Little Vampires: Just what the Doctor Ordered for All Ages

Since 2009, Rebecca Hicks and her Lunasea Studios have been publishing a child-friendly, adult-welcome strip about twice a week. Little Vampires spills out in story arcs that keep a joke going just long enough to satisfy readers who need plotting while also providing a cast of characters that is small enough to keep individual characteristics clear and broad enough to include a healthy range of personalities.Jokes range from obstreperous grand pianos to the possibilities a fresh array of crayons offer to those with wild and colorful imaginations. Critters aren’t all vampires either: there is currently a green and squid-faced fellow and then there is the Old One who has glasses and ‘stache but no visible boundary lines pooling these attributes into a traditional face; more and less hairy humanoids who sometimes could be Sasquatch. Monsterdell, home to all these fine fellows, seems more delightful than frightening, more smarty than sentimental. In short, a little dab will do you and keep you feeling young enough to grin.

Book of the week: No Big Thing (Wm. Stage)

In an effort to draw attention to quality self-published literature and in agreement with BlueInk Review, NSR highlights reviews published on BIR’s site each week, including a wide variety of fiction and nonfiction. This week’s pick:

No Big Thing

In a checkered life, Wm. Stage has been a tree trimmer, ambulance driver, public health officer, process server and newspaper columnist. He has taught feature writing at the Defense Information School, Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana; and photojournalism at Saint Louis University School for Professional Studies. Presently his commentaries may be heard occasionally on KWMU-FM, the NPR affiliate in St. Louis.

BlueInk Review was founded by Patti Thorn, former books editor of the Rocky Mountain News, and Patricia Moosbrugger, literary agent and subsidiary rights specialist. It offers serious, unbiased reviews of self-published books. Reviews are penned largely by writers drawn from major mainstream publications, such as The New York Times and Washington Post, and editors of respected traditional publishing houses. Select reviews appear in Booklist magazine.

The Men behind the Words

In 1974, a book by Theodore Rosengarten was published and went on to the win the National Book Award for Contemporary Affairs (a category that later became “Nonfiction”). The work itself was an oral history of a man identified as Nate Shaw (Ned Cobb), a sharecropper in Alabama who stood up against sheriffs who had come to take away a fellow sharecropper’s property. In 2000, Sean Crisden read Rosengarten’s account of Shaw’s words and recollections in the audiobook format of All God’s Dangers: The Life of Nate Shaw.

In both print and audio formats, the work has received wide critical praise, and the man underneath the writing and then the performance of the written—Nate Shaw/Ned Cobb—remains alive through these interventions of other men’s voices. In effect, the fact of Nate Shaw can become fixed because his unscripted speaking was heard, recorded in written text, and now heard again through the oral performance of an informed actor. Instead of these interventions diluting the immediate and personal accounting of Mr. Shaw, they serve to extend the reach, and the permanence, of his witnessing to history.

And that, it seems, stands as a powerful demonstration of the community needed to make any one person’s experiences alive for others: the speaker, the listener, and the recorder, all of whom make possible that there be an audience beyond the immediate and singularly small original one.

This week in Literature and Arts

Happy 66th birthday to Amy Tan, born February 19, 1952 in Oakland, CA. I’ve enjoyed several of her books and have met her once or twice. Nice gal.


Happy birthday to outdoor photography geek Ansel Adams, born February 20, 1902 in San Francisco. I could never get the hang of his Zoning System of exposure, but it certainly worked for him. Amazing photos.


Happy birthday to the fiery Sam Peckinpah, arguably, the last great director of the distinctly American genre, the Western, born David Samuel P., February 21, 1925, in Fresno, CA.

Besides writing and directing, Sam appeared as an actor in a handful of films, including a forgettable part in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (I think he was a seedpod with a nasty attitude!).


Happy birthday to Mr. droll Alan Rickman, born February 21, 1946 in London. Good in everything, really, but Die Hard‘s Hans Gruber is the gold standard for sophisticated villains.


Monster kids, a round of applause for the great Dwight Frye, “The Man with the 1000-Watt Stare,” born February 22, 1899 in Salina, Kansas. I believe he began his career as a pianist before settling on acting.

Frye is such a staple in the old horror films that when you see him playing a normal person elsewhere he seems out of place. The Universals wouldn’t be the same without him; he adds a certain something.  Salute, Dwight!


February 23, 1868: Sociologist/activist William Edward Burghardt Du Bois is born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.


Happy 75th birthday to guitar kid George Harrison, born February 24, 1943 in Liverpool, England.

George always believed his birthday was February 25, but information revealed near the end of his life showed that he actually entered the world a few minutes before midnight on the 24th, not just after 12 on the 25th.

Whichever is correct (it’s close enough), happy birthday, George. If you thought the world was fucked up before, you should see it now.

Despite his famous epithet, there was nothing “quiet” about him. Love to you, George. We miss you.


Michael Rogers (mermsr@optimum.net) is a Jesse H. Neal Gold Award-winning freelance writer, editor, reviewer, and photographer. He is also former Media Editor and audiobook reviewer at Library Journal.

The Pit in Black and White

While producing full-color comics online can carry large loads of symbolic choices in shades and tints, the relentless black of India ink offers an equally evocative set of possibilities. In Banquet (2016-2018), Anne Szabla takes the latter route to fine success. The story of a toddler lost to the depths of Hell—via a hole in New Boston’s Boylston Street (hardly a difficult setup to imagine as unvarnished truth!)—deserves all the appearance of deepest dark an artist can construct and Szabla is equal to that task.

This webcomic isn’t a one-joke—or one nightmare—scenario, however. It’s a fully realized tale of nearly mythic proportion, featuring gods, warriors, and the kind of humor that allows readers to follow both the toddler’s experiences (he’s too young to recognize them as travails) and the very human attributes of the residents of this Bottomless Pit of Hell. Fans of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book can find a read-alike here. Here’s to the power of India ink in the age of pixels.

Book of the week: All the Wisdom and None of the Junk (Katy Craig and Katie Kramer)

In an effort to draw attention to quality self-published literature and in agreement with BlueInk Review, NSR highlights reviews published on BIR’s site each week, including a wide variety of fiction and nonfiction. This week’s pick:

All the Wisdom and None of the Junk: Secrets of Applying for College Admission and Scholarships

Boettcher Foundation. April 9, 2015. Photo by Ellen Jaskol.

As the Boettcher Foundation’s first leadership coach and content developer, Katy Craig focuses on leadership development for participants in the Boettcher Scholarship and Webb-Waring Biomedical Research programs.

 

 

Boettcher Foundation. April 9, 2015. Photo by Ellen Jaskol.

Katie Kramer is president and CEO of the Boettcher Foundation and is responsible for all aspects of the $300+ million Colorado-based philanthropic foundation. Her extensive community involvement has included leadership positions on many national and local boards including serving as past-president of the National Scholarship Providers Association.

BlueInk Review was founded by Patti Thorn, former books editor of the Rocky Mountain News, and Patricia Moosbrugger, literary agent and subsidiary rights specialist. It offers serious, unbiased reviews of self-published books. Reviews are penned largely by writers drawn from major mainstream publications, such as The New York Times and Washington Post, and editors of respected traditional publishing houses. Select reviews appear in Booklist magazine.

Listen to the Heirs

Emma Gonzalez gave a speech on Friday that provided direction and articulation to passions wrought in a forge of her elders’ moral lassitude. The capacity of teenaged youth to step up and out may swell from the same idealistic bravado as generals have relied upon to exploit adolescent troops from time immemorial. However, where generals outlaw independent thought—and punish outspoken dissent from state-supporting action—teenagers who lead with word and action have no interest in maintaining the power of the state as intrinsic and instead carry a banner of a higher purpose: the future that that state works to deny them, not as individuals, but as collective humanity.

The teenaged leaders of Parkland, Florida, join an honorable—and sometimes brilliantly successful—tradition of international youth whose moral mettle has used the power of crafted speech with elegantly planned action to change the direction of historic oppression and the threat of annihilation the generals’ generation holds over their heirs.

President Trump is scheduled to attend a “listening session” later this week regarding gun control. At this point, it’s difficult to imagine that that audience member has the capacity to listen, to hear, to consider any voice more fully than his own. However, teens have the drive and the capacity to lead through the power of speech, and the will to reach every open ear.

This week in Literature and Arts

February 13, 2000: The last original Peanuts strip is published hours after creator Charles Schulz succumbs to colon cancer at 77. Schulz’s contract with United Features prevented another artist from taking over Peanuts after his passing. Recycled strips continue to run in more than 2000 daily newspapers.

In the recent wildfires that devastated California, Schulz’s house–full of original drawings and memorabilia–was destroyed.


February 14, 1930: Knopf publishes The Maltese Falcon in revised novel form. American pulp fiction becomes literature.

Still the greatest Valentine to hardboiled mystery hounds


Monster kids, give it up for Kevin McCarthy, born February 15, 1914 in Seattle WA. Met him at ChillerCon ages ago and he was a pretty nice guy. So many big and small screen appearances, but, of course, he’ll always be Dr. Miles Bennell in Don Siegel’s 1956 adaptation of Jack Finney’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers (terrific book, too).

And remember to eat your vegetables before you become one!


February 17, 1939: “Out of the stirring glory of Kipling’s India they roar…”:RKO releases director George Stevens’s Gunga Din, based (very loosely) on Rudyard Kipling’s poem. Actor Reginald Sheffield appears briefly as Kipling, who, for inexplicable reasons, is afield with the British army. Still among the greatest action films.


February 17, 1975: John Lennon bids the world adieu with the release of Rock ‘n’ Roll, an album of 50s cover songs that lured him into music as a teen. The album’s jacket sports a photo of 20-something greaser Lennon leaning in the doorway of Jagerpassage 1, Wohlwillstrasse 22 in Hamburg, Germany.

The picture was shot in April 1961 by 21 year old Jurgen Vollmer when the band was playing at the Top Ten Club. The ghostly figures on the sidewalk were Paul, George, and Stu Sutcliffe, who was on the verge of leaving the band to pursue his art studies. Alas, Stu would be dead within weeks from a brain hemorrhage.

Before running a roll of monochrome 120 through his tripoded Rolli, Vollmer had Paul, George, and Stu practice walking to find a speed that left their pointed boots sharp and their bodies blurry (although successful, the pic, ironically, was cropped for the cover).

Rock ‘n’ Roll was Lennon’s last album release for five years. Goodbye, John.


February 18, 1885: Publisher Chatto & Windus/Charles L. Webster And Company releases Mart Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in the United States after the book debuted in England the previous year.


Happy birthday to Jack Palance, born Volodymyr Palahniuk, February 18, 1919, in Hazelton PA. He briefly boxed professionally before enlisting in the Army Air Corps during World War II. Later, he understudied for Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire and eventually took over the Kowalski role.

Palance’s sharp features reportedly served as Jack Kirby’s inspiration when creating the Darkseid character in his Fourth World universe (whodathunkit!).

In his autobiography, Billy Crystal talked about working with Palance on City Slickers. Palance apparently had a huge head and had to hold it a certain way for the camera so it looked normal.


Michael Rogers (mermsr@optimum.net) is a Jesse H. Neal Gold Award-winning freelance writer, editor, reviewer, and photographer. He is also former Media Editor and audiobook reviewer at Library Journal.

This week in Literature and Arts

Monster kids, join me in birthday wishes to the late, great zombie king George Romero, born February 4, 1940 in da Bronx. How many filmmakers can say they invented a genre? Attaboy, George!


February 5, 1957: Bill Haley and the Comets bring American rock ‘n’ roll to the UK and beyond, landing in Southampton to launch their first overseas tour. Paul McCartney, Pete Townsend, Billy J Kramer, and other British school kids, who in a few years would dominate pop music, all credit attending Haley’s shows as a defining moment in their decisions to pursue music careers.


Happy birthday to artist, poet, Beat Generation titan, hop head, and all around crazy bastard William S. Burroughs, born February 5, 1914 in St. Louis, Missouri. Old Bull Lee.


Remembering Jack “King” Kirby, who died of heart failure February 6, 1984. He was 76.

At the 2008 New York Comic Con Stan Lee said that Kirby, “was a born storyteller…he never ran out of ideas, and I stole as many of them as I could.”


Happy birthday to literary superstar and social avenger Charles Dickens, born February 7, 1812 in Portsmouth, England.

Somebody hold him while I fetch a scissors and trim that muskrat on his chin.


Big 86th birthday wishes to John Williams, born February 8, 1932 in Floral Park, Queens. Only Walt Disney has garnered more Oscar nominations. It is impossible to imagine JAWS, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Superman, and, especially, Star Wars without Williams’s scores. His music is practically a character in these films. It’s hard to pick a favorite.


February 8, 1828: Jules Verne is born in the French sea-coast town of Nantes. He studied to be a lawyer like his father, but quit to pursue a career writing plays, poems, and novels. I believe he is among the top five authors translated into other languages.

With Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Mysterious Island, Around the World in Eighty Days, Master of the World, From the Earth to the Moon and numerous similar titles in his bibliography, when it comes to old school science fiction-adventure stories, Jules rules! Try him!


February 9 1964: Two days after landing in America and playing a few gigs around the country, The Beatles appear on The Ed Sullivan Show. I swear I can remember seeing this. Thanks, Ed!


Happy 74th birthday to poet and Pulitzer-winning novelist Alice Walker, born February 9, 1944 in Putnam County, Georgia.


Happy 75th birthday to Jersey boy Joe Pesci, born in Newark February 9, 1943. His acting career began at five in theater productions and by ten he was on TV. Pesci has a remarkable ability to take similar characters and make one funny as hell (My Cousin Vinny) and the other scary as hell (Goodfellas/Casino).

Apparently, it’s true that he introduced childhood friend Frankie Valley to members of what became The Four Seasons, and the Goodfellas “I’m funny how” scene was adlibbed.

Looking forward to seeing Joe back onscreen with De Niro and Pacino in Scorsese’s The Irishman.


Remembering the great Frank Frazetta on what would have been his 90th birthday (born February 9, 1928 in Brooklyn).

Remarkably, after a stroke crippled his right arm, he taught himself to work left-handed—and the stuff was good! Who the hell does that?


Monster kids join me in birthday greetings to Lon Chaney Jr, born Creighton Tull Chaney, February 10, 1906 in Oklahoma City. Before being lured into acting after his famous father’s death, Chaney was successful in the plumbing and appliance businesses (“I bought a toaster from the Wolf Man!”).

I believe he is the only actor to play Frankenstein’s monster, the Mummy, and Dracula, but to most fans he’ll always be the Wolf Man.


Remembering Peter Benchley, who died from pulmonary fibrosis (scarred lungs), February 11, 2006 at age 65. I used to write him fan letters. He always wrote back. A good guy.


Michael Rogers (mermsr@optimum.net) is a Jesse H. Neal Gold Award-winning freelance writer, editor, reviewer, and photographer. He is also former Media Editor and audiobook reviewer at Library Journal.

An Alternative History Webcomic Antidote to Alternative Fact Poisoning

Journalism, librarianship, and teaching all live and die by the sword of facts that inform and reasoned thought with which to shape new understanding. The power of metaphorical devices each of them may use trades on intentionally and openly skewing reality just enough to allow fresh perspective. Sometimes that twist allows for a deep and serious a-ha. And sometimes it’s simply good for a laugh, a laugh that relaxes rather than stupefying.

Thank you, Tina Pratt, for The Paul Reveres. So far our tale of the British (music) invasion, patriotism/anarchy, and characters recognizable from Newbery Medal fiction (Esther Forbes’ Johnny Tremain) as well as wandering into a Henry Wadsworth Longfellow epic from his North End silversmith shop, has unfurled across nine years of beautifully colored panels and cheeky sendups of American Revolutionary War tropes.

With our own era drowning in “alternative facts,” here’s an antidote to overdosing on cynicism: perhaps three panels a day until current reality sees a restoration of fact and reason as the roots of information.

Load Up the Links to Forthcoming Audiobook Kudos

This week, the finalists in each category of the Audie Awards (the “Oscars of audiobook publishing”) are announced. Less than a week later, ALA’s Reference & User Services Association’s CODES section releases its annual Listen List during ALA Midwinter, while the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) publishes its Notable Children’s Recordings list, the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) releases its Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults list, and those two ALA sections together announce the annual Odyssey Award for Excellence in Audiobook Production. So today would be a good time to get all your links updated to these various best audiobooks (and probably a good time to clear out your online storage of audiobook files of titles you’ve decided you don’t need to keep).

Here’s where to get each of these advisories for the aurally omnivorous:

The 2018 Audies finalist slates, in more than two dozen categories (some genre, some performance style, some performer gender), are revealed via social media all day Tuesday, 6 February, and then find a website home at theaudies.com.

The Listen List, formally announced on Sunday, 11 February, will then be posted online at https://www.rusaupdate.org/awards/the-listen-list/

 Announcement of the Odyssey Award (including any Honor titles in addition the winner) is part of the Youth Media Awards event slated for 8 am Monday, 12 February, in Denver. The event is live streamed and then the announced winner(s) are listed on the Odyssey Award homepage.

ALA press releases will carry the 2018 Notable Children’s Recordings and Amazing Audiobooks lists. Then each of them can be found on a stable web page, Notable Children’s Recordings at http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/notalists/ncr and Amazing Audiobooks at http://www.ala.org/yalsa/amazing-audiobooks – current Each of these lists runs to over a dozen titles.

If ever you needed an idea of what audiobook to try next, this would be your month for abundant advice!

This week in Literature and Arts

January 29, 1845: After wallowing in obscurity for years, Edgar Allan Poe is catapulted to literary stardom with the publication of The Raven in the New York Evening Mirror.


January 30, 1969: Although they knew it was over, the Beatles attempt to “get back” to their roots as a working rock band by performing on the roof of the Apple building at 3 Saville Row, London.

The 42-minute, nine-song set would be their last live performance together.

And then they were gone.


January 30, 1933: The Lone Ranger debuts on Detroit’s WXYZ radio with George Seaton voicing the title character and John Todd playing Tonto. Remarkably, the show ran until 1955. Even if you’re not a fan, 22 years (almost 3000 episodes) is an impressive run.

The legend is that the term “Kemosabe” used by Tonto to address the Ranger was the name of a summer camp owned by producer James Jewell’s father-in-law. Maybe, maybe not. The radio program spawned a series of books, comic books, a movie serial, a TV show, feature films, and mega merchandising.

Hi-Yo Greenbacks!


“If you want to read a book by a man who knows exactly what he is writing about and has written it marvelously well, read Appointment in Samarra,”.said Ernest Hemingway about John O’Hara, born January 31, 1905 in Pottsville, PA. Many people haven’t read him, but he’s damn good.

Matt Bruccoli swore that O’Hara was one of the greats. Believe him.


Happy birthday to the great John Ford, born John Martin Feeney in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, February 1, 1894.

Ford apparently had the odd habit of chewing the corners of handkerchiefs while he worked. He pocketed a new one every morning before leaving for location and after chomping on it all day while directing by the time he went home again he’d essentially eaten it!


February 2, 1882: John and May Joyce welcome the birth of their first child, James Augustine Aloysius Joyce, at 41 Brighton Square in Dublin’s Rathgar suburb. I’ll bet he was a real pip as a kid.


Birthday greetings to James Dickey, born February 2, 1923 in Atlanta. I met him once on a visit to the University of South Carolina not long before his death, but already he was losing his battle with cancer and had difficulty speaking. Still glad to have seen him.


Birthday greetings to Gertrude Stein, novelist, poet, patron of the arts, and den mother of the Lost Generation, born February 3, 1874 in Alleghany, PA.

From everything I’ve read, I imagine her to be a huge pain in the ass, but the one person I’ve ever talked to who met Stein said she was actually quite nice. I still bet she was a pill.


Michael Rogers (mermsr@optimum.net) is a Jesse H. Neal Gold Award-winning freelance writer, editor, reviewer, and photographer. He is also former Media Editor and audiobook reviewer at Library Journal.