Monday, 15 October 2018

Forbidden Relationships

As readers what is our fascination with forbidden relationships. More often than not in stories, especially those geared towards girls between the ages of 12 and 18, you see some sort of forbidden relationship. Be it inter-species, inter-racial, or inter-social - there is always something baring the characters from being in love - and we adore the conflict dynamic it presents.

A classic example of this is Romeo and Juliet. This Shakespearean tale has been told over and over again, as itself or the same idea with different protagonist names. Two young people meet by chance and fall in love - then they discover the object of their love is the daughter of their families bitter enemy. This is a classic portrayal of inter-social obstacle. Where who you are - Montague or Capulet and further than that rich or poor, you cannot be together. Romeo and Juliet sadly does not have the happy ending we crave to come from these conflicts, but its does cease the hostilities between the two families finally. Other examples of inter-social are Baby and Johnny from Dirty Dancing, Darren and Zoe from Daz 4 Zoe by Robert Swindell & any story where a prince/princess falls in love with a commoner.

Inter-racial barriers used to because of the laws preventing black and white relationships. As a child of the 80's and 90's I find this to be one of the tropes that makes my heart swell. There is nothing about the colour of someones skin that should deny them love. That said, as this particular scenario is not really as much as an issue as it used to be, people have evolved and we are seeing it less and less in fiction which I think is a good thing. Couples do not have to ascend this barrier if the barrier is no longer their in society. I understands its not something that has completely gone but it's well on its way out. Examples are inter-racial romance stories are Save the Last Dance, Colour Bar by Susan Williams, & A Patch of Blue (1965)

Inter-species barriers seem to be extremely popular at the moment especially among paranormal, supernatural and urban fantasy settings. This is where couples can't be together because one is a werewolf and one is a vampire, or one is a vampire and one is a witch, or one is supernatural and one is a normal human. These sorts of stories are full of a lot of room for action and bizarre circumstance because they are solely fictitious. We route for the characters to find away to be together all the same. Even if sometimes that means that one or the other has to become like the other to do so. Examples of this are Edward and Bella from Twilight, Ariel and Eric from A Little Mermaid and most recently Diana and Matthew from A Discovery of Witches.

Are there other things you can think of that keep a couple from being together? Can you think of other examples of these three tropes? Please drop comments below and let me know what your take on Forbidden relationships is.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Dusty Pages Review: Mistress of all Evil

What of the Dark Fairy, Maleficent? Why does she curse the princess to fall into an eternal sleep? Many tales have tried to explain her motives. Here is one account, pulled from those passed down through the ages. It is a story of love and betrayal, magic and fantasy. It is a tale of the mistress of all evil.
This installment in the villain tales is better than the last one, but the twists and turns in it have left my head spinning a little bit and wondering where the story is going to go next. Lucky me, I already have the next installment - Mother Knows Best.

Although this story does follow some of what we know to be the story of sleeping beauty, if from Maleficent's side of things, there is still a lot of focus on the original story about the three sisters, Circe, Nanny and Princess Tulip that is being weaved around the Disney tale. I think it adds contrast to the Villain's story which is set mostly in the past to see how it affects events and people in the present. The past focuses on how Maleficent went from a bright, gifted, young fairy to the mistress of all evil and why she is hell bent on keeping Aurora in her sleeping curse forever. It was surprising how much this tale made me feel for Maleficent, for what she went through. I never thought in a million years I would have had sympathy for her character - but considering the biggest surprise in this story it makes a lot more sense.

The thing I always found hard to digest about the Disney classic was why Maleficent would get so bent out of shape about an invitation to a christening. Other takes on this tale, including the Angelina Jolie film, have built far more plausible reasons for her animosity towards a newborn - whether it stems for a wrong done to her by her former friend (alla the movie) or the reason she has in this book. I hope that when I do finally reach the end of these tales - though who knows if the next one is the last - that it will have a complete and well though out ending.

I give it

Monday, 8 October 2018

Meet a Writer Monday...

...Michael Frizzel

1. Tell me about your book,
Bender: The Graphic Novel, and where you got your inspiration for it?

My father, sick of the rampant development and rising crime in central New Jersey, uprooted our family and moved us to Cherryvale, a small town in southeast Kansas. Sensing my frustration at being removed from the excitement of the city as I closed myself off to this foreign land, my father became dismayed. I couldn’t help it. Cows walked freely in fields instead of a zoo, the only place I’d ever seen a cow prior. Towns were dotted along railroad lines, not around malls, and the highway between towns was flat and boring and spanned miles of farmland instead of the familiar skyscrapers, cement, and glass. To spark my imagination, my father bought a comic book for me and hoped I’d pull out of my funk. It was published by Marvel. The title? Star Wars.

In the comic, the hero, Luke Skywalker, was a teenager who dreamed of fighting evil, rescuing princesses, and leaving his rural homestead, pulled by the allure of the unknown. When Luke whined about how far his planet was from the bright center of the universe, I understood him. But time has taught me that Obi-Wan was wiser when he said, “Luke, you’re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.”

As I matured, I found myself engrossed by comic books that featured real people. Though the escapism offered by stories set in the Star Wars, Marvel, or DC universes still hold appeal for me, I was drawn to the work of Harvey Pekar (The Quitter, American Splendor), Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis), Craig Thompson (Blankets), Art Spiegelman (Maus, Maus II), and Brian K. Vaughn (Pride of Baghdad). Within those pages, creators wrote about their lives or the lives of real people and depicted true events. Spiegelman’s Maus, the only graphic novel ever to win the Pulitzer Prize, depicts the struggle of German Jews during the rise of Hitler, depicting the Jews as mice, the Nazis as cats, and the Nazi sympathizers as pigs. Thompson, Pekar, and Satrapi, none of them famous prior, wrote about their childhoods, their dead-end jobs, their first loves, their daily activities, the mundane events that somehow coalesced into the stories of their lives. Vaughn used the medium to talk about the bombing of Iraq during the second Gulf War. Bombs fell on the Baghdad Zoo, releasing the animals to fend for themselves in a war-torn city. These authors tap into the human condition, using a primarily visual medium to elicit intellectual and emotional responses in ways film and literature cannot.

While my father used comic books to dispel my depression, my fourth-grade teacher, Fern Wood, made me look at small-town Kansas in a different way. Wood, a round and jovial woman with a pile of dark curly hair slowing turning silver, instilled in me a sense of wonder about Cherryvale. She could see that I was restless and not fitting in well (my accent separated me while my blunt east coast directness alienated me from the Midwestern-born children), and recognizing my love of science fiction and horror stories (I used to carry Godzilla comics, then published by Marvel, and Monster Hunters, published by long-defunct Charlton, in my backpack). After a scuffle with a classmate who teased me about my accent, she told me about a book she was thinking of writing. The book, eventually printed in 1992 and published by BookCrafters of Chelsea, Michigan, is The Benders: Keepers of the Devil’s Inn. She told me that the Benders were a family of German immigrants who became deadly serial killers in the early 1870’s and that they once lived only a few blocks from where we were sitting.

2. If your book was made into a film, who would you like to see play the lead?

Our lead is Kate Bender, the beautiful hostess who acts as a lure. She’s young, smart, and charismatic. I’d like Hailey Steinfeld (True Grit remake) to play her.

3. What is the longest you’ve gone without writing?

For over twenty years, I wrote every day, sometimes writing as much as six hours, but most of the time, I wrote for two-and-a-half hours because work – and life – got in the way. I wrote without stopping, often ignoring my need for sleep, food, human interaction, and the call of nature. I thought about writing much the way an athlete or gym devotee might think about working out. I got up early, showered, ate, and headed to work or sat at my home office keyboard and wrote. At first, I was writing because the job demanded it (I was doing stand-up comedy back then), then for pleasure and to strengthen my skills, and then for my MFA program, only to come full circle and write for work once again (the university is a harsh mistress). I saved whatever I produced, affixing a date to it and dropping it into folders labeled, “Crap,” “Dear God,” “What Was I Thinking,” “Maybe This,” or perhaps simply “Miscellaneous.”

Those folder titles hold meaning to me, but I’ll keep those meanings to myself because it ruins the joke when you have to explain it (I didn’t say I was good at stand-up, now did I?)

When the fall semester of 2017 closed in the middle of December, I logged out of my computer, turned off the lights in my office, and went home. In the past, I wrote every day, even during breaks from work and while on vacation. Not this time. I was three days in before I realized that I hadn’t opened my laptop, checked my email or messages, or even called my family or friends. I ignored the impulse to rectify my oversight. By the end of week one, there were days when I only wore a tracksuit or pajamas, failed to comb my hair even after I showered, and spoke to only my wife and our cat. I watched Netflix and Star Trek: Discovery until my bones ached from sitting too long. I considered watching The Hobbit trilogy on Blu Ray, but their running time meant I’d have to plan when I’d watch them, and I didn’t want to plan twelve hours of anything.

It was two weeks into my exile from writing words before I reached out to my publishers to tell them that I was taking a break because I think I broke my brain. My publisher with TidalWave Comics, the always genial Darren Davis, said, “I hear you. I’m taking a break, too. I’m tired. Don’t worry. We don’t have anything pressing.” Casey Cowan said, “I feel your pain. I’m in the same boat.” As the Chief Executive Officer of Oghma Creative Media, the home of my graphic novel and where I have contracts for an original novel, a sequel to a Harold Robbins novel, and am writing the introductions for the re-releases of Robbins’ novels, Casey was always thinking of the next project. Both men are workaholics who care about the craft and their brands. Both never seemed to tire. I checked into social media, only to discover other writers and artists I knew were lamenting their lack of progress on various projects, too.

All the creatives I knew were on a mental hiatus or suffering some form of creative vacation. I didn’t feel alone in my aversion to creating the art I loved anymore, despite looking like Howard Hughes. A month later, I was writing again. I have no idea what caused me to simply stop.

4. Mountains or the beach?

Mountains. I’m a redhead. My skin is white as a sheet and the only way I’ll ever get a tan is if my freckles grow together.

5. What do you think Victoria’s secret is?

Victoria is a secret agent who uses her sexuality to distract us while she gathers intel.

6. If you could travel anywhere, where would you go and why?

I’d go back to Scotland, a country I’ve had the pleasure of touring twice. My family descends from the Fraser clan. If you feel like you’ve heard that name, you must be reading or watching Outlander. You can spot our clan flag at the beginning of The Highlander. Clancy Brown’s character is apparently affiliated with the Fraser clan. There’s something about the weather and scenery that appeals to me. It must be in my blood.

7. Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages a day?

No. Sometimes, I write and just dump words onto the page. I don’t stop to think about it, I just let the characters talk. On those days, I can produce a lot. There are also times when I edit as I go. On those days, the characters are being tight-lipped and I have to coax the story out of them by editing, rewriting, drinking copious amounts of coffee, and frowning at my screen. Both ways work. I don’t fight it by setting an arbitrary goal for each day.

8. Do you let a book stew – leave it for a month and then come back to it to edit?

I don’t have time to wait a month, but I do set it aside to stew before I edit. I am currently working on four different comic books for TidalWave Comics and two novels contracted by Oghma Creative Media. After a burst of writing, I set the material aside for a few days in order to look at it with fresh eyes. When the characters are being obstinate, I will write, set it aside for a few days, and then rewrite the scene from memory. I then compare the drafts and combine them to create a third document that serves as a working draft of the scene or chapter. I get the best use of my voice by doing that.

9. Have you written any other books that are not published? Do you intend to publish them?

I have several pieces that I’ve written. As I mature as a writer, I revisit them often. I have a movie script I wrote twenty years ago that I’m considering turning into a novel, but I need to clear my current slate before I start on it.

10. Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?

In the case of Bender, a little bit of both. I’m writing about real people, but the historical record is thin in the case of the Bender family murders. My research took several years. During that time, the characters in the story I wanted to tell grew and changed. Creative nonfiction demands that I tell the truth of the moment, but not necessarily stick to the facts. With Bender, I had enough leeway to create characters within the established facts, creating a new, dynamic narrative. Most of my work is like this.

11. Do you have a day job in addition to being a writer? If so, what do you do during the day?

I am the Director of Student Learning Services at Missouri State University. I supervise the Writing Center and a few other student support programs and teach for the Theatre, English, and Public Affairs departments on campus. I am also the president of the National College Learning Center Association and serve as editor of their peer-reviewed journal, The Learning Assistance Review. I am also the editor of Saddlebag Dispatches, a western-themed magazine. In my spare time, I try to sleep.


In the wake of the Civil War, a family of serial killers preys on unwary travelers along the edge of the new frontier.

Fortune hunters trek the Osage Trail, heading west as the Gold Rush beckons. Others seek cheap land with fertile ground on which to put down roots. Outside the sleepy hamlet of Cherryvale, Kansas, the Bender Inn greets weary travelers. Kate Bender, an enchanting, effervescent beauty, is the Inn's mysterious proprietor. Single men, pockets stuffed with cash, line up to sit with this Venus of the plains and discuss their prospects for finding riches or starting a family. So beguiling is she, they never suspect her to be anything but genuine.

When reports of disappearances along the Osage Trail mount, an investigation leads the U.S. Marshals to Cherryvale and the Bender Inn, only to find the property abandoned and livestock rotting in the field. The Benders have disappeared without a trace, leaving behind a dozen bodies in shallow graves--and parts of many others. Even more disturbing are the satanic runes carved into the slab under what the locals have dubbed "The Devil's Inn."

Built upon historical record as well as legend, Bender: The Complete Saga's terrifying narrative is as haunting as it is alluring--and may well become the definitive work on the exploits and ultimate fate of the West's First Family of Murder.


About Michael

Michael Frizell is the Director of Student Learning Services at Missouri State University and the president of the National College Learning Center Association, where he also serves as the editor of The Learning Assistance Review. He holds a BA in theatre from the College of the Ozarks, an MA in both theatre and creative writing from Missouri State University and an MFA in creative nonfiction from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.