Black Widow: Forever Red – Superhero Saturday

Last week I wrote about my struggle with reading comic books, so I’m particularly delighted whenever I find a novelization of a superhero character, especially a really interesting one like Margaret Stohl’s Black Widow: Forever Red.


When I first read the jacket copy of the book I was a little skeptical – the plot seemed like a bait and switch.  Yes, Black Widow is a character, but the protagonist is someone named Ava Orlova.  And it’s true that Natasha remains a secondary character – however, the shared history between Natasha and Ava is what binds the whole story together and provides insight into Black Widow’s twisted childhood and adolescence in a fresh way.

This felt like a novelized  superhero comic story – fast paced, lots of action, lots of plot twists, and it was a very enjoyable ride.  I do wish that the characters would have been a little more developed, and I did find the initial setup of Ava being on her own and yet somehow a competitive fencer a smidge on the unbelievable side, but overall I thought it was a strong, enjoyable book with two powerful dynamic females at the helm.

There’s also a sequel on the way – and I hope this bodes well for more novelized versions of both Marvel and DC characters.


Osmosis and Analysis: Reading as a Writer

One of the universal pieces of advice for aspiring writers is to read as much as possible.  I’m always thrilled with this advice, because I am a crazy voracious reader and this gives me even more justification for it – I’m “working” right?

I think you do unconsciously  absorb things just by reading a lot of books – almost an osmosis kind of thing.  What you love and what you hate, what works and what doesn’t, all find their way into your brain to be stored and sorted when it comes time for you to write your story.  In addition I think reading widely can prevent you from getting tunnel vision or becoming too much of a mimic of any one particular style.

I also think you can learn a lot from a close analysis of certain books.  For example, I dug into Maggie Steifvater’s Scorpio Races because I admired how strong & beautiful a role the setting played in the book – and the slow building love story.  I underlined, wrote margin notes, and learned some really practical things from the close read. Of course, I only did this after I’d read the book for pure enjoyment a few times – I wouldn’t have wanted to lose the forest for the trees, so to speak.

So I’d like to think that every writer I’ve ever read has taught me something about how to write a book.  Thank you.



Comic Confessions: Superhero Saturday

Today I read this article about a copy of the first issue of the Superman comic selling for nearly 1 million dollars.  Of course, I agree that it’s an iconic piece of American culture worth the price tag, but it got me thinking about my relationship with comic books.

The rare copy of a comic book was expected to sell for  $750,000, but sold for $956,000 instead.

So true confession time….it’s a struggle for me to read comic books.

Especially reading them a single issue at a time.  For a person who can read nearly 100 pages an hour of a novel, the 10 seconds of story line you get in a single issue of a comic book is a little frustrating. It feels more like a really cool uber-specific art exhibit than a story.  I do better with graphic novels and comic compilations and have read some really good ones, honestly in part to keep up some level of superhero geek cred, but a single issue of a comic is tough.

I have huge respect for comics as a medium for story telling and artistic expression.  I think they can be especially great for reluctant readers and visual learners.  And every time I find myself interested in a character that started out in the comics I always do some research so I understand a little bit about the origins and history of that character. My way in to comics has almost always been through something else – I started reading Superman and Green Arrow comic compilations because of movies and TV.

There’s also the fact that, until recently, I was not the target audience for most superhero comic books – and sometimes the overpowering aura of male fantasy interfered a bit with my ability to enjoy the stories and art.

I definitely think that’s changing – and I’m constantly hearing about Batgirl, or Squirrel Girl, or some great early Superman story line that I’d love to read – so maybe there’s hope for me yet.  Or maybe, someday, if I’m lucky they’ll make a movie out of it for comic book slackers like me.


To Self-Publish or Not To Self-Publish

A couple of weeks ago I went to dinner with some friends.  One of these awesome women has read one of my novels and the other has built a wildly successful business in a creative field.  In the process of this dinner the idea of potentially self-publishing my work came up and they both strongly encouraged me to do it.  Their basic argument was why not put yourself out there and see what happens?

Follow that up with my critique partner, another brilliant friend, and my husband all being uber-supportive and even offering help to figure out the editing if I want to go that route.

I have been contemplating self-publishing for a couple of years now, but have reluctant to go that route for several reasons:

  • One of the key hallmarks of a successful self-published author is the fact that they eventually got a traditional publishing contract.  So why not put your energy into that in the first place?
  • The level of editing and marketing involved in creating the kind of professional project I would want has always felt a little daunting, expensive, and out of my comfort zone.
  • The fear that my work just simply isn’t good enough – and that’s why I haven’t been able to find an agent/publisher.

I think these are all still legitimate concerns, but in addition to the support from my friends and family, one other realization has pointed me in the self-publishing direction –

The thing I want most in my writing life, that I don’t currently have, is more people reading my work.

Don’t get me wrong I’d love to be a New York Times Bestseller and win a Newberry Award and have my novels made into movies – but really I just want people to read, and hopefully enjoy,  my stories.

To share those imagined friends of mine with the world.

So I’ve started mapping out a plan to self-publish one of my books.  That plan has literally dozens of steps – some of which I don’t even know how to do,  but I admit I’m officially working on it.

Scary stuff.