Friday, April 6, 2018

And Jesus Said, WTF DUDE!?

Cherry-picked for your convenience!

This keeps coming up, and rather than re-write the same argument over and over, I’m putting it here so I can more quickly reference.

This meme is making the rounds and while the Bible quote is correct, it is also cherry-picked completely out of context.  Jesus explains his reasoning for buying swords in the next line, which, for some unfathomable reason, always gets left out. After ordering the purchase of the weapon, Jesus says:

"It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment." 
Luke 22:37

And clearly, the swords were only procured for that reason, as they come back with just two.  Two swords against a mob, let alone Roman soldiers, is a recipe for suicide and massacre.  It’s clear, that’s not Jesus’ thinking at all, as when they show him the swords Jesus says, "That’s enough!” (Luke 22: 38) Meaning any weapons found among Jesus' inner circle would be enough to make an accusation against him so he could be taken and the process of his sacrifice could begin—which is exactly what happened.

But for those who remain unconvinced, there is the later incident when Peter actually draws one of the swords and strikes.  Jesus sharply rebukes him, “Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” Matthew 26:52

And that’s where we get that line from, which is in concert with Jesus’ previous sentiments throughout his ministry.  Consider his Sermon on the Mount, and his explanation of the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5: 9).  It has been pointed out that there is sometimes a peace that can only be found on the other side of war, but that’s clearly not at all what Jesus was talking about, and what Matthew was writing about.  The rest of Matthew 5 is a message of non-violence, culminating in the oft quoted:

You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. Matthew 5: 38-39

And finally, lest we have any doubt whatsoever, Jesus addresses the entire concept of violence carried out by any of his apostles/disciples in the use of their “armament”:

Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way? Matthew 26: 53

Anyone who doubts that Jesus preached peace should probably review Matthew 5 in its entirety, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5: 44.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Pooh On You Too!

I see it's been awhile . . . Mr. The Pooh.
A couple of years back, I ran across a piece of “Calvin & Hobbes” fan-fiction that really got me—it got to me enough that I re-worked it for my own edification.  Either I’m getting older and all nostalgic, or the impact of a beloved character is truly impressive.

Maybe both.

I took my boys to see A Wrinkle in Time and I’m not going to offer any opinions on the movie just yet.  But as we were watching the various trailers that accompanied the film, one started that I thought for certain was Mary Poppins Returns.

It was not.

It was this trailer for Christopher Robin:

Winne-the-Pooh appears for, maybe, ten seconds in the entire trailer, but DAYUM if that wasn’t enough for me.

Pooh and I go back quite a ways.  Not as much as Christopher Robin, but he was certainly there when I was a babe-in-arms.  As my mother tells it, I was being quite a handful at the local theater in Hawthorne, NV.  The unique thing about this particular theater is they had built in a “cry room” for parents with children such as me.  My mother can probably tell you what movie they were there to see.  I was less than one at the time, so my own thoughts are a bit . . . vague.  Still, as my mother tells it, the short “Winne the Pooh and Tigger Too” came on, and I was immediately hooked.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a strong affinity for A.A. Milne’s character, but I certainly can relate to him, and his various adventures.  Seeing a grown-up Christopher Robin, played by the excellent Ewan McGregor, who is only a few years older than me, is . . . yeah.

Let’s put it this way: I don’t know why theaters can’t keep invisible, onion-cutting ninjas out, but they had all massed near my seat.

Well done, Mr. Milne.  Well done, Mr. Disney.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Check Is In The Email

Which books? Ohh, THE Facebooks!

If you aren't paying for a product, then YOU are the product.  That is the business model that Facebook has been built around, and that has never been a secret.  Facebook's corporate bottom line is no different from any other business—profits generally supersede most other considerations (although those considerations are still . . . well, considered).  In this case, pursing that bottom line goal, Facebook was able to be deceived.  They did not deliberately deceive their users.  They were themselves deceived, and their model allowed that deception to take place. 

This is not to say that Facebook isn't at fault.  They are.  Or maybe it's better to say that they're responsible.  They learned about the deception and then did nothing, because . . . profits. It was a simple matter to deceive them, and their corporate culture balanced that deception against their profits, and profits won out, which is why it took an insider leak to the media to bring out the story.

But their entire model is based off personal data that we willingly give to them, and the sale of that data to analytics companies who can then sell us stuff.  Anyone who thinks differently should ask themselves how Facebook pays for all this?

Before I was picked up by my first publisher, I was pulling back from Facebook.  Those people who wanted to connect with me had other avenues to do so, and in those earlier days it was much, much easier to offend and lose friends—which I have.  But as an author, I take advantage of the vast reach and depth that Facebook offers me to connect not just with friends and family, but with other writers, potential readers, and experts in various fields who can assist me with my end goal—telling good stories.  I've met some wonderful people and engaged with some great readers.  I wouldn't have been able to do that without this platform.  I'm certainly no more or less tech-savvy than the next average Facebook user.  I am, however, always a bit skeptical when it comes to the information that various apps are asking me for so that I can play their games or, in this case, take their personality test.  I could stand to be more skeptical, and less apt to give away all my various secrets.

So, understanding all the aspects of this particular set of events, and weighing the benefits I gain against the potential for manipulation, I will for the time being remain a member and active user of Facebook.  What I have gained and continue to gain using Facebook as a primary social platform remains worth the trade-off of information that I provide on a daily basis.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Great Mills High School in Maryland

No words on this one. Sorry.

This is not my argument. It was made by a friend of mine.  It so accurately sums up the issues that I’ve stolen it and provided it here:

Guns don't kill people, people kill people. So we're told gun control isn't the answer. You can't sue the gun makers or make it difficult for people get guns, even if there are signs that they'd be dangerous.

People don't kill themselves, the opioids are killing them. So we're told we need to take the opioids away. We should go after the drug makers and doctors, and make it very difficult for people in pain to get relief.

So... we have to take something that can be useful away from you, because you might use it to harm yourself.

But we have to make sure you can get all the guns you want, even though they're useless unless you're hurting someone.

This isn't logic, it's twisted moralizing.

In the overall scheme of firearm death/violence, “mass shootings” are not, in themselves, that big of a problem—they only account for a small percentage of the overall death.  They do, however, quickly underline in blood and tears and loss the exact nature of the problem.  Humans are now and may always be too emotional, too irrational, too prone to violence to be responsible enough as a species to be trusted with firearms.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Queen Mary's Daughter by Emily-Jane Hills Orford


Emily-Jane Hills Orford’s “Queen Mary’s Daughter” is a historical fiction that poses and answers the question, “What if Mary, Queen of Scots’s daughter had survived childbirth and become a time-traveler?”  Initially, readers might be worried that they don’t have enough historical background on Mary Stuart or the events surrounding this time period in Scotland and England.  Orford reduces the intricacies of this period of history to make it understandable for almost any audience.

Orford’s story is the adventure/romantic tale of Mary Elizabeth Stuart, a young, attractive American woman of Scottish heritage, and James “Jamie” Stuart, an equally young, attractive Scottish native.  Traveling to Kinross, Scotland, at her grandmother’s request, Mary Elizabeth finds herself suddenly some 450 years in the past, taking part in events with very little understanding of their impact.  She learns that her grandmother was actually a time-traveler, and she also has this same ability.  The possibilities of changing the course of Scotland “for the better” becomes the crux on which the plot revolves.

Orford creates interesting central characters that are fun and engaging.  She has a good sense of the historical events which surrounded this time period. The exploration of what might have occurred, should Mary, Queen of Scot’s had produced a living heir is interesting.  Orford condenses or ignores some of the historical intricacies, but she does so to the benefit of the plot.  In a few places, the time travel was a bit too convenient, but it was always used in an attempt to move the story and characters forward.  Any clich├ęs built around Mary Elizabeth, Jamie and their adventures can be forgiven for Orford’s conceit of revealing the outcomes of her central conceit.

In “Queen Mary’s Daughter,” Orford is able to craft a romantic adventure around a nice bit of historical fiction that is a fun exploration for genre-readers and fans of “Outlander” and “Reign”.  The life and times of these time-travelers is an exciting distraction, in an interesting story of “what if”.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

It's, Like, The Very First One

If only we knew what they meant!?

Posted without commentary:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Thank you for your kind attention.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Once More, From the Top

Arrgh, these kids and their fancy "trophies"!

For the past ten years or so, I’ve been a volunteer coach at John W. North High School.  Speech and debate are my thing, although I’m better at speeching than I am debating. 

No, it’s true.  Look it up.

I was not the best competitor (high school and college), but I enjoyed the process.

Anyhow, this weekend was the State Qualifying Tournament.  I’ve been focused on a single tournament this year, one that pays out cash for first, second, and third place, so these quals tournaments weren’t even on my radar.  One of my students insisted on going, so I worked with her, got her speech in shape, and sent her on her way.

She broke to finals.

This is her first year on my program (she’s a sophomore) and her second tournament ever.

Once again, it looks like I don’t get to resign anytime soon.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Wanna Play Piano?

He knows ALL the notes!

Have you wanted to learn piano?  I have a buddy who is looking to teach you:

To whom it may concern:

My name is Humberto Olivieri. I am a pianist, composer and educator living in New York. I have taught music in Florida, Venezuela and New York, both privately and in schools. I have taught all levels and a fairly wide range of ages, from 6 to 50 years old. I would like to offer my services as a music educator and lecturer. Back in my hometown of Venezuela, I worked both as a Piano Educator and a Lecturer, to introduce the concept of Jazz Music and Jazz Harmony to the Venezuelan people. These Lectures served as workshops, where the students could ask questions, and also, they were invited to play some music as well.

Teaching has always been important to me, because my own piano teacher, Bruna Monestiroli (a student of Alfredo Casella) was a major inspiration both from the performance and the teaching point of view. Sharing the passion of music with other people, and giving them tools to express themselves musically has been as inspiring to me, as being able to perform and compose music.

My personal philosophy about teaching music to children, is first and foremost to show them that music is fun, and welcomes exploration, humor and individual expression. And since young children have a strong difficulty remaining focused for long periods of time, it is especially important to make the lessons as interactive, entertaining and stimulating as possible. I believe music, when taught properly, can help children develop their brains and acquire better cognitive and social skills that will shape their personalities for the future.

You can watch a sample of me teaching a lesson. This is a lesson for advanced students, but nonetheless, it gives you a better idea of my teaching approach:

Let me know if you have any questions

Humberto O.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Five Important Things Every New Writer Should Know!

So . . . where do you get your ideas?

Welcome Newling!

First things first, the fact that you're writing is a good thing.  Don't doubt that you have some level of skill and ability.  You were drawn to writing, you’ve written, someone has given you a compliment on your skills, and you enjoy some part of the process

You, Newling, are a writer!

Improving that skill is certainly important, so here are five things you can do to start the ball rolling:

1. Find a beta team—Tet two or three people who are willing to work with you, read your early drafts and offer you honest, critical feedback.  Make it very clear what you want from them, the kind of commitment you need, and don't be upset if you get turned down.  A LOT.  I've built mine up over the years, and now I have two main betas with four others who come in and out depending on the point of view I want/need. 

2. Join a critique group—This can be alternately or in addition to a beta team.  Too much criticism isn't a good thing.  You can't please everyone all the time.  But a good crit group can really help.  I always recommend  You have to put in effort with them, and they're brutally honest, but your writing will be better for it.

3. Join writing groups—Facebook has become the author’s harbor.  There are groups for every kind of genre, sub-genre, and genre-trope.  Find a relatively small group with active participation and limited-to-no tolerance for ads and join.  Ask questions, ANY questions.  The only dumb questions are those that you don't get answered.  They may have been asked and answered before, but not by you, so go ahead!  The only way you can learn is to get that information.

4. 10,000 Hours—It's a bit of cliche, but the more you do a thing, the better you get at it.  You may not be the BEST at it, but you will certainly be better than competent.  It does take time and effort, and certainly practicing the right kinds of things.  Hence the above and below advice.  Write, write, and keep on writing. Stretch yourself, try writing in new genres, submit to contests—ESPECIALLY those that offer feedback—attend conferences, take up writing challenges and writing prompts.  Above all write, write, and keep on writing.

5. Reading as Research—You probably already do this, but if you're not reading in your genre, and in related genres, START.  Read the classics, read the most popular stuff, read the most influential stuff, read the very obscure and highly recommended stuff.  It's all a manual on how to write what you want to write.  If you find authors your truly admire, follow them, subscribe to their newsletters, pick up their guides, read their essays, watch their panel discussions on YouTube.

Most writers who have been at the game for some time know that a candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.  There are always going to be a few curmudgeonly or better-than-thou souls who find new writers and their questions annoying and frustrating.  Avoid them, don’t engage, and move on.  In the future, you may find yourself sitting next to them at an awards banquet or a convention panel!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Armed Teachers—Why Not!?

The answer to the gun problem—more guns.
There are some very practical reasons that arming teachers is not a tenable or viable solution, and none of them have to do with gun control or my personal position on the matter.  Let’s just touch on three:

Economics—According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there are currently "3.2 million full-time-equivalent (FTE) teachers". A new Glock 9mm runs between $450 and $550 (depending). Assuming Federal government lowest bidder and bulk buy at $300, that's a $960,000,000 price tag (yep, almost a billion dollars in initial expenses). This does not include the cost for "standard" training (whatever that would be), certification and re-certification, or coaches (I'm a walk-on coach and gun owner), part-time and substitute teachers.

Moral/Ethical/Religious—The base assumptions is that teachers unions and school districts would just go along with this. They wouldn't, BUT requiring teachers to become efficient with firearms will definitely go against a high percentage of teachers' moral, ethical, and/or religious considerations. The Selective Services Acts and the Supreme Court have already made it clear that no one can be forced to carry weapons in the service of their country.

Practicality—There are already guns on campuses. The federal Gun-Free School Zones Act doesn't apply to anyone who is licensed by the state/county/city of the Federal government to carry a firearm—such as police who patrol campuses, or CCW permit holders. In most mass shooting cases, there has been a firearm near or present. In most of those cases, the "good guy with a gun" scenario did not play out for any number of reasons.

None of this discusses the additional risk or putting a firearm in every classroom on every campus. The increased likelihood of accidental shootings, or of students doing something incredibly stupid. In the case of active shooter incidents, there's as much a chance for teachers to shoot the wrong person, or to be shot themselves as law enforcement moves in to secure the area.

The number of issues and scenarios where things can go wrong VASTLY outweighs any even slight increase in potential safety.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Iron is Magic?

Evil fairies?  Bad.  Evil fairies with firearms?  Worse.

What’s the deal with Fairies and iron?

Back in the bad-old-good-days or yore, before things like flush toilets, toothbrushes, and a general understanding of bacteria and hygiene, folk could be forgiven for a general lack of knowledge about things that we now know almost unconsciously.

Steel is just an alloy of iron and carbon.

Why is this better?  Well, compared to iron or bronze, steel has a higher tensile strength.  Pure iron, while stronger than bronze, is still reasonably malleable, comparatively easy to bend and deform.  Heat it up, add some carbon, and BLAM-O!, you get a crystal lattice at the atomic level that renders this iron alloy into a versatile component that can be incorporated into anything you heart (and the strength of your arm) can create.

It’s the BLAM-O part that threw our Classical Antiquity and Early Medieval forebears.

Because the process wasn’t known or understood, iron, when being worked by a smith, would sometimes just turn into steel.  There really was no BLAM-O part.  When it happened, it seemed to be beyond the smith's control. A smith thought he was making just another iron axe head or sword, but suddenly he had something stronger (and sometimes more brittle). Once smiths actually knew the process (or at least followed the steps that worked) it might seem like magic had just occurred.  They certainly wouldn't have thought that their iron was anything other than iron.

The only way to stop a bad elf with a gun?
You can see how, especially to outside observers, the process of ironworking would seem complicated (because it was), and possibly—with all the burning and time involved and offerings to the gods and whatnot—even magical. Use against supernatural beings would seem to be right in line with these spectacular gifts, especially if you had a weapon with a decent ratio of iron and steel, making it both strong and flexible, hold an edge, turn other blades, etc. The Ulfberht swords are a really good example of this, so legendary in their abilities during the 9th to 11th centuries that they were often sought after, and there were many forgeries of inferior quality.

So, what do you do when you’re confronted with a Fairy, or something that looks like it’s of the Fairy?  Whip out your magical iron (steel) sword and cut that things wings off, then go home and brag.  What do you do if you're writing urban fantasy and fairies are now running amok, tearing up convenience stores and generally trying to poke holes in your favorite major organs?  Load up your iron-round Glock, pull leather and go to work shooting them!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Solo No One Can Hear You!

Long, long ago, in a multiplex far, far away . . .

The Solo trailer dropped and I’m crazy-pumped up about it.  Honestly, I’m more excited to see Donald Glover take on the role of Lando Calrissian than anything else.  Here, take a moment to see what all the fuss is about:

Now, I’ve seen a lot of fan rage over, well, everything.  You can’t log into a social media platform these days and not keep yourself warm from the hate that burns hotter than a thousand desert suns.

Cheesy? Yes. But also yummy good!
Star Wars itself (and the first one was called just that "Star Wars") was always meant as Lucas' love-letter to B-movie serials like "Flash Gordon" among many, many, many others (so is Indiana Jones) but with a budget behind it. It still wasn't the budget he wanted, but it was enough to let him make the film. It worked. Space opera taken "seriously" was a great riff on an old classic. There are enough plot holes in the original film to fill a Super Star Destroyer, but no one really cared, and since there was no internet to really work people up, everyone just accepted the film for what it was—entertainment.

Along the way, however, Lucas started to take himself a bit too seriously. He decided that he had mythology embedded all along, and tried to build off that. He also decided that the real money was in merchandising, and he wasn't wrong. "Return of the Jedi" was as much a 132 minute commercial as it was the conclusion of the series—and it was meant to be the conclusion. Lucas stated in a few places that there would be no more films. And yet, he never stopped making Star Wars. The two made-for-TV Ewok films released in immediate succession to "Jedi" in '84 and '85. Animated series "Droids" and "Ewoks" ran through '86. There has been no end of extended universe stories, the Han Solo trilogy, and most notably the Thrawn series by Timothy Zahn. There have been really great games and so forth.

More entertainment for all kinds of audience members.

That’s really the point.  Since 1977, there has always been an appetite for more Star Wars Universe stories.  From the Holiday Special (egads) to online fan-fiction, there's no reason to suggest that they should end. Thankfully, Lucas let go of the reins. He was always better with the big ideas and not so much with the execution of nuance that makes a story palatable. JJ Abrams, for all his faults, knows how to tell a good story, and was completely able to tap into the original space opera themes and tropes and present them in an updated and exciting way. Rian Johnson did the same with his turn at the helm. I would have preferred he stayed for the next movie, but bringing Abrams back for the stability of this next "conclusion" is not a bad thing. Also, I'm SUPER excited to see a young Han Solo movie. If nothing else, Donald Glover as a young Lando Calrissian is DEFINITELY going in the right direction.

The Force will be with us, always.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Rules Rulez!

Just ask my beta readers!
There are most definitely rules to writing.

Anyone who tells you differently is likely headed for an accident themselves.

Unless their name is Pynchon, or McCarthy, or Rowling, or King—or if you prefer Earnhardt, Schumacher, and Andretti (I had to look those up)—always view this advice with the same skepticism as a fruit-vending snake.

What they probably meant to say is: First know the rules, and then know when to break them.

If you’re breaking them because you don’t know them, that’s as bad as driving the wrong way down the 101 during rush hour while wearing a blindfold, screaming, “All gods are bastards!”

On the other hand, if you’re writing at a good clip, following your roadmap outline, and a character suddenly swerves into your lane, throwing out plot-twists and dialogue, that’s the time to take some decisive action.

Grammar, spelling, and punctuation are as important—maybe even more so—as plot, dialogue, and believable characters. Nothing takes a reader out of a story faster, shattering that illusion of willing belief than a poorly executed line resulting in unwanted hilarity due to lack of solid basics:

“What are you going to do?  Ink them to death?” Jane asked.

“My penis mightier than their swords!” Dick said, thrusting his implement into the air triumphantly.

Nothing throws ice-water on a clever moment as effectively. The odd typo is certainly forgivable—even the Big Five have a certain number of errors in every release, no matter whose name is on the cover.  But repeated errors will start to frustrate and annoy your reader to the point that, no matter how great the story, they’ll walk away frustrated, and perhaps ride to the nearest 1-star review:

I hate wet and reiny days. It rained alot in 1816 .... alot - like everyday    the weather in Europe was crazxy whet and it rained 183 out of the one-hundred-and-thirty days from January to February to March. the onnly thing U could doo without TeeV or anything was to sat. I sat.  I sat and sas and sat.

Imagine page after page of at that level.  Did you make it through, or are you now curled up in a ball, shuddering at the evil?  We can only communicate if we’re all playing by the same rules.  Stories need to adhere even more closely, so that they can reach the widest audience possible and have the greatest chance of getting the messages through.

Monday, January 29, 2018

The 13 Lives of a Television Repairman by M.D. Thalmann

Here lies the world.
That's one way to do it!
The 13 Lives of a Television Repair Man” by M.D. Thalmann provides a character-driven look at a post-apocalyptic world and the events that led up to it. This is a unique look at post-apoc scifi, and Thalmann uses his narrator, Arthur, to great effect building up to and through the cataclysmic events.

The world has died, and Arthur knows how it happened. In many ways, he caused it. But to get there, and to understand the character and the events, the reader is first treated to a wonderful character, one most people can relate to. Starting in Cold War America in the 1950s, Arthur becomes enamored of the magic of television. While his parents are struggling through their own realities, Arthur finds solace and comfort in the warm glow of an old cathode ray-tube Zenith. Unfortunately, when the Zenith breaks, and his parents can’t afford to fix it, he’s cut adrift. Eventually, Arthur is taken in by a television repairman, who sees promise in the boy, and inadvertently sets things on a collision course to destruction.

Thalmann provides a unique perspective into the life of a man lost and gasping, while trying to make sense of the world and make a living and life for himself. Nothing is ever easy, even being a television repairman. Readers will come to respect that bygone profession, and see the events that led up to the end of the world through the eyes of a wonderful character. There is laughter, tears, frustration, and joy in walking with Arthur through his life, and ultimately to the end of the world.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Conservation of Characters

Tell your sister . . . I'll be back as a young and vibrant Force ghost!
There’s a rule that almost every movie and book series adheres to called “Conservation of Characters.” The thrust is simple: a writer/reader spends time introducing, understanding, and relating to a character as they go through conflicts and resolutions. Because of the limited space of books and movies, Conservation of Characters results in a noticeable and significantly lower percentage of death vs. danger.

Television shows have a lot more room to play with this.  Actors typically don’t want to sign up just to be killed off, but there is still room over, under, through and around this rule.  “Supernatural” plays with this on and off, sometimes “killing” even the main characters, only to have them return after a reasonable story-arc about them being dead.

The point is that it's much easier to change characters over time, through injuries, torture, mental anguish, etc. than it is to realistically kill off that character and have to start the process over.  Because of this, often the twist of a movie or a book can be seen some distance off, as the number of characters a writer can introduce has to be reasonable enough for a reader to absorb.  The number of characters a writer can reasonably kill off is even less.

It’s not a bad thing.  It’s a thing that writers (and readers) should be aware of.

Looking back, I've killed off at least one major character in every genre fiction book I've written. I didn't realize it until I was thinking about this concept. Apparently, I buy into the "writer as bastard" concept and figure that the more fights a character gets into, the more likely they—or someone close to them—are to get killed.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Creatures of Will and Temper by Molly Tanzer

“Creatures of Will and Grace” by Molly Tanzer is a wonderful homage to the late, great Oscar Wilde and the only novel he published, “The Picture of Dorian Gray”.  Readers concerned that they need to be intimately familiar with Wilde’s original need not worry.  Tanzer has created a novel that stands on its own, while paying all due respect.

Set in Victorian London, sisters Evadne and Dorina find themselves being introduced to society through Lady Henrietta “Henry” Wotten.  Henry wears tailored pants (gasp), speaks her mind, and lives her life often in conflict with what is deemed acceptable. She is everything a rebellious woman of this era should be, while never quite crossing into the anachronistic of the modern.  Naturally, Dorina is immediately and completely enamored of the older, wiser, and wholly engaging woman.  While Evadne, athletic to the last, finds Henry's lack of conformity uncomfortable to say the least.  Leaving her sister to her own devices, she evades the rule-breaking Henry with the lesser evil of finding a fencing master—her own, personal will.  Almost in parallel, the sisters are introduced to an underground London, where magic and demon summoning are the rule of the day, and darker forces are at work.

The pacing will be slow for some readers, especially those unfamiliar with Victorian era storytelling.  However, the way in which Tanzer develops her characters and world is in keeping with the plot and the source material.  Once all the pieces are in place, the pace picks up, almost too quickly.

“Creatures of Will and Grace” is a delicious glimpse into an alternate history, with all the trappings of Victorian England and its “proper” society.  Between Dorina, Henry and Evadne, readers will be able to peer through the shop windows and see a brilliant reflection of our own world.