul. I can never forget him. I wouldn't want to. Right now, as I type this, tears are trickling down my cheeks. I still love him, and he loves me, but it wasn't meant for us to be. I can only hope that he can forgive me my failings. I'm not to blame for this—we both are—but, I have to take responsibility for what I did and didn't do. Only then can I prevent this from happening in the future.

Coming home to an empty house (well, there's always my cat, Shayna), when it's quiet, makes it obvious that he's never coming back. I have to be okay with that. I have to say goodbye, so that we can both move forward. It's just hard.

Charles Kettering said, "You can't have a better tomorrow if you're thinking about yesterday all the time." I have to move beyond yesterday and focus on tomorrow. I want better for myself.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Lowering the Mask—Showing Your True Self

I had lunch with a friend and former colleague over the weekend, and he talked about "lowering the mask" with regard to school (he's a teacher, too) and, to some degree, his personal life, but after we finished lunch, that phrase swam around my head for a bit. I have to admit, it still clings to my cranium.

We all wear masks. Every single day of our lives, even when we say we're "like an open book." For people to be completely open to everyone all the time seems a bit unrealistic. We need to have that moment when we smile at others when we'd rather be by ourselves in quiet meditation. It's a human thing to do. But, I do believe that it is necessary to lower the masks we wear if we want to have any meaningful relationships with people, including ourselves.

A mask, to me, is a persona that I wear that gives me a thin veneer behind which I can be someone else or at least have that hint of experience where I can be an expert on something, like teaching. Or, it can be that shield I put up when I have to be in a setting where I am entirely uncomfortable. My masks come in many forms, and for the longest time (27 years, to be exact), my greatest mask was as a straight man. I lived behind that opaque, porcelain shell, hiding my true self to everyone, perhaps even to myself. When it was time to lower that mask, I endured a maelstrom of emotion and psychological upheaval that changed me forever.

To some extent, as a teacher, I wear a mask, too. I can't very well go into work feeling bedraggled and overwrought from whatever's been happening in my life—my students see me as their English teacher whose life is much less complicated than theirs. If they only knew. I walk into my classroom every day with a smile and buoyant spirit, hoping that it becomes infectious. Occasionally, I do lower that mask when I speak with students individually or when I know my personal experience will help someone. I have to show them that I am, indeed, a human being, and not some automaton or holographic projection that comes to life when the school opens. It's this mask that is sometimes hard to maintain, especially when I see students in crisis or feel the Atlas-like burden of bureaucracy pressing down upon me. Unlike the mask of "straightness" that I wore to protect myself growing up, my professional educator mask will remain a part of me as it's a vital part of who I am.

I'm sure my proverbial closet has what I would consider a collection of masks I wear from time to time, and they can be crucial to maintaining my sanity. Lowering these masks can be helpful, especially when among friends who understand. One of my most commonly used masks is, "How am I? I'm fine."

How many times have we been asked that question, only to put on a smile (i.e. mask) and lie? Is it worth taking that mask off and allowing that person to see exactly how we feel and what we feel? This mask removal comes with risks. Taking it off to too many people weakens its efficaciousness. Not taking it off enough leaves us miserable and lonely. It's not bravery to deny feelings to those who care about you. It's fear. "What if he doesn't understand?" or "What if she judges me?" or "Do they really care, or was that just a gesture?" The only way to find out just what's on the other side of that mask is to lower it and wait.

Scary, eh? Sometimes, I'd like to superglue the mask to my face, so to speak. Other times, I can't take it off fast enough. But, in either case, I have no idea what will happen when I make that choice.

Ultimately, I believe in my heart that lowering a mask we wear, at the appropriate time, can bring us peace and love, balance and strength. We just have to okay with what we look like without it.

In most cases, the one whose judgment we fear most is our own.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Vance Bastian—Author, Voice Artist, and Odin

Vance Bastian has an impressive résumé: author, podcaster, voice artist, and—yes—I do believe he is Odin, the All-Father (more on that later). Ever since we met, we've both determined that we should have become friends in kindergarten.

When we connected on Facebook, we discovered we had many commonalities including—but not limited to—D&D, writing, and fitness. In fact, his About page for the podcast (see below) had words that caught my attention: gym, "werewolf shaman, a wizard, or mischievous sidhe," "gay superheroes in a D&D game"—I knew he was a brother.

Once I knew he was an author, I HAD to check out his novel Slumberscythe (Outré War Book 1). I'm not finished yet, but it's a story that takes you prisoner right away, but you don't want to break free. You're held captive by his story, and the adventure that unfolds is mesmerizing. I'll have a review when it's done, but I feel like I'm reading a kindred spirit's work. I'm excited for book 2 in the series, Styxgate, as well as another book he's working on, Caesar's Shadow.

In addition, he's "got skills" in the voice department, first as founding host of the 3 M/Musketeers podcast, and his voice work for audiobooks.

That brings me to him being Odin. Here's why: in many of his posts, he makes reference to two corvine advisers, as it were, named Huginn and Muninn. Now, I don't know about you, but I don't know anyone who lays claim to that except the All-Father himself. Plus, if you check out this photo from his website, isn't this body of a Norse god? Just sayin'.

You can certainly learn more about him via Twitter (@VanceBastian), Facebook, and his site.

In his own words, "[he] writes mostly fantasy, urban fantasy, historic fantasy, horror, and paranormal fiction. When nobody's looking, he's a complete sci-fi geek."

I'd say that's pretty kickass.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Playing Tug of War with Characters

I'm a writer whose inspirational cup overfloweth. You'd think that would be a good thing, right? Sort of. Having the ideas and having the time to write are polar opposites. Currently, I'm working on books employing the Greek pantheon AND the Celtic one. The Task Force: Gaea series is my current series, and I should be working on The Archer's Paradox (book 4) and Of Mortal Bonds (my anthology), but Conall and Aeden from my Celtic WIP, The Quest of Wyndracer and Fyrehunter keep nagging me in their thick brogues: "Come on, we're up for some craic." (craic is Gaelic for fun)

On the other spectrum of Task Force: Gaea, Aleta is glaring, eye brow raised, lips pursed, with her arms folded. Sarah's just pouting. Brandon takes things in stride, but he's uncharacteristically quiet, and Dan is polishing his sword and occasionally looking at me. Of course, this is all happening in my head. Yeah, my characters are active figures for me in my head. I know some of you understand.

Lately, I've been focusing my attention on fleshing out the first few chapters of Conall's and Aedan's adventures. My head's all about Cernunnos and Brigid, not Apollo and Athene.

Instead of the sound of the lyre in my head, I'm hearing trad music with the tin whistle and bodhran.

I think the gods must be angry (Olympian, not Celtic) since I've been ignoring them. I can hear Zeus' rumbling from here. Maybe I need to do some sort of sacrifice or ritual to appease them. Or appease my own guilt. Haha.

I love that I have multiple things going on in my head, but I'm not enjoying having my "kids" thinking Dad doesn't love them. I don't play favorites, but I guess I have been.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

October Platform Challenge Days 5 & 6

In keeping with the challenge, I marked that I had joined Facebook & Twitter. I hope that this challenge will keep me engaged and push myself to become a stronger presence as an author.

If you want, follow me on Twitter at and on Facebook at I welcome the interaction!


Sunday, October 4, 2015

2015 October Platform Challenge!

My friend and fellow author Vance Bastian mentioned this to me, and I read through the posts he put on his blog thus far. I'm intrigued by this challenge, actually, and it will get me into something different. I have some catching up to do, so here we go!

Day 1 Challenge (October 1) was Define Yourself as a Writer. I'm using the same format Vance used, so here goes:

Name (as used in byline): David Berger
Position(s): Author, Teacher
Skill(s): Storytelling, writing, editing, and proofing
Social media platform(s)—active: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
Social media platform(s)—lurker: Independent Author Network, DitterVerse, Internet Author Database
Accomplishments: Masters degree in Secondary Education, concentration in English, first three novels in a series of five published, contributed to short story anthologies
Interests: Writing, teaching, fitness, reading
In one sentence, who am I? David Berger is an English teacher and author, and someone who loves empowering others.

Day 2 Challenge (October 2) was Set Your Writing Goals

Short Term
  • In October, complete the October Platform Challenge.
  • Finish plotting Of Mortal Bonds by the end of November 2015.
  • Finish plotting The Archer's Paradox by the end of December 2015.

Long Term
  • Publish The Archer's Paradox in 2016.
  • Publish Of Mortal Bonds in 2016 (at least one of the books).
  • Publish Book 5 of the Task Force: Gaea series.
  • Publish The Quest of Wyndracer and Fyrehunter from The DragonHawk Cycle.
  • Complete The DragonHawk Cycle within five years.
  • Contribute to more short story anthologies.
  • Improve my financial stability.
  • Keep my fitness goals consistent yet growing.
Day 3 Challenge (October 3) was Start a Writing Blog

DONE! You're on it!

Day 4 Challenge (October 4) was Claim Your Domain.


I'm ready for more! Stay tuned for the rest of the challenge as October unfolds! Thanks, Vance!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Taking My Main Character Out of the Closet

Growing up in suburban Long Island, NY during the 70s and 80s, I lied to myself every single day. I was (and still am) the eldest of three kids, and the only male child, so the expectations for carrying on my family (i.e. marrying a "nice, Jewish girl") had been placed on me by a mother who had no idea who her son really was deep down. I never told anyone how I felt because I didn't want to get the crap kicked out of me, and in my teen years, I would never have thought to use the word "gay" to label myself. I don't think I even heard that word growing up. I did hear "queer" or "faggot," however, from people my own age, and my step-father (who used to say I was queer because I liked to draw; I just think back then he didn't know what to do with a step-son who wasn't into sports and liked to be creative). I kept telling myself I liked girls, and that I should just do what was expected of me and date them with the hope (my mother's, not mine) that I would marry one at some point. My lies festered within me, and I gradually knew I liked actually guys by the time I was in high school.

I would sneak glances at guys I thought were cute, making sure my surreptitious looks were quick and sly. This side of me could never come to the surface, I would tell myself, because I would lose everyone I held dear. When I started writing, I even kept those ideas out of my personal stories for fear that someone would find what I'd written and discover my secret. I started writing "The Olympus Corps" in high school, and my outer-space fantasy with Olympian gods had all straight characters. It would never have occurred to me to make any character gay or even bisexual. It just wasn't done then.

Even after high school, when I dabbled with my story, even knowing that there were, in fact, gay people at SUNY Albany (having seen the Gay and Lesbian Alliance office in the student union), I kept my characters straight and largely relationship free. At that time, that was the world I lived in—a heteronormative world where nothing else existed. When I came out in 1994, that was all going to change.

Dan Fairmont aka Aegis
It wasn't until I changed the name of the story to Task Force: Gaea—Destiny's Talisman (that title didn't last long) that I toyed with the idea of a bisexual character in Dan Fairmont. At that time, I hadn't even thought about the prospect of publishing the book, so it was all private and personal. Over the years, as the story morphed and developed, I felt something was missing, and I couldn't quite put my finger on it. Somewhere in the 2000s, I had an epiphany: DAN HAD TO BE GAY.

I had been out since 1994, and I was living in a long term relationship with my partner, so why on G-d's green Earth couldn't Dan be gay? Of course he could. That was when it hit me: my world wouldn't have homophobia. Nope. Not at all. It was a fantasy novel, after all. The world I had created could be whatever I wanted it to be, and that kind of prejudice (or any, for that matter) just didn't need to be there. My story wasn't about a man struggling with his being gay or adjusting to a different society or making strides in a largely heterosexual world. If the Olympian gods could have male and female lovers, then my main character could be a gay man.

Herein lies my issue: I don't market my books to an LGBTQ audience largely. I go to Bent-Con and RainbowCon, two LGBTQ-focused conventions, to sell my books (basically because I'm a gay author), but I don't tag my book as LGBTQ on Amazon. My biggest fear is that people will think it's somehow an erotic fantasy novel, and it's not. Dan has a boyfriend, and, once in a while, they're seen lying in bed together talking, but there's never any intimation of sex. Not even "fade to black."

Yeah, I have a gay main character. Yeah, his father, Apollo (the Greek god), had flings with men. Hell, so did Zeus (Ganymede, anyone?). Why I think people would suddenly run screaming from Task Force: Gaea if they knew the book had a gay character is just my own hang up. I'm certainly not ashamed of my work (or of myself), so I guess it just comes down to the idea that I'm afraid of a future I can't control. They say admitting you have a problem is the first part of solving it. So, to promote as an LGBTQ novel or not... THAT is the question.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

I want to talk with YOU!

I love that 42 people are following this blog! That's awesome. I hope that my posts are entertaining for you, or at least informative. If you're looking for more author information, please bookmark my author site: The blog does get routed there through one of the navigation links. I may, at some point down the road, switch over to that site (as it has blogging ability), but for now, I'm blogging here.

If you are one of the 42 followers, I would greatly appreciate if you would let me know you're reading by commenting on a post. I'd love to hear from you.

If you'd like to connect with me on other social media, you find me in the following places:

Like my Facebook Author Page:
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I would love to chat with you, so please say hello!

Friday, July 24, 2015

New Series on its way—The DragonHawk Cycle

One morning, I awoke with a message from my Muse:
You need to write a Celtic series. Go!
And so it began. My hibernophilia was finally going to come in handy. The next part of my inspiration came in the form of a friend/brother of mine, Scott. He and I share an appreciation for all things Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra as well as all things Wonder Woman. We found out, interestingly enough, that not only does Scott identify with Zuko, the Fire Prince, but he is also an Aries, a fire sign. I, on the other hand, identify with Aang, and I am a Gemini, an air sign. How intriguing, eh?

So, when this series popped into my head (and it did!), I thought that writing a series about Scott and me, and the adventures we could have, all in a Celtic milieu, would be absolutely incredible, and fun to write. Thus, The Quest of Wyndracer and Fyrehunter was born. In keeping with the Celtic mythology I would no doubt be drawing from, I named the series The DragonHawk Cycle, after the Cycles of Celtic mythology.

I'm not sure if you write, but when your Muse tells you to do something, you should probably do it, otherwise, well, there are consequences. And, by consequences, I mean your thoughts will only be on that until you do something about it.

So... I started plotting and planning. Firstborn into this novel series is Conall, a sixteen-year-old boy who lives in Silver Birch Glen and has a hawk named Lann as his companion. He's swift on his feet and eager for adventure, and he's a spiritual lad with an eye for detail. Next came Aedan, a fiery young man of sixteen whose hunting skills are unmatched in his clan. A red dragon named Fiachra bonded to him when the hatchling lost its mother, and they're inseparable.

The series unfolds with both young men learn of a battle coming between the Ársa and the Fonn, two groups of ancient gods whose battle for sovereignty will involve the world of mortals, whether they want it to or not. If Conall and Aedan can find the Thirteen Wands of Danu, they can prevent this war, but finding them is not as easy as they think.

In the midst of this journey, Conall also needs to find his caomhnóir, his spiritual guide, that he needed to start looking for on his sixteenth birthday.

But, the Elders have other plans.

The expected arrival date for book one is 2017. At the moment, I expect this series to be a trilogy, but, as those with Muses know, that's not always the way things work.

Besides, I still have The Archer's Paradox (2016) and  book five, plus Of Mortal Bonds (2016 also—yikes!), to finish, since the members of Task Force: Gaea are eager for more adventures.

Stay tuned for more updates! Beannacht leat go bhfeicfidh mé aris thú.*

*Blessings, until I see you again!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Plotting—Of Mortal Bonds anthology

With The Liar's Prophecy about ready to emerge into the world, I have been working feverishly on plotting Of Mortal Bonds, the anthology tie-in to Memory's Curse.

Giving each of the gods a mortal existence for a year has been tremendous fun, but also challenging to a certain degree. I want each of them to experience the good AND bad of being mortal. Human beings can be compassionate, loving, and kind, but they can also be cruel, thoughtless, and immature.

The stories contained in this anthology will have occurred during the time of Memory's Curse, but they will have happened 'off page', as it were. They weren't necessary for the plot to advance, but I did want to tell their stories.

The goddess Ananke has randomly selected a mortal life for each of the gods, and each will need to live out all aspects of that life, trying to understand what it means to be human—truly human. Frailties, insecurities, triumphs, and setbacks will circumscribe these stories, and the nature of Olympos itself may change once the gods resume their immortal life.

Below is how far along I am in the plotting process. An "X" means the character's story has been plotted.

[X] Zeus and Hera—an elderly Japanese couple.
[X] Demeter—a girl in a foster family in Portland, OR.
[X] Hades—a life coach in NYC.
[X] Poseidon—a horseman in Kansas.
[X] Hesteia—a homeless teen in London.
[X] Dionysos—a longshoreman in Boston, MA.
[X] Hermes—a paraplegic actor in Los Angeles.
[X] Ares—a social worker in Seattle, WA.
[X] Aphrodite—a burn victim in Marlborough, MA.
[   ] Artemis—a counselor for troubled children in Iceland.
[   ] Hephaestos—a dancer in Mexico.
[   ] Athene—an office assistant in Paris, France.

The key idea behind all of these experiences is perspective. I will keep you posted as more unfolds. Also, the ideas above may indeed change as the stories unfold.

Estimated publishing date is 2016, somewhere between January and December.

The Archer's Paradox, book four of the Task Force: Gaea series, should be out late 2016.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Happy Hour Podcast with Johnny & Duce Interview

Hey! So, I spent Free Comic Book Day with my friend Brian Wenzloff and his family while they were raising money for an MDA Muscle Walk while at Emerald City Comics in Clearwater, FL. It was a phenomenal time watching people get excited about comic books—something near and dear to my heart, too. Brian, his wife Nicole, and his sons, Brighton, Shane, and little Oliver (yes, named for Oliver Queen) were there, and I enjoyed so much helping them be a part of this experience. I hope they were able to raise some money for such a worthy cause.

Brian at one point in the day introduced me to Johnny and Duce with their Happy Hour Podcast, and they asked me to sit with them, in the middle of the store, and be interviewed. Well, how could I say no! Check out the interview below. It starts at 41:00 and lasts about 20 minutes. And check them out on Facebook at Happy Hour Podcast with Johnny and Duce, as well as on Soundcloud.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Me love Superman vs. Bizarro!

Just finished Superman vs. Bizarro, written by John Sazaklis with art by Luciano Vecchio. Man, do I love Vecchio’s art. Opening the cover reveals the endpapers splashed with DC villains on one side (the left side—how appropriate) and the heroes on the right side. The first few pages give a brief bio of both main characters, facing each other, and that creates an interesting visual already. This five chapter book tells the story of two kids, Marc and Anna, and their trip to Metropolis. They encounter Bizarro and, ultimately, Metallo, before finally meeting Superman. This is an action-packed and riveting story about heroism with some underlying messages about safety and support. Even though Metallo does play more of a villainous role when you would think Bizarro would (from the title), the story comes back around to Bizarro at the end. In my opinion, Superman and Bizarro needed a common enemy for this story to work.

As a teacher, I especially enjoyed the higher level vocabulary used as well as the glossaries in the back: one for Superman, and one more Bizarro. You can also find some thought-provoking questions geared to make an active reader think about the story and how it relates to him or her. Easily a favorite children’s book, and I’m certain adults would enjoy it as well (I know I did). Whether or not you’re a comic book fan, you’ll want this book in your collection. Sazaklis knocks it out of the park with this one.
You can buy it here.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Sazaklis and Vecchio empower Wonder Woman!

Just got my copy of Wonder Woman: An Origin Story written by John Sazaklis and illustrated by Luciano Vecchio. First, the cover is striking, with a beautiful rendition of Diana smiling—always love seeing her smile! The back cover highlights her powers (and no sword, which is always a plus for me). One of the first things I noticed was a glossary of words; as I am an English teacher, I think this is a huge asset to any children’s book. That certainly puts this book in a positive light right off. I absolutely love that Diana is “confident…determined…and has a heart of gold” in her first scene. Now, that is the way to begin a story about the Amazing Amazon. Seeing the gods involved in her birth was another plus, although my preference would have been to leave Zeus out of it (although he is currently her father in her own comic). But! That doesn’t hamper my enjoyment of a beautiful splash page of Hippolyta holding the newborn Diana. Diana is adventurous, and this quality begins her position as a role model. Her wanting to go out into the outside world to help warmed my heart, and I love that she wants to be a hero. When she says, “Show compassion to one another,” I got teary-eyed. That’s the Diana I love.

Overall, I found this book quite heartwarming and endearing. Diana’s strength and capability shines—Sazaklis and Vecchio have done the Amazon princess proud. The discussion questions in the back of the book make me happy. Picture books are great ways for young readers to learn about stories, but this book has vocabulary and questions to challenge the mind, something Diana would want in those who read about her. I look forward to reading other works by Sazaklis and Vecchio.

Buy it at Amazon.

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.
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