Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Rewards of Writing

by John F. Allen

When I first started seriously pursuing my writing goals some three years ago, my life changed in ways that at the time I could have never imagined. Over the years, relationships formed with some very amazing people, who I never would have had the honor of knowing otherwise. My writing skills have improved and I’m more confident in my voice. In general, my friends and family have supported my journey as a writer, for which I am immensely grateful. However, pursuing a career as a writer has not been without its detractors and malcontents.

From early on, what I’d read about being a writer and the pitfalls which came from it was discouraging to say the least. Many of the articles stated that writing was a solitary endeavor which caused introversion, apathy, madness, depression and eventually led to death. Many famous examples of this gave it a modicum of truth, that was unless you became published and garnered a healthy following, then you just ended up dying of a heart attack due to lack of exercise and/or poor diet. I also read that there was little to no money or reward in writing. A more highly compensated career path such as law or medicine was encouraged.

Unfortunately, there is merit to what I read and there are undeniable truths in much of it. I think that writing can lead to the above maladies—which can prove fatal—but, I know that those very same afflictions can arise from a multitude of other professions, some of which practically guarantee far more compensation and personal accolades. It’s also true that because writers are usually sedentary, most of us aren’t the most fit or health conscious people in the world. As far as making truckloads of money from writing, less than 1% makes more than four figures a year. Even ER doctors and small time dentists can do better monetarily. However, one thing—from the above mentioned pitfalls of writing—that I feel has absolutely no merit or truth, is that there is little to no reward from writing.

I have found that writing is rewarding on so many different levels that it is in itself invaluable. I cannot begin to tell you how many times that writing a blog post or a journal entry has saved the last remnant of my threadbare sanity. As an outlet for an emotional meltdown, the latest family crisis, or dealing with all of the voices of your characters in your head, I’ve found writing to be very therapeutic. Writing is also something which is a huge part of who I am as a person, which is rewarding in its own right. Having a high paying career and being unhappy would only go so far. Money can buy you a lot of things, however it can’t buy you fulfillment.

Writing can also serve as an obvious means of expressing one’s thoughts and ideas, in such a way as to inform, entertain, make a statement or create change. Yet, telling stories can also be a very selfish effort as well. I’ve found that my motivation for writing isn’t always altruistic.

If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.
~Toni Morrison

I have come to live by the above quote from Morrison, as it sums up the previous statement perfectly.
In all of the other examples of rewards one can gain from writing, I feel that this final one is most important. Not solely because it can serve to prevent the previously mentioned pitfalls of writing from becoming fatal, or because it can inspire and empower us to reach our fullest potential, not only as writer’s, but also as humans. I feel that this final example is most important because it has the power of giving us hope. Hope of learning from our past, hope of coping with our present and hope of brighter futures, just beyond the horizon. I’m talking about family.

I have been blessed to have entered into a very eclectic, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic family of writers dedicated to the craft and each other. I feel that the personal relationships that I have and continue to develop with fellow writers are crucial to my ability to persevere in the darkest of times we writers face. My college professor, Jim Powell once told me that without the human condition/connection, our writing would be without meaning, no matter the genre. That not only applies to the content of our work but how we live as a community. I believe in the truth of his statement and what it means for the millions of writers out there grinding out their work every day just as I do.

I have experienced the awesome comradery which being a part of a community of writers provides. How we share, how we laugh, how we cry, and I know that we are a very special group of people. I have had the honor of meeting and befriending a great group of writers who have helped to guide me, inspire me, and support me as a writer and as a person. I can only hope to repay their kindness with kindness of my own and an extended hand to others I meet along my journey. We as writers, have an obligation to continue moving the art of writing forward by remaining vigilant in our efforts to strengthen our collective community. We must take every opportunity to extend a hand to our brethren, helping them along on their journey as best we can. Although it’s impossible for us to know each and every one of our brothers and sisters on a personable level, I believe we are of a shared consciousness and linked by our call to write. We must always remember that when we reward each other, we reward ourselves, and the rewards are invaluable.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Bizarro Origin of Superman's Nemesis Bizarro, Part 2

The Bizarro Origin of Superman's Nemesis Bizarro, Part 2

By RJ Sullivan

(to read part one, click here)

So part two opens with Superboy finding Bizarro passed out in a field, thinking the danger is over. He brings the body to our still unnamed scientist character (If I were him, I wouldn't want my name published in this, either). Bizarro wakes up, and the scientist thinks "Both Superboy and I forgot his heart wouldn't beat, nor his lungs breathe." Well, okay, whatever makes you feel better about yourself.

Demonstrating his usual skills at diplomacy, the scientist says, "Stay here, Bizarro…nobody likes you around…oof!" The "oof" being when Bizarro runs him over on his way to flying out the window.

So Bizarro crashes the Smallville High School gym class where Clark happens to be working out with a few classmates. He wants to play with them, but no one will have anything to do with him. He throws a few balls through walls and wreaks havoc on the gym equipment, etc., before the other kids' combined taunting drives him away. That's right kids, bullying can be used as a weapon to fight evil.

Now we come to one of my favorite parts where Superboy concludes, "Bizarro doesn't really mean harm, but his super-blundering makes him a menace. I must get rid of him for good, and Kryptonite will do it." So his super-plan to locate Kryptonite involves flying past several meteor showers until he finds one where he feels pain and weakness.

He then flies back to Earth while "keeping an eye on his find with his telescopic vision" (He's Superboy; why not?) and flies to a lead manufacturing plant where he creates a suit of armor. (A suit of armor with a visor that, over several panels, clearly shows eyeslots, so….oh, never mind).

So using his supersenses he flies back to the meteor shower, strips it of a globe of the green stuff, then flies down to the loudest footsteps he can hear in Smallville (good thing the elephants didn't have another convenient stampede). Anyway, he throws the kryptonite at Bizarro, who thinks Superboy wants to play catch. And before you can scream "but he wasn't born on Krypton, you idiot." Bizarro has flung the rock back, tore a hole through his suit of armor and left him passed out next to the rock.

Bizarro walks off, thinking Superboy has decided to take a nap, and that Superboy is his friend. Several panels later, the man of steel, the man of tomorrow, he with powers far beyond those of mortal man, is saved by…a passing cop on the beat, who gathers the lead pieces and wraps the Kryptonite in it, allowing Superboy to wake up.

One would think that after such an experience, it might occur to most people that maybe brute force isn't the answer, maybe they should, I don't know, try talking to the poor misunderstood creature.

But no. Instead, let's ask the guys at our local army base for help. Superboy rallies up the troops with his next plan—essentially to bomb the bejesus out of Bizarro.

But first, our hero, our boyscout, the world's most powerful role model, can't just challenge Bizarro to a fight and lure him into firing range. No, he can't even trick him with the obvious ploy that Bizarro thinks Superboy is his friend. No, a threat like Bizarro requires a special level of deviousness.

Bizarro flies along and finds his friend Melissa. "I've been looking for you everywhere!" She says. "Please fly me on a sight-seeing tour…I'll tell you which way to go." Bizarro is overjoyed and only too happy to oblige. Then comes the reveal (which actually DID surprise me, because it's such a lousy sneaky no-good thing to do) that Superboy has made an elaborate mannequin in the shape of Melissa and is using his super-ventriloquism to make him think she the real thing. (Hey, he's Superboy—okay, nevermind).

Bombs go boom, flame throwers throw flames, missiles 'splode. "That thing wrecked half of my military equipment!" enrages the army commander. No, sir, I beg to differ. It's Superboy's brilliant plan that caused the loss of half your weapons.

But don't worry. Supes has another plan. Drop the A-bomb. Yes, drop the A-bomb, right outside a population center.

Bizarro catches said A bomb and throws it back at Superboy, who, rather than deflecting it someplace where it can blow harmlessly, lets it pass so it can blow up on the moon. (Gee, thanks, Superboy!)

In what is clearly an act of desperation, Supeboy grabs Bizarro by the ankles and flings him into space. "When he's out of sight of Earth, he'll be too dumb to find his way back." Good plan, turn Bizarro loose on the rest of the galaxy and who knows what other sentient lifeforms, but not in my backyard.

Alright, more silliness of the same nature occurs for a couple more pages until we come to the finish, where Superboy suddenly remembers how the destroyed bits of the duplicator were glowing. "It's quite logical!" he declares. "My Kryptonite was formed from each of the fragments. Similarly…the broken machine became his Kryptonite."

Whoa, whoa, whoa, it may be "quite logical" to Superboy, but that makes no sense. As any Super-geek can tell you, Kryptonite is lethal to Superman because the chunks of planet emitted a form of radiation put out by his home planet's sun when it exploded. Superman is not harmed by the chunks of rock themselves, but by the radiation seeping off of them.

What is "quite logical" is that since Superboy was unharmed by the explosion of the duplicator (which went boom, yes, but did not leave behind residual radiation) Bizarro would not be harmed by it either. Okay, now that I've gotten nerdy enough to embarrass Sheldon from Big Bang Theory, let's continue.

So armed with his Bizarro-nite, Superboy flies at our supervillain, whose final words are "You going to kill me? I not run away." And with that, Bizarro explodes into a puff of illogic. We then cut to Melissa the blind girl, who exclaims, "The vibration in the air…I can see now!"

Superboy then uses his…and I'm quoting the book…"superwits [to] furnish the answer." (Clearly this is the first time he's activated that power the entire story.) "Sometimes the shock of changing air-pressure can cure deaf passengers. Likewise, the shockwave of our super-collision stimulated your optic nerve back to life."

Okay, I know Otto Binder had a career writing science fiction, so to be fair, I did a quick Google search. And no, this has never happened. There are many documented cases of changes in air pressure causing temporary hearing LOSS, but not one case that I could find in which hearing returned. But whatever.

Superboy then muses, "Did poor Bizarro have one flash of super-inspiration…did he sacrifice himself for his only friend?" The final panel shows Melissa musing "I know from his gentle voice he must have had a kind face." Superboy, who seems to have activated his super-pompous powers, gets the final word: "Little does she know. I won't disillusion her with the truth."

Gosh, Superboy, what truth are you not wanting to share with Melissa? By my tally, Bizarro was constantly hounded for the "crimes" of ugliness, low intelligence, and not understanding his own strength. In the end, the "bad guy" sacrificed himself to help the only friend he knew.

Contrast that to the "good" guy, who immediately resorted to brute strength, justified his homicidal actions because of the technicality that his opponent was not "really" alive, set a devious booby trap that took advantage of the creature's desire for friendship, set another trap in which his own overthinking nearly results in his own death, and yet a third trap that resulted in millions of dollars in US Gov't property getting destroyed, and for an encore, he set off an A-bomb on the moon. Yeah, I wouldn't "disillusion" her with the truth if I were you, either.

Learn about all things R. J. Sullivan at and

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Bizarro Origin of Superman's Nemesis Bizarro, Part 1

The Bizarro Origin of Superman's Nemesis Bizarro, Part 1

By RJ Sullivan

A few weeks ago I discovered at our local library a single volume collection of comics from the late 1980s titled "The Greatest Superman Stories Ever Told," essentially highlights spanning from 1940 through 1986. My personal comic history knowledge spans from the 1960s through early 2000s, and is decidedly Marvel-Comics centric. As such, my experience with Superman is spotty. So I thought, "Cool, a chance to fill in some holes in my classic comic knowledge," and checked it out.

Now, I had heard that comic books, before the mid-sixties lacked…how to be kind…a certain sophistication. The opening tales of this volume certainly spoke to that, but were entertaining in their quaint ways. BUT…even allowing the most generous curve with the knowledge that "this was not written for me," a little tale from 1958 entitled "The Battle With Bizarro", (added, I hope, because of Bizarro's future role as a major player rather than the story's merits) offers many exasperating moments of WTF almost every panel, that I simply must discuss.

Whether out of love, or a love to hate, you decide. Ready? Here we go.

Our tale begins with the oldest of tropes, Superboy standing by to witness "an amazing experiment" by an unnamed Smallville scientist. Any comic reader can tell you if you want something to go terribly wrong to kickstart your plot, comic book land is chock full of well-intended scientists ready to trigger a major disaster or at least an origin story.

So this scientist is testing a "duplicator", which looks like an oversized old-school movie camera on a tripod, shaded green. "I'm hoping my duplicator will duplicate this sample of pure radium!" the scientist helpfully explains. Said Duplicator does indeed create a copy of the block of radium.

But Superboy observes two panels later that the radium is non-radioactive, and "imperfect and worthless." The scientist adds, "My machine is a failure." Now, to be fair, they make an excellent point. This duplicator failed to recreate the unstable properties of the radium because it just makes stable duplicates.

So yeah, screw that. I mean, his machine just creates replicas of nonliving matter in seconds. Now, if our society had a booming industry with an ongoing need to create plastic or metal mold parts as a first step toward mass production—well, that would be different.

If it did. Just supposing. But whatever, trash that piece of s***.

Two panels later, the scientist emotes "Oops, I stumbled!" while he reaches out for the device which Superboy has helpfully stepped in front of. And before you can say "Maybe you should have installed a safety switch," Our Hero has been zapped and we next see a pale crystalline duplicate of Superboy lying on the floor, complete with blue suit and cape. "It isn't alive, is it?" asks Superboy. "Hardly…It's made of nonliving matter," says the scientist. This will not be the last thing the scientist gets completely, horribly wrong.

Speaking of, a couple panels later, Superboy and the scientist are disposing of the duplicator's scrap parts when Superboy says, "Odd…why does this metal all glow now, professor?" "Who knows? It isn't important."

Now clearly, the scientist must have been distracted, and thought he heard, for instance, "Do you prefer the Nook or the Kindle?" We'll never know, we're given no insight into that. But I can't possibly think the scientist heard Superboy correctly and thought, "Glowing metal? Psh, why are you bothering me, kid?"

And sure enough, the distraction allows the duplicate enough time to sneak away while they weren't looking. Superboy logically asks "How could it walk off by itself if it isn't alive?" A fair question, and one that deserves a good answer, and our scientist offers up a doozy. "Lifeless machines like cars can also move by themselves."

Okay, I take it back, maybe he did hear Superboy correctly on the glowing metal question.

So our poor creature is wandering down the street talking in half sentences while Superboy flies off to look for him. "That creature is Bizarre!" declares Superboy, at which the "nonliving" creature asks "Bizarro! Is that my name?" displaying evidence of the accepted axiom for defining life: "I think therefore I am."

A convenient breakout at the zoo distracts Superboy for several panels (a massive animal stampede caused by a flash of lightning—I guess the Smallville zoo better look into upgrading those balsa wood cages) gives Bizarro a convenient excuse to go on a rampage.

We get the usual scenes of citizens fleeing for their lives, and when we next spot the scientist he has shown up with a couple of thugs armed with pump-action shotguns. Before you can say "Can I see your permits to carry those elephant guns in public?" they're firing away and scaring Bizarro off while he laments that no one wants to be his friend.

During all this, no one has tried to talk Bizarro down. At the same time, Bizarro says in several panels "Bizarro mean you no harm." It is quite clear even by page 4 of our overlong tale that Bizarro is mentally challenged, appears "ugly" by conventional standards, and doesn't act with the intent to do harm; he simply doesn't know his own strength.

Over the next several pages, Bizarro flies to the Kent residence, driven by some primal memory transferred from the duplication process. Ma Kent eventually shoos him off after Bizarro uses his heat ray to finish cooking the Kent meal. The fiend.

More rampaging follows, until a pretty young blonde innocent named Melissa boldly walks up to Bizarro saying, "I can sense that you're a gentle person." Pleased to have found his first friend, Bizarro flies off. In a plot twist that would surprise no one these days, the reader is told that Melissa is blind.

The comic concludes "Part One" here, and given the length of this blog, I think I'll do the same. Tune in tomorrow for part 2, in which Superboy's first brilliant idea nearly gets him killed, and the second brilliant idea results in the destruction of millions of dollars in military weapons. (Spoiler: neither of Superboy's plans are "let's try to talk him down and try to reason with him.") Yay for the good guys!

Learn about all things R. J. Sullivan at and

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Jackie Gamber's Sela Blog Tour Underway Today!

Sela Blog Tour Begins Today!

Today is the first day of Jackie Gamber's Sela Blog Tour! Expect lots of fun interviews, guest blog posts, contests, reviews, and more, over 36 straight tour dates!

Today Jackie interviews her own character, Jastin Armitage, from the Leland Dragon Series. Lisa's World of Books is the host!

Visit and be sure to leave a comment!

The full list of tour dates is as follows:

March 27 Lisa's Book Reviews
March 28 Watch Play Read
March 29 Stuck In Books
March 30 Fade Into Fantasy
March 31 Ian's Realm
April 1 Jelly Bean Chair Reviews
April 2 Once Upon A Time
April 3 A Book Vacation
April 4 Jess Resides Here
April 5 Soliloquy
April 6 Vilutheril Reviews
April 7 Ritesh Kala's Book Review
April 8 Sci Fi Guys
April 9 Unputdownable Books
April 10 Edi's Book Lighthouse
April 11 Workaday Reads
April 12 Eva's Sanctuary
April 13 Book and Movie Dimension Blog
April 14 Babs Book Bistro
April 15 Azure Dwarf Horde of Fantasy and SciFi
April 16 Fade Into Fantasy
April 17 Reading Away the Days
April 18 Splash of Our Worlds
April 19 Ali's Bookshelf
April 20 Sheila Deeth
April 21 I Heart Reading
April 22 All-Consuming Media
April 23 Spellbound By Books
April 24 One Thrifty Gurl
April 25 Evie Bookish
April 26 Booklady's Booknotes
April 27 Ella Bella Reviews
April 28 I Smell Sheep
April 29 The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia
April 30 Darlene's Book Nook
May 1st From The Bookshelf of T.B. (special tour encore and wrap-up visit)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Emperor Palpatine Reads Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games

Editor's Note: A little lighthearted fun for the day! Here is the second installment in the Emperor Palpatine Reads series, begun on Valentines day with George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones. Today's installment comes just in time for the opening weekend of The Hunger Games movie! Enjoy!

Emperor Palpatine Reads
by Jeff Yonosick

THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins, as read by Emperor Palpatine/aka Darth Sidious:

Something....something...something...Everybody's hungry.
Something....something...something...Mocking Jay.
Something....something...something…May the odds be EVER in your favor!
Something....something...something...Katniss sounds like Catnip
Something....something...something...Peeta has a crush on Catnip,
Something....something...something...Games Begin.
Something....something...something...Dodging Fireballs
Something....something...something...Dropping a nest of angry mutant wasps on fellow tributes.
Something....something...something...Peeta saves Catnip.
Something....something...something...Catnip blows up other tribute’s food supply!
Something....something...something...Catnip fails attempting to save a 12 year old girl, speared
Something....something...something...Catnip free with kissing Peeta to get awarded by sponsors.
Something....something...something...Cato mauled by a pack of mutant mutts, mercy killing!
Something....something...something...Victory through manipulation and attempted double suicide!
Something....something...something...This is greater child exploitation than toddlers in tiaras!
Something....something...something...Children killing each other in a televised arena for food, I should have thought of that first YES!!!! Good, let the hatred flow through you Heh heh heh heh!

Connect with Jeff Yonosick today on FaceBook at:

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Poseidon's Children Trailer Revealed!

Here is the brand new trailer for Poseidon's Children, the new Michael West novel that is the first book in the Legacy of the Gods series. The trailer was produced by DarkRider Studios.

Don't forget, you have about a week and a half left to secure a sharp limited hardcover of Poseidon's Children: Go here to reserve a copy!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Jackie Gamber's Sela Blog Tour Dates, Sela Cover Unveil, and Limited Hardcover Edition Announced

For Immediate Release
March 3, 2012

Jackie Gamber's Sela Blog Tour Dates, Sela Cover Unveil, and Limited Hardcover Edition Announced

Seventh Star Press is proud to announce 36 blog tour dates for award-winning author Jackie Gamber's Sela, Book Two of the YA fantasy Leland Dragon Series, and the follow-up to her highly-acclaimed novel Redheart. In addition, Seventh Star Press is unveiling the cover art and two interior illustrations created by award-winning artist Matthew Perry for Sela.

The Sela Blog Tour is being hosted by Babs Book Bistro, and will feature 35 blog sites over 36 days, beginning March 27th and running through all of April. The tour will include a mixture of reviews, giveaways, interviews, and guest posts from Jackie. The tour will culminate with a special encore and wrap-up visit at From The Bookshelf of T.B. on May 1st.

Sela picks up a few years after the events of Redheart. Vorham Riddess, Venur of Esra Province, covets the crystal ore buried deep in Leland's mountains, and his latest device to obtain it is by marriage to a Leland maiden.

Among Dragonkind, old threats haunt Mount Gore, and shadows loom in the thoughts of the Red who restored life to land and love. A dragon hunter, scarred from countless battles, discovers he can yet suffer more wounds.

In the midst of it all, Sela Redheart is lost, driven from her home with only her old uncle to watch over her. As the dragon-born child of Kallon, the leader of Leland's Dragon Council, she is trapped in human form with no understanding of how she transformed, or how to turn back.

In a world where magic is born of feeling, where the love between a girl and a dragon was once transformative, what power dwells in the heart of young Sela?

Sela will be released in softcover and eBook versions during the first week of April, following the launch party at MidSouthCon in Memphis, TN during the March 24-26 weekend. Continuing the Seventh Star Press tradition of releasing collectible, limited edition hardcovers, Sela is now available for pre-order in a beautiful hardcover edition that is strictly limited to 75 copies.

The limited hardcover edition is signed and numbered by Jackie Gamber, and includes a bonus illustration from Matthew Perry not included in other editions. It will be accompanied by an assortment of collectibles, including a set of glossy art cards, bookmarks, and magnets. The limited edition hardcovers will also be bundled with the eBook version, with buyers able to choose an ePub, Kindle, or Nook version. Those interested in securing one of the 75 limited hardcovers can place a pre-order at:

The Sela Blog Tour Dates and Participants Are As Follows:

March 27  Lisa's Book Reviews          
March 28  Watch Play Read                  
March 29 Stuck In Books                   
March 30 Fade Into Fantasy                 
March 31  Ian's Realm                      
April 1   Jelly Bean Chair Reviews     
April 2   Once Upon A Time             
April 3 A Book Vacation                      
April 4 Jess Resides Here                
April 5   Soliloquy                        
April 6   Vilutheril Reviews                
April 7   Ritesh Kala's Book Review         
April 8 Sci Fi Guys                          
April 9   Unputdownable Books                 
April 10 Edi's Book Lighthouse         
April 11  Workaday Reads                 
April 12  Eva's Sanctuary                 
April 13  Book and Movie Dimension Blog
April 14  Babs Book Bistro                 
April 15  Azure Dwarf Horde of Fantasy and SciFi
April 16  Fade Into Fantasy                
April 17  Reading Away the Days         
April 18 Splash of Our Worlds                 
April 19 Ali's Bookshelf                 
April 20 Sheila Deeth                         
April 21  I Heart Reading              
April 22  All-Consuming Media           
April 23  Spellbound By Books                 
April 24 One Thrifty Gurl                  
April 25  Evie Bookish                    
April 26  Booklady's Booknotes                
April 27  Ella Bella Reviews                 
April 28  I Smell Sheep                   
April 29  The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia 
April 30  Darlene's Book Nook                
May 1st From The Bookshelf of T.B. (special tour encore and wrap-up visit)

Contact: C.C. James
Public Relations, Seventh Star Press

Seventh Star Press is a small press publisher of speculative fiction located in Lexington Kentucky