We stopped at the Glenbrook Square Barnes & Noble on the north side of Fort Wayne last week, and I was very surprised to find they still have our book in stock:
I say "book" singular, because it's the only one of our nine that we've managed to get into a chain bookstore--the others are either through small publishers, or independently published, and it's not easy to find shelf space for those. In any case it was a suprise, because I've always heard that major book stores won't keep a book for longer than a couple of months before they return the unsold copies, to make room for new releases.
But that's not the only Noble County related book they had in their history section:
Yay for local history books! For those of you who don't know, Ligonier is indeed within Noble County. The author of that book, Daniel L. Replogle, was my high school science teacher, far enough back that we'd probably both rather not discuss how far back it was. As for the other author, John Martin Smith, I got a look at his vast historical photo collection while we were researching for Albion and Noble County.
Of course, it goes without saying that you can get all of our publications at Barnes and Noble online, as well as all your better online bookstores ... and some of the worst ones.
We'll get to the good Doctor--whose name is not Who--in a moment. This is set against the bigger question of whether it's okay to change the race or gender of an established character, always (so far) to a person of color and/or womanliness. In general, if it's another case of political correctness gone rampant (I call it Political Over-Correctness) I'm not a fan.
"The next James Bond needs to be black!"
"So we can have a black James Bond!"
"Okay. Or, you could just create a black secret agent from scratch."
"Yeah, but ... then he wouldn't be James Bond!"
Honestly, it's not something I care enough about to argue over, which sets me apart from most people who care at all. If the TV and movie industry disappeared from the face of the earth right now--which isn't the worst idea ever--I'd just go back to reading books for entertainment. Interestingly, if the race of a character in a book isn't specifically mentioned, most people either don't think about it at all or put their own skin color on the character. It never occurred to me, until I saw the wildly entertaining TV version, that Shadow Moon from American Gods was black. You can call that racism or you can call it being color blind, whatever. People will color anything I say here with their own views anyway.
James Bond is an interesting case when it comes to gender and race swapping, because the franchise has already done it--just not with 007. Bond's CIA buddy Felix Leiter has already turned from white to black--twice, if you include 1983's Never Say Never Again. The famous Moneypenny had a similar transformation, while Bond's boss M became a female ... although it should be noted that M is a title, rather than an individual.
You can complain about it all you want, but for me when it does work, it works spectacularly. Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica was just as much fun and kick-ass as a woman in the reboot, for instance. From the time I was old enough to read comics I knew Nick Fury as a white guy, fighting his way across Europe in World War II. Now I can't imagine him looking like anyone but Samuel L. Jackson.
Which brings us back to Doctor Who, who Samuel L. Jackson could totally play if he wanted to. Are you going to tell him no?
On the question of changing a character's looks just for the sake of changing them, the Doctor is a special case. Sometimes the actor playing a character is changed without explanation, as with the James Bond series. (Wait--who's this new Darrin on Bewitched?) Sometimes it's a reboot, as with Battlestar Galactica, and thus not really the same character. But Doctor Who ...
Okay, in case you don't know, I'd better offer a brief explanation.
The original Doctor Who, back in 1963, was an old guy. He was a grandfatherly type, on a show designed as a fun way to teach kids history. (He's a Time Lord, you see.) But the actor began to have health problems, and it was soon apparent he couldn't continue in the roll. It seemed Doctor Who was doomed to retirement.
But wait, the writers said. We've already established that he's an alien. Suppose this particular species of aliens, when facing death, could cheat their way out by transforming into a new body? Regenerate into, say ... another actor's body?
|Yeah, they're all the Doctor|
That was twelve Doctor's ago. More, really, but we don't have time to go into that complication. In fact, the Doctor has already been a woman, played (very briefly) by Joanna Lumley in a 1999 charity episode.
So there's no story reason why the Doctor can't be female. In fact, one of his main antagonists, also a Time Lord, already regenerated from male to female. The show has had many strong female and minority characters in the past, and the Doctor's most recent companion was a black lesbian. (Is lesbian still a permitted word? I don't care.)
|That's Bill, on the left. Black, prefers women, young, smart, and most importantly fun.|
I wasn't thrilled back then ("my" Doctor is David Tennant), but I came to like Peter Capaldi's version. That's why I don't understand the so-called fans who are closing the doors of the TARDIS and going home. I know it's not just mysogeny, as some narrow minded people claim. Not always, anyway.
Honestly, I suspect it's just resistance to change in general, and I get that. Contrary to what some will tell you, sometimes change is bad. But you won't even give the new Doctor a chance? Why not? With that attitude, the show would never have made it out of the sixties.
And we'd have missed a lot of fun.
|There's a new Doctor in the TARDIS|
We also had the grand-twins over during my days off, watched Lego Batman, cooked hotdogs over a fire, and slept. The only way it could have been better would be if I'd gotten some writing time in, but sometimes the days are just full.
Thanks for all your birthday wishes! I'm of an age where birthdays are a mixed blessing: You don't really want to admit to getting older, but it's nice to be thought of.
Oh, and the twins got to go swimming. I supervised with the camera.
Then, one day, you find out you're going to be a grandparent, for the third time.
Well, that's the way it happened to me, anyway.
In the great tradition of our family birthdays being either in mid-summer or in December, my daughter Jillian is due to give birth around December 11th (Jill--it's Jill now, not Jillian--was born on the 27th). I've known for awhile, although shockingly not as long as Jill did. She posted the news on Facebook in June, but I think a lot of people missed that.
I assume that if it's a boy, the first name will be Mark, and if it's a girl the first name will be the feminine version, which is Marka. But I suppose I should actually talk that over with Jill and Doug, and be satisfied if they merely gave him/her the middle name of Mark or, um, Markma. Or, okay, they could use my middle name Richard, which has the feminine version of Ricarda. Or she could name him Hunter, but then he'd have a cousin also named Hunter, and I'd have two grandkids named Hunter, and you'd never know for sure who's being yelled at. Probably me.
So anyway, Jill's life is essentially over--and she's started a new one. Way different, but in its own way just as fun, more exciting, and crazy expensive. The next generation is well on its way.
|Jill practices her baby cuddling skills with the closest nephew, who survived and just turned nine.|
(By the way, the series is just as mind blowing. Instead of trying to shove all this story and characters into one movie, there's actually room to expand it a bit. I couldn't imagine how they could turn American Gods into a TV series either, but they did it, and it's a work of surreal genius.)
What makes it harder is that there are three categories: beginner, intermediate, and why the heck wasn't I that good in high school? You can't judge them by the same standards; it would be like failing a fourth grader because he couldn't do advanced trigonometry, which is maybe a bad example because I never could do advanced trigonometry. I don't even know what it is. I'm still trying to figure out what x equals.
My problem is that I tend to go too easy, out of empathy for how I might have reacted to a harsh comment at that age. (Hint: I had very low self esteem.) But in trying to balance that, I worry about being too hard on the writers. They need to know if they have weak areas to be worked on, but they don't need me turning into that jerk chef on those cooking shows. So I try to be--I don't know--gentle, but guiding. All this stressing myself out is also why I struggle to do book reviews.
In any case, I've never seen a single 4H entry that didn't show potential for great works to come. That's exactly the kind of thing the world needs: imagination, industry, interest, and literacy. Which comes awfully close to the 4H motto of head, hands, heart, and health.
I'm taking a little break from the internet for a week or so (well, to an extent), because I've got 4H entries to judge. To many people I suppose that means judging animals, but 4H also has a creative writing challenge; it turns out they needed an experienced, knowledgeable, creative writer to judge the entries. But they couldn't find one, so for the last few years they've used me.
These are young writers in different categories, ranging from elementary to high school. Some of them are much better than I was at their age ... and some are as good as I am now, which is fine except I have decades of experience over them. It's nice to know there are still young people who take writing seriously!
Hey, the interview with me is up at KPC News!
This is from the Albion New Era. KPC owns many of the newspapers in the area, but I don't know how many others this will be in, if any. However, the link to the interview online is here:
Stop! I know how much I'd like people not to show me photos of spiders, so I'm begging you to go no further if you hate photos of snakes.
|No, no -- this is just the rabbit that lives in our back yard and tortures our dog. Last chance before reaching snakes.|
'Cause here are some photos of snakes. Specifically, to remind you warm weather is not all good, here are photos of snakes I stumbled upon (almost literally) at Pokagon State Park near Angola. I should add that, considering how much time I've spent up there the last few summers, seeing only two is actually a pretty good average for you snake haters.
This little fella really wasn't all that little. He was on a walkway over a swampy area last year, and as I approached he didn't move. So I took a photo and got closer, and he still didn't move. So I took this photo and got a little closer, and he still didn't move. So I went back the way I came. I figure it's his neighborhood way more than it's mine.
This little guy really was kind of little. I suspect he was a teenager, as teenagers sometimes like to pull pranks. In this case, our friend the garter snake staked out a place in the middle of that little concrete pad right in front of an outhouse door. So if you're a human going to the bathroom, you have to go past a little wooden wall, turn a sharp corner, and BOO!
Oddly enough, he didn't really scare me, but he did almost get stepped on, which would have taught him a lesson in how pranks can backfire. I assure you, if it had been a spider a third of that size I'd have left a Mark-shaped hole in the wall, in whichever direction I happened to be pointed at the time.
I'll see if I can get you some flower photos next time.
I thought this title was nicely official sounding and also just alliterative enough.
Anyway, the longest book signing in history, featuring two somewhat introverted people who are a bit averse to crowds and noise going to a festival, is over. By now you've all seen a photo of either me or Emily at the display table, which Emily laid out after telling me to go do something else. But here's a photo of the table with Emily and a guest who stopped by: My father, Delbert. They're munching on caramel corn at this moment, which we'll talk more about later.
The first surprise was when we were setting up on vendor's row, and I discovered my cousin Earl has a booth right next to us. (I bought some antique coins from him.) In this photo that's his place on the left.
Then it turned out one of the people on the other side from us was a woman I used to work with in the emergency services. Unfortunately for me, among other things they were selling some truly yummy chocolatey stuff. Then the Noble County Gas and Steam Association set up across from us and started making caramel corn ... from scratch, in an actual kettle.
Is this in any way fair to a guy who needs to make dollars, not gain pounds? Don't even get me started on the bacon, lettuce, and deep fried green tomato sandwiches they were selling down the way.
We were within sight of the stage, and over a three day period were treated to, among other things, bluegrass, 80s glam rock, country, rap, and the kiddie queen and king contest. Below is a long distance photo of Cougar Hunters, who I take it were hunting not large cats but older women.
There was also a festival going on, and every once in awhile I got to walk around and take a look, although of course not so much at the busy times.
Car show, too. Maybe I'll do more of a post on that later.
So, how did we do book sale-wise? Well, the first two days were kind of a disappointment, by which I mean a substantial disappointment. Still, by the end of the second day we broke even on our one-time expenses. By the middle of the third day we'd made up what we spent on other things, like the canopy and a folding table of our very own.
If it had been a typical three or four hour book signing, I'd be crowing about the sales we made. Spread out over three days it wasn't so spectacular, but we did well Saturday afternoon and evening. We also got some bites--gave away business cars and bookmarks to people who, hopefully, will go on the website, or Amazon, or B&N, and make some purchases. That's one of the reasons we do public appearances anyway: to get the word out. I also got to do a blurb on the local radio station.
The one thing I've found strange is that so far we have't sold all that many copies of Radio Red -- the newest release. But that will come.
Oh, and we have books. It's very important, when trying to sell books, that you have books to sell.
But I always feel nervous and unprepared before these things. Mind you, we've done at least a few every year, since that first one in the summer of 2011. Well over a dozen at this point.
My first book signing ... which was easier to set up, because I only had one book to sell. Now I have nine!
One of my favorite places to have an author appearance was the Noble Art Gallery (which, come to think of it, is half a block from where we set up for the first one). It's inside, has all that art, there's a sense of history, and a big window with a view of the Noble County Courthouse. But I've been there three times now, and the most recent time last year was poorly attended; I suppose I went to the well too often. Still, they're the only brick and mortar location with copies of our books for sale when I'm not there.
You could say my easiest author appearance was earlier this month, at the Albion Fire Department's annual fish fry. They sold three copies of Smoky Days and Sleepless Nights, even though I wasn't even there! But it wasn't really an author appearance, as I didn't appear, and it wasn't a book signing, since I didn't sign them. It's possible at this point that there are more signed books out there then there are unsigned ones, so maybe the latter are worth more.
Adding to my nervousness is that most of our appearances have been in Albion, although we've also shown up in Kendallville, Auburn, and Cromwell. Our trip to the Avilla Freedom Festival will be my first time in that town, so there's an air of uncertainty. Does anyone in Avilla know me, besides some emergency services people and the crew at the 4 County Mall? We'll see.
Meanwhile there's always worry about the weather, and getting set up properly, and finding the nearest bathroom. (Hey, I'm no spring chicken. And even spring chickens have to pee from time to time.)
Will our new awning get blown away in a windstorm? Will people laugh at me for taking books to a street fair? Will I sell zero books, and end up taking a loss? (It's happened before.) Will they have elephant ears? Will I get powdered sugar all over my inventory?
Emily and I helped celebrate Hunter and Brayden's 9th birthday Friday with a pool party, which is pretty much the only way to do an outdoor kid's birthday party in June.
That's Hunter on top and Brayden on the bottom, despite the fact that Brayden is taller (for the moment).
Did I mention the pool part?
When you're about to turn nine, opening presents is a group activity. There were adults there too, but our group activity was hamburgers and German potato salad.
It's always better with ... Batman.
Bonus video! If it works.
Emily and I gave them a telescope -- always good to keep your eyes on the stars.
(Although she is, and it does. And I did.)
Honestly I'm starting to wonder--you might brace yourself for this--if the day will come when the physically strong, kick-ass woman character will become a tired, cliched trope that makes people yawn. Hasn't happened to me yet. But my daughter watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the generation before me had Emma Peel, and I watched, well, Wonder Woman, who hit TV in her own series when I was thirteen. You bet I watched that show. I mean, as a comic book fan.
(Now that I think about it, my first literary hero was Dorothy Gale, Princess of Oz, who could be something of an action hero herself.)
Still, to paraphrase Buffy creator Joss Whedon, I suppose the reason we keep getting awesome female heroes is because people are still asking why we don't have them. And that ties right in with why I go to the movies, because Wonder Woman, while not the overwhelmingly perfect superhero movie some claim, is indeed awesome--largely because of one particular Gal.
|The various incarnation of Princess Diana.|
Diana's mother, Queen Hippolyta, doesn't want her to train to be a warrior, as every other woman there does. She thinks something very bad will happen if the island's only child develops her ability. Sure enough, just when the grown up Diana has reached the peak of her training, an airplane falls out of the sky and delivers *gasp* a man to the island.
Luckily Diana somehow knows what a man is--that saved some awkward exposition.
The pilot is America spy Steve Trevor, (Chris Pine), who's being pursued by German soldiers. Turns out the rest of the world is mired in World War I, and Steve holds intel on a new German weapon that might cost tens of thousands more lives. Diana is convinced the war is the work of Ares, the god of war, who the Amazons have been training all along to someday face. Clearly, all the world is waiting for her.
Wonder Woman originated during World War II, and setting the movie further back in time was the first smart idea of the filmmakers. Let's see: A red, white, and blue costumed hero, rather naive but eager and determined, gathering a band of misfit commandos to take on a German army with secret weapons during the second World War? Surely no one would draw any comparisons to Captain America.
Their next bright idea was the cast.
|What a Gal!|
With Batman vs. Superman, the naysayers were already out, complaining Gal Gadot was too scrawny to be a proper Wonder Woman. Did they learn nothing from the anti-Michael Keaton outcry with Batman? No? Oh. Well, just as Christopher Reeve owned Superman, Gal Gadot has now taken over from Lynda Carter as the perfect Wonder Woman. Sorry, it's true, and I love Lynda Carter.
Chris Pine is his usual charming action hero self, often reduced to stupified stammering by this innocent warrior who doesn't seem to understand the whole traditional woman thing. The rest of the cast is first rate, especially Connie Nielsen as the Amazon Queen who just doesn't want to give her daughter over to the world. I especially liked the band of misfits Steve assembled for their behind the lines mission. Also of note is David Thewlis (currently menacing everyone on Fargo) as a British military leader trying to broker a peace treaty between the warring nations.
While this doesn't rank as my favorite superhero movie (although it's well into my top ten), Wonder Woman is a great movie period--of any genre, or at least of any kind of action flick. The stakes are high, the emotions are great, the effects first rate. Really the only complaint I have is that if the next Wonder Woman movie is set in the present, we won't be able to see any of the sparkling supporting cast (who would be well into their second century by now). Maybe we should have them all frozen at the North Pole for several decades? That's never been done.
Entertainment Value: 4 M&M's, the good brown ones. I'm getting a little worried about this series of first rate movies I've been seeing the past couple of years. Granted that Wonder Woman is even more first rate than many of the others, but sooner or later I'll get hit with a disappointment.
Oscar Potential: 3 M&M's. It's worthy of a best picture nomination but, being based on a comic book, it'll be a supporting characters cold day in the North Pole before it gets one.
The death of Adam West immediately resurrected the old argument: Who's your favorite Batman?
It's ironic that Roger Moore passed away so close to the same time: His death, of course, caused a chorus of favorite James Bond arguments. They both held similar positions in their perspective portrayals: They were the lighter, more colorful ones who weren't afraid to poke a little fun at their genres.
That being the case--especially with West--the argument becomes apples and oranges. What, I can't have both? A big navel orange, followed by a nice Red Delicious? Comparing Adam West to, say, Christian Bale is like comparing ... hm. Oh, I know: Like comparing "Battlestar Galactica" to "Battlestar Galactica". Love or hate the reboot, it just wasn't the same show as the original.
I've probably just started arguments that would rival fights among British football fans, but there you go.
"Some days you just can't get rid of a bomb." -- Batman
Look at the above quote, and picture Michael Keaton's Batman saying that. Look at the photo, and imagine Christian Bale's Batman cavorting with a purple Batgirl or a bright red and yellow Robin. Ain't gonna happen. For that matter, imagine Ben Affleck making fun of his Batman on an episode of Family Guy. (Clooney would probably do it.)
My point is, you can like them both, or all, even Val Kilmer if you want. If you're a sports fan, the analogy is that you can like both the Cubs and the Bears: They're both in the same city, but they're two different animals.
So embrace and remember the fun that was Adam West. We should all be so lucky as to bring that much joy to such a wide audience.
I'd planned to work out of the car while she was on the job (I'm revising Beowulf: In Harm's Way). But it was a beautiful day, so I decided to walk the to the Spring Shelter even though I'd already hiked almost four miles earlier in the day. It's in a wooded area along the saddle trail and usually quiet, except for the people who go there with empty containers, for the spring water. They've quite literally piped it right out of the ground.
Since I was carrying a leather case with my laptop, iPad, and my ancient iPod, I checked the weather forecast first: No rain predicted. Then I looked at the weather radar: No rain in the region. So I got there, laid my stuff out, and was engrossed in revisions about an hour later when big drops started falling on the keyboard
Just a brief shower to remind me I'm not in charge. And, after all, the Spring Shelter includes ... wait for it ... a shelter. At least I could see the clouds that were the source of my torment; and when I checked the radar, sure enough, there were the showers popping up. Not like last week, where it started raining on my while I mowed the lawn -- despite the fact that there wasn't a single cloud overhead.
Just goes to show, there's no such thing as a perfect writing spot.
The Albion Fire Department's annual fish fry -- which happens annually -- will be Wednesday, June 7th, during the Chain O' Lakes Festival. We're also having tenderloin again this year, for those of you inclined, although I can't imagine why you'd want to pass on the breaded fish. It's all you can eat, and you can't beat that unless you're a diet doctor.
I can't be there (I'll be helping to bread the fish earlier in the day, and it's one of those scheduling things where I can't do both). However, they tell me copies of Smoky Days and Sleepless Nights: A Century Or So With The Albion Fire Department will be on sale at the fish fry, for $9.95. That's our book about the history of the fire department: Proceeds from book sales, as with the fish fry itself, go to the Albion Fire Department's equipment and training fund.
So come and support your local emergency volunteers! It's from 5 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. at the Albion Fire Station, 210 Fire Station Drive, on the east end of town. (It's traditional, when a town has a Fire Station Drive, to build the fire station there.) Price for adults is $10, for children $6, with children 5 and under eating free.
Emily and I selling pre-orders of Smoky Days at the fish fry just before its publication.
Why we do it: Albion firefighters attack a training fire. I'm particularly proud of this photo, because I didn't die taking it.
They cleaned up the beach at Chain O' Lakes State Park, all ready for the big holiday weekend ...
And now the beach is gone.
And more rain is expected tonight.
Be very careful driving--there was lowland flooding last night, and there's going to be more tonight across local roads, so slow way down, watch out, and don't go into standing water. Remember this rule: Stalling out your car is no fun, and drowning is even less fun. I've heard.